Washington, D.C. (Oct. 14, 2021) — Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign, released the following statement on the election of the United States to the United Nations Human Rights Council:
“The election of the United States to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) decision is a wise, welcome, and well-timed development.
“When the Trump Administration withdrew its membership and funding in 2018, a range of human rights organizations criticized it as reckless and wrong in every way. They argued it would do nothing to advance the cause of human rights, it would create a leadership vacuum that other countries would fill, and it would undermine core principles the U.S. had long advocated. This is exactly what happened.
“The image of the U.S. as a leading defender of human rights worldwide was undermined, its voice was absent on issues of vital national interest, and UN bodies that reinforce international human rights principles were weakened or made more susceptible to influence by Member States with malign intentions. For example, the U.S. absence meant that China could push through select resolutions endorsing its vision of a human rights paradigm in which States refrain from criticizing one another and China could stop the Council from uniting around a statement criticizing persecution of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
“The Biden Administration, under the able leadership of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S.-UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, rightly recognized that U.S. membership in the Council serves U.S. interests and helps advance priorities laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As was made clear during our tenure from 2010-2015, the U.S. can better defend the values of democracy, stand up for human rights defenders, push back on those nations which seek to undermine allies like Israel and counter the state-centric vision of human rights offered by authoritarian countries by fully participating.
“In fact, the benefits of membership have already manifested themselves during the Biden Administration’s brief time as an observer. During the recently concluded 48th Council session, the U.S. — working with the European Union — supported a resolution to monitor human rights abuses in Afghanistan and called for the release of arbitrarily held detainees in Syria. The United States also led a joint statement, co-signed by 48 countries, over human rights abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
“Of course, we recognize the need for reform of the Council, especially in the areas of membership and the disproportionate focus on Israel. But we also know, from prior experience, that when the U.S. is at the table, it is more effective in pushing for improvements and defending our allies. For example, the proportion of country-specific resolutions targeting Israel declined by 30 percent during a period of U.S. membership, contrasted to a 3-year period when the U.S. was absent (2006-2009).
“By investing the full weight of U.S. leadership in the Council, the U.S. stands the best chance of affecting positive change and bolstering the global effort to, in the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ensure that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’”
About the Better World Campaign
The Better World Campaign, an initiative of the Better World Fund, works to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the United Nations. It encourages U.S. leadership to enhance the UN’s ability to carry out its invaluable international work on behalf of peace, progress, freedom, and justice. For more information, visit www.betterworldcampaign.org.