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Home / Press Release / Trump Administration Further Harms U.S. Interests in Abandoning UN Human Rights Council
June 18, 2018

Trump Administration Further Harms U.S. Interests in Abandoning UN Human Rights Council

Washington, D.C.— Human Rights First today expressed deep disappointment over the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the world’s preeminent international body tasked with the promotion and protection of human rights. 

“With its action today, the Trump Administration has once again substituted the misguided ideology of 'America First' for a foreign policy that advances human rights and American leadership on the world stage,” said Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy Rob Berschinski.

“There is no doubt that the Human Rights Council is a highly imperfect body in need of significant reform. But abandoning the Council does nothing to advance U.S. interests or those of our allies—it simply cedes the arena to many of the world’s worst human rights violators. It’s a simple fact that when the United States sits on the Council and applies its considerable influence, more of that body’s time is spent addressing the world’s worst human rights crises. This decision flies in the face of all available evidence, and it’ll be welcomed by the governments in Moscow, Beijing, Damascus, and Caracas,” added Berschinski.  “This is yet another example of the Trump Administration parting ways with many of our closest democratic allies, while playing directly into the hands of the world’s autocrats and dictators.”    

Prior to today’s announcement, the United States held one of 47 seats on the Council.

Research produced by the Council on Foreign Relations and Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights has demonstrated that U.S. involvement on the Council has resulted in the strengthening of the body as a credible institution. Successes led or supported by the United States include gaining mandates for independent experts to report on human rights conditions in Belarus, Cuba, and Iran, as well as the establishment of investigations into atrocities in Burundi, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and Syria. 

The United States has also used its position on the Council to champion key thematic issues such as support for fundamental freedoms of religion or belief and LGBT rights, while stymying harmful resolutions meant to justify governmental curbs on these freedoms. While the Council continues to single out Israel disproportionately, including by maintaining Israel as the body’s sole stand-alone agenda item, U.S. membership on the Council has resulted in the adoption of fewer Israel-specific resolutions both in absolute terms and as a percentage of those resolutions dealing with specific countries. 

In addition to this statement, Human Rights First has joined eleven other leading non-governmental organizations in expressing their profound disappointment with the Trump administration’s decision in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which can be read here

For more information or to speak to Berschinski, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.