The UN General Assembly will vote on the 18 members to join (or remain on) the Human Rights Council this morning. One of those will be the United States, a welcome improvement over previous U.S. policy of simply standing on the sidelines of the Council without trying to work with or improve it.

Why is it such a guarantee that the United States will win a seat in this election, its first attempt to join the Council (which came into existence in 2002 2006)? Well, basically, because no one else is running. Elections proceed according to a regional system, and once the United States announced its candidacy, another country running for a spot in the Western Europe and Others Group, New Zealand, agreed to withdraw (possibly in a bit of deal-making). This is unfortunate, because, as Vaclav Havel argued in a forceful NYT op-ed on Sunday, competitive elections were supposed to be a staple of the UN’s new human rights body, to both promote democratic principles and try to improve the human rights criteria for membership.

Two seats will see competition, though. Hungary has put forth its name in the Eastern Europe group to challenge Russia and Azerbaijan, each of whose human rights record leaves something to be desired. And in Africa, Kenya is attempting to unseat Cameroon and four other incumbents. We’ll let you know the results when we have them.

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