Syria announced that it is dropping its bid to run for a seat on the Human Rights Council later this month. That’s good news for the Council.
There has been some intense behind the scenes diplomacy to get to this point. Ever since Syria’s candidacy was announced, the United States and its allies have been pushing hard for another Asian country to effectively run against Syria. Yesterday, Kuwait announced that it would run for the seat, and Syria immediately withdrew its candidacy.
Seats at the human rights council are apportioned by what the UN calls the principal of equitable geographic distribution. Each region presents a slate of candidates, and individual candidates must win a majority vote in the General Assembly, (96 countries). The thing is, until Kuwait stepped up, there were four candidates for Asian seats, meaning that Syria might have been assured a seat. (Something similar occurred last year, when Iran dropped its Council bid after behind the scenes diplomacy made it clear that Tehran could not secure the necessary votes.)
These kinds of checks and balances to prevent a human rights abuser from gaining a seat sometimes do work. And it provides further evidence that American lead diplomacy and engagement at the council can make it a better institution.