Outcomes of the 53rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
July 19, 2023
During the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the United States worked with partner States and civil society, including human rights defenders, to ensure the Council’s work reflects and reinforces the universal values, aspirations, and norms that have underpinned the UN system since its founding over 75 years ago.
In a first since rejoining the Council, the United States spearheaded a thematic resolution tackling statelessness and nationality rights. This marks a significant step forward in our global effort to end statelessness.
The United States supported the Council’s important role of shining a spotlight on countries of concern, promoting accountability for governments and actors that violate and abuse human rights, and addressing key thematic human rights challenges. Our statements and positions underscored the U.S. commitment to promoting the universality of human rights by addressing discrimination, inequity, and inequality in all its forms, including based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Across resolutions, joint statements, and interactive dialogues, the United States advanced equity and inclusion, with an emphasis on protecting the rights of all, particularly marginalized and underserved groups.
Our priorities included:
Leading on Statelessness and Nationality Rights:
Together with our partners, the United States led a resolution championing nationality rights, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Together, we encouraged governments and the broader international community to prevent and reduce statelessness and protect stateless persons’ rights. This resolution took a firm stance against discrimination against women in nationality laws, elevated key gender inclusivity principles, and underscored the importance of the right to nationality. The resolution garnered a broad, cross-regional group of co-sponsors and was adopted by consensus.
Advancing Gender Equality:
The United States reaffirmed its support for eliminating discriminatory laws and practices against women and girls in all their diversity. The U.S. co-sponsored, joined consensus on, and helped defend resolutions focused on advancing gender equality through prevention and response to gender-based violence, including accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls and child, early, and forced marriage. The United States voted against all amendments seeking to weaken or remove inclusive gender language from these and other resolutions and encouraged other member states to do the same. Additionally, as a member of the Group of Friends on the Responsibility to Protect, we promoted a joint statement promoting accountability for conflict-related sexual and other forms of gender-based violence, which may enable the commission of atrocity crimes. We also signed joint statements decrying the gender-related killing of women and girls and heralding the critical role women play in diplomacy.
Promoting Civil Society Space:
The United States proudly co-sponsored the resolution on Civil Society Space. It underscores the importance of creating and maintaining a safe and enabling environment, online and offline, in which civil society can operate freely and carry out its work promoting respect for human rights. This work is all the more critical in the present age, as governments increasingly use digital technologies, surveillance, online censorship, and other mechanisms to restrict civil society and human rights defenders.
Renewing the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus:
The United States co-sponsored the resolution that renewed the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus. This mandate is more important than ever as the Lukashenka regime continues to find new tools to repress the Belarusian people. The regime holds more than 1,500 political prisoners; violently intimidates and harasses all elements of civil society, including NGOs, trade unions and journalists; and passes draconian laws to punish critics both inside and outside of Belarus.
Renewing the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea:
The United States co-sponsored the resolution renewing the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. The resolution maintains attention on Eritrea’s indefinite national service system and its unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. It also continues to highlight the atrocity crimes committed by members of the Eritrean Defense Forces during the conflict in northern Ethiopia, which include crimes against humanity.
Drawing attention to the Human Rights Situation in Syria:
As a member of the Core Group on Syria, the United States continued to draw attention to the dire situation in the country. We welcomed the Commission of Inquiry’s reporting calling attention to continued abuses against refugees, as well as the ongoing torture and abuse in regime detention facilities.
Other Resolution Priorities:
The United States also co-sponsored country-specific resolutions to keep reporting on Ukraine on the Council’s agenda and supporting the successful implementation of Colombia’s peace process. We joined consensus on a resolution on Burma, making clear the need for conditions to improve before Rohingya can return safely.
The United States also co-sponsored key thematic resolutions, including: the incompatibility between democracy and racism, human rights and extreme poverty, the right to education, the negative impact of corruption, human rights of migrants in transit, and texts renewing the mandates of the Special Rapporteurs on rights of persons with disabilities, trafficking in persons, and judges and lawyers as well as the Business and Human Rights (BHR) Working Group which is critical to the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on BHR.
United States Counters Anti-Israel Bias: The United States led a joint statement, signed by a cross-regional group of 27 countries, expressing deep concern about the open-ended Commission of Inquiry on Israel created in May 2021. We also voted against a new resolution under Agenda Item 2 to fully fund and implement an annual update of the database of companies operating in Gaza and the West Bank.
Overall, the United States signed on to 23 thematic or country-specific joint statements.
We led joint statements on cultural preservation, conflict-related sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence, and on the Commission of Inquiry targeting Israel, and signed statements on diverse topics, including democracy, femicide and human Rights, Climate Conference of the Parties, engaging with special procedures, International Day of Women in Diplomacy, affirming the importance of the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, diverse families, poverty and clean affordable energy, the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, supporting the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and R2P, AI and disabilities, the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and the harm caused by internet shutdowns.
The United States also joined 52 other countries in signing a statement on the alarming use of the death penalty in Iran, as well as other joint statements highlighting the Moura report on Mali, calling for accountability for Russia’s human rights abuses and atrocities in Ukraine, noting the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and raising awareness about ongoing atrocities against civilians in Sudan.
As the Chair of the Freedom Online Coalition this year, the United States led a side event focused on the UN Guiding Principles on BHR and the prevention of the misuse of technology and an event encouraging member state contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, to which the United States remains the world’s largest donor. We also co-sponsored side events on technology and human rights with a focus on Artificial Intelligence, advancing accountability for repression of activists and protesters, the critical role of women in shaping the future of Afghanistan, Ukrainian prisoners of war, education in Ukraine, and the human rights situation in Crimea, as well as two side events on the human rights situation in Belarus and events addressing the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda.