USA uses NGOs to try to justify its withdrawal from the Human Rights Council

North American Ambassador criticizes Conectas’ stand on Council reform

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN.

The United States’ withdrawal from the UN is a regrettable measure, but it is not surprising given the line taken by the Trump administration towards multilateral organs, principally those involved in protecting and promoting human rights. The justifications for the decision announced on Tuesday 19 were surprising though. In an attempt to present an argument for its unilateral move, the Trump administration blamed NGOs for what it called their attempt to ‘undermine’ proposed reforms of the Council.

In a letter addressed to Conectas, Nikki Haley, North American Ambassador to the UN, insinuated that the organisation had acted to block negotiations for the reform of the Council. The same accusation was made against a number of international organisations.

“You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the US decision to withdraw from the Council. Going forward, we encourage you to play a constructive role on behalf of human rights, rather than the deconstructive one you played in this instance.” Haley writes in the letter.

Conectas believes in the need to streamline the workings of the Human Rights Council, with changes that make the member states’ activities more effective in the promotion of rights and in holding states responsible for violations in their countries. These discussions have been taking place within the Council in a structured manner and with social participation, with the aim of reaching a consensus.

However, during the UN General Assembly last May, in New York the United States delegation circulated a resolution proposal for the reform of the Council overriding discussions that had taken place in Geneva. Among the United States’ points of priority was the end of item seven of the Working Programme, concerning violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well a review of the way in which the collegiate receives new members – seen by many as an “attempt to make it difficult for states that do not agree with North American foreign policy to enter the Council.

At that time, a number of organisations, including Conectas, signed a joint note criticizing the North American proposal. The Ambassador refers to this note in her letter to the organisation as an “effort to block negotiations”.

In response, the organisations that received the letter from the North American Diplomat restated their readiness to contribute constructively with the United States, as well as with other member states in efforts to strengthen the Human Rights Council, building on discussions in progress in Geneva.

“We are committed to the international system, including the Human Rights Council, and to ensuring the system is fit for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights. We will continue to work towards those goals.” Reads the letter from the organisations in response to the North American Ambassador.

  • Read the response in full (in English).

The Human Rights Council is the main body of the United Nations for the promotion and defence of human rights. The principal objective of any reform must be improved efficacy in protecting victims in any part of the world, as well as demanding concrete responses from governments. By withdrawing from the Council, the United States is no longer involved in this task.

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