US Says "Bye Felicia" to the UN Human Rights Council 💁

Photo: Reena Flores/POLITICO

Photo: Reena Flores/POLITICO

US ain't got no time for that

On Tuesday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US will pull out of the UN Human Rights Council. Haley condemned the council as a “cesspool of political bias”, in reference to the UNHRC’s long-standing agenda item on violations in Israel. She also accused the council of hypocrisy for allowing countries like Congo and Venezuela to sit on the council while committing human rights infractions.

A year in the making

Washington’s departure from the council was signalled last year, when Haley gave her first address and accused the UNHRC of “‘chronic, anti-Israel bias’”. This adds to the list of multilateral agreements that the Trump administration has withdrawn from, including the Paris climate agreement, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the joint G7 summit statement.

The right paints the UNHCR as disruptive and weak. They believe that US withdrawal was warranted, after facing disinterest and hostilityfor diplomatically addressing the council’s anti-Israel bias. Those on the right assert that the combination of a deference to the status quo and influence of members who are suspected perpetrators themselves undermine the UNHRC’s mission. They laud Haley’s active stance, yet do not mention the US’ immigration crisis.

The left criticizes the departure as a reflection of the Trump administration--undermining and hypocritical. In an attempt to protest anti-Israel sentiments, the US left Israel without a stronghold within the UNHRC. The vacuum also allows countries, which Haley accused as violators, to remain unchecked. Left folk pointedly circle back to the US’ current immigration crisis. They admonish the administration’s critique of countries suspected of violations when the US itself perpetuates “child abuse” by forcibly separating families.

America first?

Departure from the UNHRC demonstrates the Trump administration adhering to their unapologetic values of “America first”. This tactic may be a selling point for Trump in the 2020 elections. However, the US’ withdrawal from coalitions may signal its diminishing leverage within the global political order (e.g. climate change, trade, defense, and now human rights). This can only lead Americans to wonder what the definitive line is between adhering to the values of “America first” and international political isolation.

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