The U.S. reaffirmed its commitments to promote and defend human rights last week in preparation for seeking election to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in November.
The statement listed three broad commitments with specific pledges detailing how the nation will fulfill its obligations:
1. To advancing and supporting human rights in the U.N. system.
The U.S. expressed its intention to continue working through U.N. processes, including the council, “to advance the purpose and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
2. To advancing human rights, fundamental freedoms, human dignity and prosperity internationally.
Commitment was made to dialogue and collaborate with member nations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in order to end stigma and discrimination based on disability, race and religion, among other categories, and to protect the rights of workers, journalists and others globally.
The U.S. affirmed its continued efforts “to promote freedom of religion for individuals of all religions or beliefs, particularly members of minority and vulnerable groups,” noting its support of a 2011 U.N. resolution on combating religious discrimination, intolerance and violence.
3. To advancing human rights, fundamental freedoms, human dignity and prosperity in the U.S.
Citing its “longstanding work to combat discrimination based on race, color, age, national origin, religion, gender, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, health status and disability in various sectors in our society,” the U.S. emphasized its dedication to protecting these rights and to stopping “hate crimes, police misconduct and human trafficking.”
The Human Rights Council is “an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.”
Forty-seven nations make up the council, which was established in 2006 to replace the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Nations are elected by the U.N. General Assembly and serve three-year terms (and no more than two consecutive terms).
Current members nations include: Albania, Belgium, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea, Russia, UAE and the U.K.
The U.S. became a member in 2009 and served two terms (ending in 2015). This decision reversed Bush-era policy and has been critiqued by those who believe the council is flawed and ineffective.
The council has four primary functions:
1. To conduct a periodic review of human rights conditions within U.N. member states.
2. To function as a “think tank” on human rights issues.
3. To receive and assess complaints regarding violations of human rights.
4. To report on human rights issues and situations in specific nations.
The full statement of commitments is available here.