U.S. to reengage with U.N. Human Rights Council as ‘observer’

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Monday that the U.S. will reengage with the United Nations Human Rights Council, marking another reversal of Trump administration policy.

The U.S. will engage initially with the council in an observer status, not one of the full members on the board, which are elected by the UN General Assembly. Observer status will allow the U.S. to speak with the council, partner with other nations to introduce resolutions and participate in negotiations.

The U.S. withdrew from the council in 2018 after it blasted the Trump administration’s child separation policy.

"When we work closely with our allies and friends, we are able to call countries with the worst human rights records to account in the @UN Human Rights Council,” Blinken said in a Tweet Monday morning. “U.S. leadership matters.”

The U.S. did not engage with the council under President George W. Bush, though the Obama administration did work with the council. Every U.S. administration since the council’s creation has been critical of the council’s stances on Israel, including demands for the nation to withdraw from Palestinian territories.

Blinken said in the statement that the council can work to promote the rights of women, LGBTQ people and other marginalized groups, as well as freedoms of expression and assembly.

“We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” Blinken said in the statement released Monday morning. “However, our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.”

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