By Adian Dion
Ask anyone at Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy their opinion on the Human Rights Council (HRC) in the United Nations and you will receive an earful of gripes and concerns. At its core, the HRC is comprised of 47 nations tasked with investigating human rights abuse cases and applying citations from international law. Controversially, the basic human rights entitled to every man, woman, and child are protected by China, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, to name a few. Last year, these states cited Israel as the grossest violator of human rights in the world. The HRC passed 20 resolutions against the Jewish state, while North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Russia received one each. If you see a problem with this discrepancy, Rex Tillerson may be your man.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has threatened to withdraw the United States from the HRC if there is no reform. He has been clear that human rights are and will continue to be a goal of the United States, regardless of its role in the Council. However, the United States does not want to be part of a Council that has a clear bias against Israel and appears to have no genuine desire for human rights. However, this sentiment is old news for the U.S. China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and a litany of other members are some the most blatant violators of human rights. The United States has made efforts to reform from within, but it is becoming abundantly clear that the Council will not change via current efforts. However, by leaving the Council, the U.S. may be giving too much power to the states seen as the root of the problem.
The whole purpose of the U.S. remaining is to undermine the goals of the states biased against Israel. By voting against resolutions that may be unjust, the U.S. utilizes some saving power. This ability to intercept the vote was why the U.S. joined the Council in 2009 under the Obama administration. If the United States decides to stay in the Council, North Korea, Burma, Russia, and Syria need to be brought up more often. If we were to be overly optimistic, maybe suggestions for citing members of the Council should be brought up more. By having such members on the Council, it becomes clear that the HRC is simply a club of powerful countries coming together to acquire even more power. If the U.N. is only open to “peace loving states,” then consider making cuts.
As most diplomacy students know, creating international laws that fit with local norms while enforcing justice is a huge dilemma. Tillerson is confronting this conundrum by threatening the U.S. departure. At its very least, removing the US from the HRC will bring attention to problems within the council. When states on the Council are abusing their authority, the HRC is an infection the U.N., working against its mission. Leaders from Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa have threatened their exodus from the International Criminal Court (ICC) to protest injustice. These states are leaving because they believe the ICC is unfairly pressing against African nations, while turning a blind eye or defending injustice in countries on the court. Accusations of hypocrisy, corruption, and injustice can destroy the U.N. from inside. It is good that these issues are being addressed now. Otherwise, it is a real threat that the U.N. can be broken before repair.
It is time to leave the Council or bring about serious reform in a short amount of time. The United States can maintain power in the Security Council of the U.N., NATO, and its many NGO partners. This is not a loss in the protection of human rights, but the beginning of an era for truly protecting the rights of our fellow human beings.