The United States has been elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time since Trump the administration ended the international body 2018, with reference to what it called “chronic bias” against Israel.
The State Department announced on Tuesday that Washington has won a seat on the council for the next term, beginning in 2022.
“We will work hard to ensure that the Council upholds its highest ambitions and better supports those who fight against injustice and tyranny around the world,” said Foreign Minister Antony Blinken in a statement.
The Biden administration announced its intention to rejoin the Human Rights Council Earlier this year in a pronounced pressure to undo some of former President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies, which led the United States to withdraw from several international organizations.
The Human Rights Council has faced bipartisan criticism in the US Congress over its reports and statements on Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
But the Biden administration has argued that Washington would better serve its interests by sitting at the table of UN agencies to help shape the internal debate.
“The council provides a forum where we can have open discussions on how we and our partners can improve,” Blinken said in a statement on Thursday. “At the same time, it also suffers from serious shortcomings, including disproportionate attention to Israel and membership in several states with serious human rights.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price repeated Blinken’s statement later in the day, saying that the United States “strongly opposes” the Council’s focus on Israel. But he defended the decision to rejoin the UN body.
“If we are to help shape institutions – to help them fulfill their highest ambitions, which is what we intend to do with the Human Rights Council, to help them advance the values, interests that the United States and our partners share – we must be there, Price says.
The Human Rights Council has 47 member states from five geographical regions elected for three years by the UN General Assembly.
The Geneva – based body was set up by the UN in 2006 with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights.
The Trump administration left the council three years ago, when UN envoy Nikki Haley called it a “hypocritical and self-serving organization.”
The previous administration stop too United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Paris Climate Agreement and World Health Organization, among others international agencies and treaties.
On Thursday, Blinken framed the return to the Human Rights Council in connection with President Joe Biden’s efforts to restore Washington’s global commitment.
“Since the earliest days of this administration, President Biden has made it clear that our foreign policy should be based on America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, fighting for opportunities, upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms, respecting the rule of law and treating everyone with dignity,” Blinken said.
But some human rights defenders has criticized administration and said it had not done enough to hold US allies accountable for human rights violations.
There were no races on Thursday to elect 13 new members and re-elect five members of the Human Rights Council.
The General Assembly also elected Kazakhstan, Gambia, Benin, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Paraguay, Honduras, Luxembourg, Finland, Montenegro and Lithuania and re-elected Cameroon, Eritrea, Somalia, India and Argentina on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch rebuked the lack of competition in the vote.
“The lack of competition in this year’s vote in the Human Rights Council mocks the word ‘choice,'” Louis Charbonneau, the UN chief of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“Choosing serious rights violators such as Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates sends a terrible signal that UN member states do not take seriously the Council’s fundamental mission to protect human rights.”