Item 5 General Debate: Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

Gisby0Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America, as delivered by Scott Busby, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

UN Human Rights Council – 35th Session
Geneva, June 16, 2017

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States believes any discussion under Item 5 would be incomplete without highlighting the serious, ongoing concerns we and many other member states share about the membership, accountability, agenda, and effectiveness of this Council.

As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley reviewed in her remarks here last week, the HRC has done much to advance the cause of human rights, calling out human rights violations and abuses, encouraging positive action, and changing lives.  At its best, the Human Rights Council fulfils its promise as the world’s premier body charged with the protection and promotion of human rights.

Still, as Ambassador Haley noted, when the HRC fails to act as it should — not addressing critical human rights situations for political or other reasons — it undermines its own credibility and the cause of human rights.   Many states, including HRC members, use their influence to shield themselves or frustrate efforts to safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Countries with poor human rights records are routinely elected to the Council.  The HRC also maintains a clear anti-Israel bias in the persistence of Agenda Item 7.

The United States believes that reforms are urgently needed to strengthen the Council’s membership and agenda.

Toward that end, we call on member states to join together to develop and enact reforms to the Council’s election procedures, accountability measures, standing agenda, and operations to ensure that the world’s most critical human rights situations – regardless of where they take place – are addressed fully and effectively.

In the months ahead, the United States will work with likeminded countries to build broad, cross-regional support for specific actions and reforms to be taken up as soon as possible, including at the UN General Assembly.   We welcome ideas and all constructive support for this important initiative, which we believe is essential for this Council to set aside politics and realize its enormous potential.

Thank you.