At the end of 2015, the United States completed its second consecutive three-year term as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the intergovernmental body created in 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights. In an effort to review the effect of US membership on the Council’s performance, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights has periodically documented the number of country-specific resolutions adopted by the Council, the special sessions convened by the Council on country-specific human rights crises, and the number of independent “special procedures” created by the Council to investigate country-specific and thematic human rights issues. These are a number of areas to which the US has devoted substantial attention during its time on the Council.
While there remain many aspects of the Council’s performance that states should continue to work to improve, and while the Council still devotes a highly disproportionate degree of its country-specific action to Israel, JBI’s review reveals that US engagement has had a number of beneficial effects on the Council’s performance.
The procedural rules of the Council require the US, and any other State that has served two consecutive three-year terms, to remain off of the Council for one year before it will be eligible for membership again. During 2016, when the US is off the Council, JBI urges the United States to use its substantial influence in Geneva to appeal to current members of the Council to continue the positive trends its engagement brought about. Such trends included a noticeable increase in the number of resolutions that address human rights abuses in particular countries. JBI also encourages the US to take action to ensure the Council’s credibility and professionalism, both with respect to its treatment of Israel and other key issues. We also encourage the US to act on the commitment it has made to seek re-election to the Council for another three-year term from 2017-2019. The elections for this term of Council membership will take place at the UN General Assembly in October 2016.
JBI’s detailed documentation and analysis of trends over time, as well as background information, can be found in the full analysis below.