Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday the United States will return to the U.N. Human Rights Council as an observer.
Blinken said in a statement the move is part of the Biden administration’s recommitment “to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality.”
The United States left the council in 2018, with former President Donald Trump’s administration saying the council was biased against Israel, needed a number of reforms, and had among its members countries that have been accused of human rights abuses such as China, Cuba and Venezuela.
Blinken cited similar concerns Monday, but said instead of encouraging change, the U.S. withdrawal “instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”
“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.
Ahead of the announcement, U.S. officials had said the United States would seek to rejoin the 47-member council. Elections take place later this year in the U.N. General Assembly.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. announcement. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres looks forward to “hearing the crucial voice of the United States across the Council’s urgent work.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) welcomed the administration’s decision to focus on human rights and equality in its foreign policy.
“The administration’s credibility on international human rights will be judged by how close it will match its rhetoric with concrete actions to advance human rights at home and abroad,” Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program said in a statement.
.@hrw had called on @JoeBiden admin to fully participate in UN Human Rights Council. US withdrawal under #Trump was short-sighted and followed ill-conceived & ham-fisted HRC "reform" efforts by Trump's former envoy. https://t.co/Dqkk2xA0Rf pic.twitter.com/4hjYxc77Yp— louis charbonneau (@loucharbon) February 8, 2021
“Unless the Human Rights Council is reformed, it will not be able to address serious human rights situations evenhandedly,” said Brett Schaefer of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
He added that the focus on Israel, “goes beyond disproportionate into obsessive.”