UNHRC is flawed, needs reform but walking away won’t fix it: US Secretary Tony Blinken

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WASHINGTON: The UN Human Rights Council is flawed and needs reform but walking away from it, will not fix the Council, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Monday, as he announced that Washington was ready to re-engage and lead the inter-governmental rights body.

In a tweet, Blinken said, “The UN Human Rights Council is flawed and needs reform, but walking away won’t fix it. The best way to improve the Council, so it can achieve its potential, is through robust and principled US leadership.”

Under President Joe Biden, the United States is “reengaging and ready to lead,” Blinken said.

The Biden administration, he said, has recommitted the United States to a foreign policy centred on democracy, human rights, and equality.

Effective use of multilateral tools is an important element of that vision, and in that regard the president has instructed the Department of State to reengage immediately and robustly with the UNHRC, Blinken said.

The administration led by former president Donald Trump pulled out the US of the council in 2018, pointing at the large number of critical council resolutions passed against Israel and the body’s inability to meet the list of reforms demanded by Washington.

“We recognise that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel. However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of US leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage,” he said in a statement.

Conservative lawmakers in the US have taken issue with the UNHRC giving membership to China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela — all accused of human rights violations.

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, Blinken said.

The Council can help to promote fundamental freedoms around the globe, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and religion or belief as well as the fundamental rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ persons, and other marginalised communities.

To address the Council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the decision-making table using the full weight of its diplomatic leadership, he asserted.

“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,” he said.

“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,” Blinken said.





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