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US to seek spot on UN Human Rights Council, Blinken says

February 24, 2021

The announcement, made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, comes three years after the Trump administration withdrew the US from the rights body.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in Washington, DC. Archive image from earlier in February.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked for member states to support the US' bidImage: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The United States will seek election to the United Nations Human Rights Council, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes three years after former president Donald Trump's administration withdrew the US from the council.

"I'm pleased to announce the United States will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term," Blinken told the council in a video message.

"We humbly ask for the support of all UN member states in our bid to return to a seat in this body."

Annual elections for three-year membership on the 47-member council are scheduled to be held at the UN General Assembly in October. Britain, China and Russia are among current members. Each year, roughly 15 new members are voted in, to replace those whose terms are complete. 

'A disproportionate focus on Israel'

Blinken added that the Biden administration would work to eliminate what he called the Geneva forum's "disproportionate focus" on its ally Israel. 

The council, established in 2006, has a stand-alone item on the Palestinian territories on its agenda every session — the only topic that receives such treatment, and a move which both Democratic and Republican administrations have opposed. 

While Washington vowed to begin active participation in the council's activities immediately, it could not automatically regain the membership after walking away in June 2018. 

Pompeo: 'UN Human Rights Council has become exercise in shameless hypocrisy'

"The United States is placing democracy and human rights at the center of our foreign policy, because they are essential for peace and stability," Blinken told the council’s main annual session. 

"This commitment is firm and grounded in our own experience as a democracy, imperfect and often falling short of our own ideals, but striving always for a more inclusive, respectful, and free country."

He also criticized the council’s inclusion of countries with poor human rights records — other members include Venezuela, Cuba, Cameroon, Qatar, Bahrain, the Philippines, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Those with the worst human rights records should not be members of this council," Blinken said. "We must work together to improve the work and membership of the council so it can do even more to advance the rights of people around the world."

lc/msh (AFP, Reuters)