Friday, June 17, 2011

Human Rights Council Improves With US Involvement

US contributions to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) are under attack in congress despite the fact that US engagement has been proven to be beneficial and effective, as stated by a top State Department Official on Wednesday.

"UN bodies, including the HRC, have improved as a result of direct US engagement. If we cede ground, if our engagement in the UN system is restricted -- these bodies will likely be dominated by our adversaries," stressed Esther Brimmer, the assistant secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.

Before the US became involved, Israel was being singled out for actions of condemnation, while other countries that were home to the world's worst human rights abuses were being ignored. Now the situation is much more balanced. Though there remain challenges, the improvement through US engagement is "undeniable."

Highlighted is the councils decision on Wednesday in reaction to the Syrian government. Syria was requested to allow access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and referred to "daily reports of killings, detentions and torture o men, women and children." Syria actually dropped its bid for a seat on the council as a result of the pressure. The Council also suspended Libya in March.

Brimmer has criticized the congressional efforts to limit US funding for the United Nations. The effort to withhold engagement is led by the House of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Lleana Ros-lehtinen.

Brimmer argues that the US maintain the strongest position it can in the UN. "How else could we have won tough Security Council sanctions on Iran or North Korea if we were continuing to incur arrears?" she asks.

The US cannot afford failed short term tactics. If the US approaches the situation in this way there will be long-term implications for overall security.

As stated by Brimmer, "We must be a responsible global leader."

-Gabrielle Gurian