Sunday, October 24, 2021
By Kaeleigh Williams, 2L at St. Louis University School of Law
On Thursday October 14, 2021, the U.N. General Assembly elected the United States to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The Trump administration quit the 47-member body more than three years ago, after it called the 47-nation council hypocritical and for anti-Israel prejudice. The withdrawal from the council was disappointing for many, who hoped to persuade the U.S. that a multilateral approach to the world’s biggest problem was worth sticking with.
The U.S. received 168 votes in the secret ballot by the General Assembly. It begins a three-year term on January 1, 2022.
When President Joe Biden took office in January, he pledged that human rights would be the center of his foreign policy and his administration has not shied away from criticizing China over Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan and calling out Russia.
"The U.S. will have an opportunity to demonstrate just how serious the Biden administration is about making human rights central to its domestic and foreign policies," said Human Rights Watch U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau. "With a lot of missteps so far, they should use their time on the council to promote human rights among friends and foes alike."
Antony J. Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, stated, “We will work hard to ensure the Council upholds its highest aspirations and better supports those fighting against injustice and tyranny around the world. The path towards the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms will be filled with challenges. The United States commits to continue this steadfast pursuit, at every opportunity, with any and all countries that will join us.”
See President Biden’s statement about the U.S. election to the HRC here.