US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday that Washington will seek a permanent seat on the panel for the 2022-2024 term.
The announcement is the latest instance of President Joe Biden’s administration’s pivot towards multilateralism and rejection of former leader Donald Trump’s “America First” approach.
Trump withdrew from the council in 2018 accusing it of anti-Israeli bias and allowing chronic rights-abusing states as members.
Blinken also called the 47-member council “flawed”, but warned in early February the US absence has created a “vacuum” of leadership that has been abused by “countries with authoritarian agendas”.
The current membership of Eritrea, Venezuela, China, Russia, and Uzbekistan has been widely criticised among US legislators.
“I’m pleased to announce the United States will seek election to the Human Rights Council for the 2022-24 term. We humbly ask for the support of all UN member states in our bid to return to a seat in this body,” Blinken said in a video address to the Geneva-based body.
The elections for the three-year membership are expected to take place during the UN General Assembly in October. The US will have observer status until then.
“As the United States re-engages, we urge the Human Rights Council to look at how it conducts its business. That includes its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken added.
The @UN Human Rights Council is flawed and needs reform, but walking away won’t fix it. The best way to improve the Council, so it can achieve its potential, is through robust and principled U.S. leadership. Under @POTUS Biden, we are reengaging and ready to lead.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 8, 2021
The move is the most recent step in the Biden administration’s re-emphasis on the United Nations and international organisations as a whole, although it remains to be seen how much of a leadership role Washington will pursue in the body.
Last week, the US officially returned to the Paris agreement on climate, which seeks to curb global emissions and from which Trump withdrew in 2017, and pledged $4bn towards global vaccine distribution.
The administration has also reversed the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization, pledging last week to make good on funding paused under Trump.
On Wednesday, Biden’s pick for US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will be officially sworn into her post after being confirmed by the US Senate.
Biden has said Thomas-Greenfield will have a cabinet position – a signal to UN members that she will have the ear of the president. The move is another break from Trump, who downgraded the post during the tenure of former US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft.