After staying on the sidelines for years, the United States for the first time has joined the U.N. Human Rights Council as a full-fledged member.
The U.N. Human Rights Council endured years of scathing criticism from the Bush Administration. But those days are apparently over.
The head of the U.S. delegation, Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer, told the 47-member Council the United States will work with other nations to forge common ground to protect and advance human rights.
"It is indeed an honor and a privilege to address the Council today on this important occasion for my country," Brimmer said.
Until now, the United States has simply been an observer, watching Council proceedings from the sidelines. The Bush Administration refused to participate as an active member, claiming the panel was overly influenced by countries with serious human-rights problems of its own.
It also objected to what it considered the Council's single-minded focus on alleged violations by Israel. But the Obama Administration, as explained by Brimmer, has a different view.
"Our decision to join the Human Rights Council was not entered into lightly. It was reached based on a clear and hopeful vision of what can be accomplished here. Our vision is not merely made in America, but rather reflects the aspirations embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the mandate of the Human Rights Council itself," Brimmer said.
Brimmer promises the Obama Administration will be an active and constructive participant in Council deliberations. She says it will enter into thoughtful, focused dialogue with its partners and will be open to all viewpoints and perspectives.
She acknowledges it will not be easy to resolve differences or end abuses. But she says the United States is ready to devote the time to build understanding and act to bring justice to all.
"Make no mistake; the United States will not look the other way in the face of serious human rights abuses. The truth must be told, the facts brought to light and the consequences faced. While we will aim for common ground, we will call things as we see them and we will stand our ground when truth is at stake," said Brimmer.
The U.S. representative says Washington seeks to build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. To that end, she says the United States will work with other nations to protect freedom of expression and fight against discrimination and negative stereotyping.