Look, Uncle Sam is busy cleaning up its own mess on human rights problems. Does the US still think it’s the beacon of human rights? Illustration: GT
The Biden administration will reengage with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday. Blinken said that the US will begin the engagement as an observer. “We recognize that the Human Rights Council is a flawed body, in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including its disproportionate focus on Israel,” he said.
The Trump administration withdrew from the UNHRC in 2018. Now, the US is seeking to reengage with the body and yet it wants the body to reform according to the US’ wishes. Washington has been placing its own interests at the center of international rules and equating US benefits with international rules. The way the US tries to manipulate the international rules has shocked the world.
Even if the US rejoins the UNHRC, it would be very difficult for the country to regain its so-called leadership on human rights issues. The COVID-19 death toll has reached over 465,000 in the US as of press time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. This is a humanitarian tragedy. The US claims to be a “beacon” of democracy and human rights, and it used to have an almost monopolistic say in the field of human rights. But it’s disappointing the COVID-19 fight has become the US’ Waterloo. Mass shootings in the US are also disturbingly common.
But even in the face of such serious human rights problems, Washington still does not believe that its human rights should be criticized. The US stubbornly thinks that it is the only country qualified to set standards for human rights. It believes the UNHRC should be reformed. Such double standards are becoming increasingly obvious. The country’s arrogant attitude seems outdated in the 21st century and will only lead to resentment from more and more countries.
The US is a country with the largest cumulative arrears to the UN. The Trump administration believes the US could not exercise hegemony in the UNHRC so it chose to withdraw recklessly. If the US does not change such a mentality, the country would only face the same situation after it rejoins the body. If the new US administration tries to launch a reform to make the body conform to US hegemony, it will be disappointed in the end.
When the Trump administration withdrew from the UNHRC, the US image in the world was seriously undermined. Now, by trying to reengage with the body, can the Biden administration help earn back some moral points for the US? Not really.
On the human rights issue, Washington has already lost its so-called moral high ground. The COVID-19 fight and the democratic system are important indicators for testing the US’ human rights. But with domestic chaos in the US, rejoining the UNHRC and even trying to change the rules will not help the country rediscover its “leadership” in human rights.
“Our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of US leadership,” Blinken said. But rules apply to all countries. The UN system should be the most authoritative starting point for international rules. If the US is seeking to reengage with the body, it is only meaningful if the country accepts supervision and constraints from the body like other countries and jointly safeguards the multilateral system.
But if the US rejoins the UNHRC only to maintain US “leadership” and makes the international system serve Washington’s interests, then this will only sabotage the world’s justice, the way the US withdrawal did.