Washington – The United States will “reengage”with the United Nations Human Rights Council, the State Department announced Monday, reversing the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the body nearly three years ago.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Biden instructed the State Department to move toward returning to the U.N. Human Rights Council, with the U.S. first engaging as an observer, as the Biden administration “has committed the United States to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights and equality.”
“We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said in a statement. “However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”
Blinken said the “best way” for the Human Rights Council to be improved upon is for the U.S. to engage with its members in a principled way.
“To address the Council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the table using the full weight of our diplomatic leadership,” he said.
U.S. Mission to the United Nations spokesperson Olivia Alair Dalton said in a statement the reengagement is part of a “recommitment to a U.S. foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality,” reports CBS News’ Pamela Falk.
“We recognize the UN Human Rights Council has its flaws, but we also believe it can help promote fundamental freedoms around the world. The only way we can ensure the Human Rights Council fulfills this important mandate is by being at the table as an observer and working with our partners and allies in a principled fashion to make it better,” Alair Dalton said.
The Trump administration exited the U.N. Human Rights Council in mid-2018, citing issues with its membership, which includes authoritarian countries, and an unfair bias against Israel. Then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called on the body at the time to make a series of changes, but said that when it did not, the U.S. would officially be withdrawing.
The U.N. Human Rights Council was one of several international bodies and agreements the U.S. walked away from during the Trump administration, among them the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization. But the Biden administration has reversed a series of those moves, with Mr. Biden rejoining the Paris climate accord on his first day in office and halting the U.S.’s exit from the World Health Organization.