After much speculation, the State Department announced late yesterday afternoon that the United States has made the decision to seek a spot on the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. New Zealand, which had been previously running for one of three available seats, has since stated its intention to step aside, making the United States practically a shoo-in for the position.
Commenting on the decision, which constitutes a reversal of Bush administration policies, Secretary Clinton stated, “Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy.”
The Council was created in 2006 to act as a replacement for the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which came under fire due to the body’s inclusion of countries in blatant violation of human rights norms. However, critics have similarly blasted the Council for ignoring the problematic records of its member states.
Ambassador Susan Rice explained the Obama administration’s thinking on the matter, emphasizing the need to work from within the Council to strengthen its capacity to combat human rights abuses. According to Rice:
“Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the Council to be balanced and credible,…The U.S. is seeking election to the Council because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights. We hope to work in partnership with many countries to achieve a more effective Council."