The Biden administration is set to announce this week that it will reconnect with the much-maligned UN Human Rights Council that was withdrawn almost three years ago by former President Donald Trump, US officials said. Sunday’s decision reverses another move in the Trump era away from multilateral organisations and agreements.
U.S. officials say Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a senior U.S. diplomat in Geneva will announce on Monday that Washington will return as an observer to the Geneva-based body with an eye to seeking full membership in the election. It is likely that the decision will draw criticism from conservative legislators and from many in the pro-Israel community.
Trump withdrew from the world’s main human rights agency in 2018 due to his disproportionate focus on Israel, which received by far the largest number of critical council resolutions against any country,As well as the number of authoritarian countries among its members and the lack of a comprehensive list of reforms called for by then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
In addition to the persistent focus of the council on Israel, the Trump administration has challenged the membership of the body, which currently includes China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia, and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of abuses of human rights.
One senior US official said the Biden administration believed that the council still had to reform, but that engaging with it in a principled fashion was the best way to encourage change. The official said it may be an important forum for those around the world fighting tyranny and injustice, and the US presence intends to make sure that it can live up to that potential.
That official and three others familiar with the decision were not permitted before the announcement to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
However, during his four years in office, Trump’s withdrawal from the UNHRC was one of a number of US retrenchments from the international community. He has also distanced himself from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, and a number of arms control treaties.
Trump also threatened to withdraw from the International Postal Union and often suggested that the World Trade Organization should be pulled out.
President Joe Biden has rejoined both the Paris Agreement and the WHO since taking office last month and has indicated an interest in returning to the Iran Agreement as well as to UNESCO.