EOP on Review of Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council

U.S. Explanation of Position on the resolution
“Review of Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council.”

The 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council,

Geneva
March 25, 2011

It is with regret that the United States must disassociate from consensus on the resolution “Review of Work and Functioning of the Human Rights Council.” The U.S. position on this issue, and our disappointment with the process that got us to this place, are well known.

Throughout the negotiations, my colleagues and I have made clear that the Council must conduct a thorough review that would lead to real improvements in its ability to meet its core mission: promoting and protecting human rights. Frankly, the Council has come up short. While we appreciate the facilitator’s efforts over the past months, we are frustrated that the open-ended working group’s work seemed dominated by expressing tired and divisive positions, rather than genuinely exploring new ways to address serious human rights situations around the world.

The Human Rights Council can be only as responsive and focused as its Member States demand. The United States is proud to have been a part of many initiatives over the past 18 months to address critical human rights situations. We worked with dedicated Council members to create by consensus new Special Rapporteurs on urgent and compelling issues such as Freedom of Association, and we helped galvanize the Council to address grave abuses in Cote d’Ivoire, Libya and elsewhere. We regret that the common ground we have found during those discussions has proven elusive here. We will continue our efforts to reform this Council session by session and resolution by resolution. This review process could augment that effort significantly, and we hope that potential will not be entirely lost.

Without a doubt, the Council’s disproportionate and biased treatment of Israel is its Achilles heel. The effectiveness and legitimacy of this Council can never be complete as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out for its own agenda item, while others, including chronic human rights abusers subject to UN General Assembly action, escape similar scrutiny. The lone agenda item on Israel provides ammunition to those who seek to discredit the hard work of every delegate in this room.

Mr. President, the United States does not welcome the outcome document of this working group. But we do look forward to working with UN member states as the HRC review process continues in New York. There is still room to strengthen our work and, for example, ensure greater scrutiny of the human rights records of candidates for election this body. We pledge to enter into the conversation in New York in the same spirit in which we did so here. We aim to renew the UN’s commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, to the dignity and worth of the human person, and to the equal rights of men and women in nations large and small.

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