The US will seek a place on the 47-strong UN Human Rights Council next year, the country’s secretary of state said Wednesday as he urged the council to examine how it conducts its business, including a “disproportionate focus on Israel.”
Antony Blinken said in a virtual address to the 46th session of the council that the US is placing democracy and human rights at the center of its foreign policy because they are essential for peace and stability.
“This commitment is firm and grounded in our own experience as a democracy – imperfect and often falling short of our own ideals, but always striving for a more inclusive, respectful, and free country,” said Blinken.
He said that the US would seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term.
“The council has played a meaningful role in protecting fundamental freedoms by documenting atrocities to hold wrongdoers accountable, helping provide the framework to address past atrocities, and supporting transitional justice,” said the US official.
He noted that the council’s special emergency sessions – most recently on Myanmar – quickly focused on unfolding crises and ensured that the voiceless had a place to be heard.
“Still, institutions are not perfect. As the United States re-engages, we urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business,” said Blinken.
“That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel. We need to eliminate Agenda Item 7 and treat the human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories the same way as this body handles any other country.”
Additionally, he said the US would seek to ensure that the council membership reflects high standards for upholding human rights.
“Those with the worst human rights records should not be members of this council,” said Blinken.
On Feb. 12, the US made its first statement to the Human Rights Council after it said it would re-engage as an observer after the administration of former President Donald Trump withdrew from the body in 2018 when he accused the body of being “hypocritical and biased” against Israel.
The secretary of state said he recognized that any pledge to fight for human rights around the world must begin with a pledge to fight for human rights at home.
“People of color in the United States deal every day with the consequences of systemic racism and economic injustice,” he said.
Blinken noted President Joe Biden took action in his first week in office to “tackle the root causes of these inequities, including housing, prison reform, improving the conditions of indigenous peoples, and fighting discrimination against Asian Americans.
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