US Seeks to Join UN Rights Council
1 Apr 09 | al Jazeera
The United States is to run for a seat on the United Nations human rights council, the US state department has said.
The decision reverses the position of the previous US administration under George Bush, to in effect boycott the council over its criticism of Israel.
“The decision is in keeping with the Obama administration’s ‘new era of engagement’ with other nations to advance American security interests,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday.
The 47-member council, based in Geneva and founded three years ago, aims to promote human rights around the world, but some critics say its members have tried to protect some nations from criticism and have singled out Israel.
The council replaces its preceding organisation, the UN Commission on Human Rights.
‘Advancing US interests’
Susan Rice, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, said that membership of the council would be “a tool to advance our interests”.
“We don’t view it as legitimising the council. We will stand up and forcefully lead on those issues that we care most deeply about,” she said.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, issued a statement welcoming the US decision, saying it was a concrete example of the US commitment to a “new era of engagement” at the UN.
The US participated in the council on March 4 for the first time, urging it to address all violations of rights and to not just focus on Israel – five out of 10 special council sessions have been called to discuss Israeli policies towards Palestinians and Lebanon.
Rice said the US felt the council “should be a venue for dealing with the most egregious instances of human rights abuses”.
“We are running for a seat on the council because we believe that human rights are universal, they need to be universally respected,” she said.