The United States on Thursday rejoined the UN Human Rights Council, following its withdrawal in June 2018.
In a vote at the UN General Assembly, the United States was elected along with 17 other countries for a three-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2022.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council in June 2018, accusing the council of being a “hypocritical and self-serving organization” and biased against Israel. The U.S. seat was later taken by Iceland in a by-election.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in February that the U.S. would reengage with the council as an observer. In a statement, Blinken said that the U.S. withdrawal in 2018 “did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership.”
President Biden on Thursday applauded the US’ election to the council, saying in a statement, “I am grateful for the support of nations from around the world for our campaign, and I look forward to the United States once more being a constructive voice that works to help push the Human Rights Council to live up to its mandate and to protect the values we hold dear for all people.”
In Thursday’s vote through secret ballot, the United States won 168 out of the 193 votes. In the same regional group, Finland and Luxembourg won 180 votes, respectively. Of all the 18 candidates, the United States won the second-lowest number of votes, only before Eritrea, which got 144 votes.
None of the 18 candidates was contested in the vote.
“Having fulfilled President Biden’s campaign pledge to rejoin the Human Rights Council, we can work to ensure this body lives up to these principles,” said US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield minutes after Thursday’s vote.
The UN Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. It has 47 members, about a third of which are replaced every year so that the council members serve staggered three-year terms for the sake of continuity.