On Tuesday, the United States became the first member ever to voluntarily withdraw from the United Nation’s Human Rights Council and joins Iran, North Korea, and Eritrea as the only countries that refuse to participate in the Council’s meetings. This will be the fourth time the U.S. pulls out from an international commitment.
The resignation marks a victory for U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who had pushed for the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Council since her appointment to the UN. Haley criticized the world’s most important human rights body over its frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its failure to hold human rights abusers accountable—many of whom sit on the Council.
Founded in 2006, the UNHRC has a mixed track record on handling human rights issues. As research conducted by Global Americans shows, the UNHRC’s commitment to denouncing and acting in defense of human rights has been spotty, at best. Whether it is violence against civilians in Syria, North Korea’s totalitarian repression, or the armed conflict in Ukraine, a surprising number of UNHRC members often refuse to condemn the obvious.
Despite the Council’s spotty history, pulling out from the human rights body undermines U.S. moral authority and gives rogues the upper hand. Yes, the Council has often served as a platform for non-democratic countries to defend themselves and each other and even denounce democracies, but the U.S. has many times played a critical role in bringing votes forward and calling attention to alarming violations. By walking away the U.S. is giving the keys to the world’s foremost human rights body–as flawed as it is–to the rogues.