10 Mar UN Human Rights Council Meets: Will the U.S. Win a Seat?
The UN Human Rights Council is holding its 10th session this month in Geneva. The agenda and program of work are useful guides to the issues under discussion, and the open Council sessions are being aired at this webcast link. (Tomorrow’s session is an all-day plenary on the rights of the child.) All this transparency is a good thing. And Opinio Juris will be adding to the transparency with some on-the-ground commentary in the days to come. (Stay tuned!)
The effort of the U.S. to be seated on the HR Council is getting very little media play. Now, the U.S. has not — as far as I know — officially announced that it is seeking a seat, but one media report last month quoted UN sources saying that U.S. UN Ambassador Susan Rice has made it know that the U.S. would like a seat on the Council. In the meantime, the U.S. delegation in Geneva is attending the current session as an observer. The U.S. appears to see the return to observer status, which the Bush administration had pulled the plug on last June, as clearing the path toward membership and also giving the U.S. a louder voice in criticizing the politicization of the Council, in particular its focus on Israel. Of course, it will take more than U.S. participation to make the Council a more effective intergovernmental body. But it may turn out to be less difficult to promote change from within than from the sidelines. Whether the U.S. gets into the Council this year could be useful barometer of how well the attitudinal and participatory changes by the Obama administration are being received among the UN membership.