Wednesday, May 13, 2009

United States Wins a Seat in the UN Human Rights Council

13 May 2009   12:20am, Manila time

American Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has just finished speaking to reporters announcing that the United States has just won a seat in the UN Human Rights Council.  The Council has been heavily criticized for apparent bias against Israel and US participation has been viewed by some as futile and counterproductive.  A portion of Rice's announcement was carried live by CNN.

US engagement in the UN Human Rights Council continues the string of Bush-era policy reversals being implemented by President Obama. It is clear that the Obama administration prefers what is expected to be a stormy engagement in the Council rather than the detached approach that for years tended to undermine American influence in important aspects of international diplomacy. 

The United States is expected to address various human rights situations around the world, for example, in Burma (Myanmar) and Tibet, and the UN Human Rights Council is seen as an indispensable platform in mounting such an engagement.  

From the UN website, this is an excerpt explaining in part today's vote.  Membership in the Council is based on "equitable geographical distribution" and the candidate states are elected "directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly":

In accordance with paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 “the Council shall consist of forty-seven Member States, which shall be elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly; the membership shall be based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats shall be distributed as follows among regional groups: Group of African States, thirteen; Group of Asian States, thirteen; Group of Eastern European States, six; Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, eight; and Group of Western European and other States, seven; the members of the Council shall serve for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms”.
This is the pertinent page of the UN website.

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