The United States is now well into 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 to date, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights has periodically reviewed the number of country-specific resolutions adopted by the Council, the special sessions convened by the Council on human rights crises, and the number of special procedures created by the Council to investigate country-specific and thematic issues. These are a number of areas to which the US has devoted substantial attention during its time on the Council.
To date, this review has continuously found that in the years that the US has served on the Council, the body’s criticism of countries by name on human rights grounds has substantially increased. The Council’s criticism of an increasing number of violator States has not only strengthened its legitimacy; it has decreased to a certain degree the Council’s highly disproportionate focus on the conduct of a single UN Member State, Israel.
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 disproportionate degree of its country-specific action to Israel, JBI’s review finds that US engagement has had beneficial effects on the Council’s performance. The United States should continue its efforts by pressing Council members to convene special sessions on emerging human rights crises whenever they occur and by proposing and encouraging others to put forward resolutions that identify by name the perpetrators of serious human rights violations worldwide. It should also continue efforts to ensure the Council’s credibility and professionalism, including with respect to Israel.
JBI’s detailed documentation and analysis of trends over time, as well as background information, can be found in the full analysis below.