US President Joe Biden’s administration will re-engage with the United Nations Human Rights Council, almost three years after Donald Trump withdrew over what his administration called bias against Israel and a lack of reform.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is poised to announce that the United States will return to the Geneva-based council as an observer, a senior State Department official said.
Mr Trump pulled out of the world body’s main human rights agency in 2018, saying it had failed to meet a list of reforms demanded by the then-US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
His administration also took issue with the body’s membership, which currently includes China, Cuba, Eritrea, Russia and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of human rights abuses.
One senior US official said the Biden administration believed the council must still reform but that the best way to promote change would be to “engage with it in a principled fashion”.
The official said it was “an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world” and the US presence was intended to “ensure it can live up to that potential”.
That official and three others familiar with the decision were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly ahead of the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Although the US will have only non-voting observer status on the council until the end of this year, the officials said the administration intended to seek one of three full member seats — currently held by Austria, Denmark and Italy — from the “Western Europe and other states group” that come up for election later this year.
The United Nations General Assembly makes the final choice in a vote that generally takes place in October every year to fill vacancies in three-year terms at the 47-member-state council.
During his four years in office, Mr Trump walked away from the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the World Health Organization, the United Nations education and cultural organization UNESCO, and several arms control treaties.
He also threatened to withdraw from the International Postal Union and frequently hinted at pulling out of the World Trade Organization.
Since taking office last month, Mr Biden has rejoined the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization and has signaled interest in returning to the Iran deal as well as UNESCO.