Brett D. Schaefer
The United States seems to be the only government that seriously wants the Human Rights Council to promote universal respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Most coverage of President Trump’s decision to leave the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) characterizes it as an example of the administration’s hostility to the international community. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The UN created the council in 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights whose reputation had fallen to the point that even former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged that “ the Commission’s declining credibility has cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.” In negotiations to create the council, the Bush administration fought hard to establish stronger membership criteria and other standards to make sure it did not replicate the weaknesses of the commission.
Unfortunately, the other member states rejected these proposals. The United States consequently voted against the resolution establishing the HRC and declined to run for a seat on the council. As Ambassador John Bolton noted at the time, “We did not have sufficient confidence in this text to be able to say that the HRC would be better than its predecessor.”
This conclusion was prophetic. From the beginning, the council exhibited blatant bias against Israel, included human-rights abusers among its membership, and was unable to confront serious human-rights abuses in powerful or influential states. In other words, the HRC exhibited the very same flaws that discredited the commission.
Despite this record, the Obama administration joined the council in 2009 arguing that the United States could fix the council by working from within. The record debunks that notion.
Bias and Suboptimal Membership
According to UN Watch, the council had adopted 169 condemnatory resolutions on countries as of the end of May. Of those, nearly half (47 percent) focused on Israel.