United States Reelected to UN Human Rights Council
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
On October 14, 2021, the United States was elected to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), fulfilling a pledge President Joseph R. Biden Jr. made during the 2020 campaign, and marking a reversal from the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Council in 2018. While continuing to highlight concerns with the Council, including the membership of human rights violators and a substantive focus on Israel, the Biden administration has emphasized that the Council plays a role in protecting human rights and provides an important forum for discussion.
U.S. policy toward the HRC has shifted several times. When the UN General Assembly established the Human Rights Council in 2006, the Bush administration voted against the Council's creation and did not run for a seat. However, when the Obama administration took office, the United States sought and was elected to a seat in May 2009. Throughout the Obama administration, the United States actively participated in the Council's work, particularly in advocacy for LGBTQ rights. After President Trump took office, U.S. officials signaled skepticism about the Council, calling for keeping countries that engage in human rights abuses off the Council and for removing an agenda item focused on Israel. On June 19, 2018—one day after the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights criticized the Trump administration's policy of forcibly separating undocumented families at the U.S. border—the United States announced its withdrawal from the Council. As part of President Biden's efforts to reengage with international institutions from which the Trump administration had withdrawn, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in February 2021 that the United States would seek election to the Human Rights Council later in the year and in the meantime would engage with the Council as an observer, seeking to improve the Council from within.