U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice announce that the United States will seek a seat this year on the United Nations Human Rights Council with the goal of working to make it a more effective body to promote and protect human rights.
The decision is in keeping with the Obama Administration’s “new era of engagement” with other nations to advance American security interests and meet the global challenges of the 21st century.
“Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy” said Secretary Clinton. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system to advance the vision of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. The United States helped to found the United Nations and retains a vital stake in advancing that organization’s genuine commitment to the human rights values that we share with other member nations. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”
The big question is whether or not the United States will run in a contested election. There are three open seats on the council reserved for the Western Europe and Other Group if which the United States belongs. Norway, Belgium, and New Zealand are already announced candidates for the May 15 elections. With the United States running, will one of these countries pull out? (Perhaps, say, New Zealand, which was just rewarded with the head of the UN Development Program?) I sure hope not. Competitive elections are good for the system. Uncompetitive elections are how countries with less than stellar human rights records sometimes make it on the council. In all, though, this is a good move by the United States. It is much easier to guide the work of these sorts of forums as a participant on the inside than a critic from the outside.