Geneva | The United States is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, marking the abandonment of the empty chair policy of the Trump years.
“I am pleased to announce that the United States will seek a seat on the Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term. We humbly ask for the support of all UN member countries in our wish to sit again in this institution, ”said Mr. Blinken, during a videoconference speech to the HRC.
The Trump administration loudly announced in June 2018 that it was leaving the Geneva-based institution and the highest UN body in charge of defending human rights, accusing it of hypocrisy and to go after Israel.
“The United States places democracy and human rights at the center of its foreign policy, because they are essential to peace and stability,” Mr. Blinken stressed.
“This commitment is rooted in our own experience of an imperfect democracy and often falls short of its own ideals, but always trying to become a more united, more respectful and freer country”, he promised, on a a tone that contrasts with that of his predecessor, Mike Pompeo, who sometimes bordered on arrogance.
While Mr. Blinken praised the usefulness of the Council and underlined its importance, in particular for quickly drawing attention to crises, he nevertheless warned its members.
“We encourage the Human Rights Council to look into the way it works and that also means the disproportionate attention paid to Israel,” he warned, suggesting treating Israel and the Palestinian territories with the same way as any other country.
“Those with the worst human rights record should not be members of this Council,” he said.
China, Russia but also Venezuela, Cuba or even Cameroon, Eritrea and the Philippines are regularly criticized by human rights organizations and other countries for the way they treat their citizens.
Mr Blinken specifically criticized Russia for the treatment of its political opponents, citing Alexei Navalny. He also denounced the “atrocities” committed by Beijing in the Xinjiang region and the situation in Hong Kong.
And he recalled that the United States marked their return to the CHR by condemning the coup d’état in Burma.
The strategy of the empty chair due to a visceral mistrust of the multilateralism of Donald Trump had created a vacuum at the CDH but also at the World Health Organization for example – which was quickly occupied by more voluntary Chinese and Russian diplomacy.
The Council has 47 full members elected by a majority of the members of the UN General Assembly for a three-year term, the others having observer status. For this new session which has just started, only among the 5 permanent members of the Security Council, the United States does not have a seat.
Furthermore, members of the Board are not immediately eligible for re-election after two consecutive terms.