The Biden administration is set to announce this week that it will reengage with the much-maligned UN Human Rights Council that former President Donald Trump withdrew from almost three years ago, US officials said Sunday. The decision reverses another Trump-era move away from multilateral organizations and agreements.
Mr Biden has already announced that the US will rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, as well as resuming American funding for the World Health Organisation (WHO), as he pledged to restore alliances and international collaborations that took a back seat during the Trump presidency. Biden administration officials familiar with the decision told the Associated Press that secretary of state Antony Blinken and a senior US diplomat will make the announcement later in Geneva.
“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.
When it works well, the @UN Human Rights Council shines a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and can serve as a beacon for those fighting against injustice and tyranny. That’s why the U.S. is back at the table.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 8, 2021
Trump’s administration pulled the country out of the 47-member council in June 2018, complaining about its “unrelenting bias” against Israel and “hypocrisy” of allowing rights-abusing nations a seat at the table. At the time, the United States was a member of the council.
The Biden administration’s action is one of several so far to undo Trump’s moves to pull the U.S. out of international agreements and organizations. However, previous administrations had also expressed concerns about the U.N. Human Rights Council — often questioning the body’s willingness to have notorious human rights abusers as members. Democratic presidents have tended to want a seat at the table while Republicans have recoiled at its criticism of Israel.