U.S. to seek election to U.N. Human Rights Council

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Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations on Wednesday that the United States will seek election to the U.N. Human Rights Council three years after the Trump administration withdrew it from the inter-governmental body.

"I'm here to reaffirm America's commitment to respect and defend the human rights of all people, everywhere. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims: all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated," Blinken said in remarks to the 46th session of the Human Rights Council.

The United States is seeking the support of U.N. member states in its bid to win election to the 47-member council for the 2022-24 term, he said.

The announcement came three years after the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the council in 2018, accusing it of bias against Israel and hypocrisy for allowing human rights abuses, such as Venezuela and Iran, on the council.

"It's hard to accept that this council has never considered a resolution on Venezuela, and yet it adopted five biased resolutions in March against a single country -- Israel," Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the U.N. during the Trump presidency, said in pulling the United States from the council in June 2018.

Blinken said that as the United States re-engages with the council it will continue to urge it to "look at how it conducts its business," including its disproportionate focus on Israel and to ensure it reflects its standards by improving its membership.

"Those with the worst human rights record should not be members of the council," he said.

Fifteen states are elected to the council each year, with China, Venezuela and Russia among its current members.

In a statement on putting human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy, Blinken said while the council has issues, the best way to rectify them is to have a seat at the table.

"We seek to return to the Human Rights Council to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners to ensure that this important body lives up to its purpose," he said. "We do so with determination to listen, learn and work toward a world in which human rights are universally respected.

Ned Price, the Stated Department spokesperson, told reporters during a regular press briefing on Wednesday that it is in the best interest of the United States to have a voice at the council in order to shape developments

"When the United States isn't in a leadership role, when we aren't galvanizing collective action, one of two things happens and neither of them are good for our interests of values. Either no one steps up and chaos ensues or, potentially worse, an adversary of ours or a competitor of ours seeks to fill that void and our interests and our values are worse off because of it."

"We have seen stances of that, of both of those outcomes in recent years," he said.

In February, Blinken announced that the United States would re-engage with Human Rights Council but as an observer.

The announcement to seek election is the latest move by Blinken, and the Biden administration, to undo the removal of the United States from international organizations and accords.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executives order mandating the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, which Trump had pulled out of in 2017, and to halt the nation's withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which Trump had done in May of last year.

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