GENEVA: The United States said on Monday it would “re-engage” with the UN Human Rights Council, nearly three years after former president Donald Trump’s administration withdrew.
President Joe Biden had instructed the US State Department “to re-engage immediately and robustly with the UN Human Rights Council”, said its new chief Antony Blinken as the council met in Geneva.
Biden’s move marks another significant reversal of his predecessor’s policies.
Trump’s administration yanked the country out of the 47-member council in June 2018. He complained about its “unrelenting bias” against Israel and the “hypocrisy” of allowing rights-abusing nations a seat at the table.
The US departure left a void that China and others have been eager to fill at the council, created in 2006.
And the United States cannot automatically regain membership, but has to wait for elections towards the end of the year.
Blinken confirmed the United States would initially be an observer at the council.
He stressed his country still regarded it as a “flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel”.
But the US withdrawal had done nothing to foster change, he noted. Instead, it had “created a vacuum of US 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,” he added. Diplomats and rights groups welcomed the announcement.
Julian Braithwaite, the British ambassador to the UN in Geneva, stressing the importance of “full engagement” by all UN members in the council.