from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

On Winning Reelection to the UN Human Rights Council

November 12, 2012

Blog Post

More on:

Human Rights

Politics and Government

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

International Organizations

Once upon a time, the United Nations had a Human Rights Commission. The United States left it because it spent most of its time condemning Israel, and elected some of the worst human rights abusers in the world to membership. In 2005, for example, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba were members, making the organization a farce.

In 2006 the Commission was closed down, and the new UN Human Rights Council created. The Bush administration refused to seek election to the Council until it proved it was something new and different.

But the Obama administration reversed that policy, and today we see one of the fruits of this new approach. The United States was elected to membership again, with 131 votes; and Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela was elected, with 154 votes. Besides telling us something about how much popularity Obama foreign policy has won the United States, this vote and the election of Venezuela tell a good deal about the Council and how it is seen around the world. By the way, despite its human rights record Pakistan was also elected to membership.

As to the ludicrous focus on Israel, that country remains the only country listed on the Council’s permanent agenda. Not North Korea, not Sudan, not Cuba—only Israel.

The Obama administration argues that despite its flaws the Council does some good work. I am sure it does. But think of the message of contempt the UN Human Rights Council sent to today to the embattled democrats of Venezuela—to the millions of citizens heroically struggling to protect human rights there.