US joins UN Human Rights Council: Can it be reformed?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

As if it didn’t have enough on its plate, the Obama administration is now set to try to work some reform magic on the UN Human Rights Council, a group set up to monitor human rights conditions around the world but which is led by some of the  worst abusers anywhere and which seems to have little interest in anything but Israel.

On Tuesday the General Assembly elected the United States to the council following a decision by the Obama administration to seek membership.

“The United States sought a seat on the UN Human Rights Council at this time to underscore our commitment to human rights and to join the efforts of all those nations seeking to make the Council a body that fulfills its promise,” the State Department said in announcing the action. “We deeply appreciate the support of all UN member states that endorsed our bid.  We pledge to work closely with the international community to ensure that together we address the pressing human rights concerns of our time.”

Can the Council be reformed? Jewish leaders seem willing to give the administration a chance to prove it can.  But nobody thinks it’s going to be an easy job.

“The overwhelming support for the U.S. candidacy reflects the potential for strong American leadership in Geneva,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “But today proves that the deck is still stacked, as notorious human rights abusers like China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia also were elected to the body that is supposed to protect their victims. The Council can’t and won’t improve without a major American commitment to serious reform.”

Harris continued:  “America must not simply become a lonely voice of dissent in a chamber crowded with the world’s tyrants. The Administration has taken on the responsibility to work with friends and allies to rid the Council of its obsession with Israel and return its focus to true human rights issues.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.