The New York Times (NYT) reported that Trump withdrew from the council, the world’s most important human rights body, in 2018 over what he and his allies called unfair targeting of Israel.
Biden has earlier rejoined the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization, which Trump withdrew from while he was in office.
In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration has recommitted the United States to a foreign policy centred on democracy, human rights, and equality. “Effective use of multilateral tools is an important element of that vision, and in that regard, the President has instructed the Department of State to reengage immediately and robustly with the UN Human Rights Council,” he said.
He added, “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.”
The US top diplomat said that the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw in 2018, “did nothing to encourage meaningful change” but instead “created a vacuum of US leadership” which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.
“When it works well, the Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as an important forum for those fighting injustice and tyranny… 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,” Blinken said.
The top diplomat said that in the immediate term, the United States will engage with the Council as an observer, and in that capacity will have the opportunity to speak in the Council, participate in negotiations, and partner with others to introduce resolutions.
“It is our view that the best way to improve the Council is to engage with it and its members in a principled fashion. We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the Council, in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach,” he said.
However, last month, former US ambassador to UN Nikki Hayley said that the council is “a cesspool of political bias”
“If Biden rejoins the council whose membership includes dictatorial regimes and some of the world’s worst human rights violators… it will fly in the face of our fight for human rights,” Haley wrote on Twitter last month, as quoted by NYT.
Washington will return to the council as a nonvoting observer, and full membership will be assessed later this year. The US’ return to the council comes after nations facing widespread criticism for human rights abuses have tried to influence how the council assesses wrongdoing. China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela are all members.
As per NYT, Last week, Republicans (also known as GOP) at the House of Representatives signed a letter urging Mr. the President not to “seek” membership in the UN Human rights body, saying the council was “disproportionately targeting” Israel over other members.
“Israel is the only country to be a permanent item on the council’s agenda… This past year, the 43rd Human Rights Council Session adopted five resolutions condemning Israel, and only one each targeting Iran, Syria and North Korea,” the GOP members wrote.