Biden admin invites UN racism, human rights envoys for visit

The invitations are meant to set a example globally as US reckons with racial justice at home, the State Department says.

President Joe Biden took office amid a racial justice movement sparked by the killing of unarmed Black Americans by police [File: Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press]
President Joe Biden took office amid a racial justice movement sparked by the killing of unarmed Black Americans by police [File: Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press]

The administration of President Joe Biden has announced it has invited United Nations racism and human rights envoys to visit the United States as the treatment of minorities in the country continues to face scrutiny.

In the Tuesday announcement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would also issue standing invitations to all UN envoys, known as special rapporteurs, who compile information on race and discrimination, and report back to the international organisation.

Blinken said the administration had already offered an official visit to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues.

“As the President has repeatedly made clear, great nations such as ours do not hide from our shortcomings; they acknowledge them openly and strive to improve with transparency,” Blinken said in a statement.

He added that the Biden administration, which took office in January amid a continuing racial justice movement sparked by the police killing of unarmed Black citizens, sought to “lead by example” and “give new hope and motivation to human rights defenders across the globe”.

There are dozens of UN special rapporteurs, including many who cover human rights in specific countries.

But there are also a number who handle broader rights-related issues, including torture, xenophobia, extreme poverty, the treatment of women and girls, Indigenous peoples, and environmental discrimination.

Blinken also welcomed the adoption of a resolution by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to address racism directed against Africans and people of African descent.

The invitations represent a sharp contrast to the administration of former President Donald Trump’s general disdain for UN approaches to the matter.

Former President Donald Trump, for instance, had pulled the US out of the Human Rights Council over its treatment of Israel and the presence of numerous autocracies in its membership

The Trump administration had also bridled at criticism of its policies by the UN and its envoys.

Upon taking office, the Biden administration promised to strengthen US support international institutions and quickly moved to rejoin the UN human rights council.

However, critics have said the administration’s pledge to have a human rights-leading foreign policy has already fallen short, notably in Washington’s failure to take a harder line against Saudi Arabia’s royal family for the killing of journalist Jamal Kashoggi or against Israeli leadership amid the most recent bombardment of Gaza.

In the statement on Tuesday, Blinken said “responsible nations must not shrink from scrutiny of their human rights record; rather, they should acknowledge it with the intent to improve”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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