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Brief #44—Foreign Policy

Policy Summary
On June 19th, Mike Pompeo announced that the United States was finally following through on threats to depart from the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling it “an exercise in shameless hypocrisy – with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored and most serious offenders sit on the council sitting on the council itself”. While one concern of US Ambassador Nikki Haley and the White House included the closed election system which allowed candidates to join the council without an open vote, the primary contention was what Haley called “unending hostility towards Israel”. While Haley previously insisted the agenda of the US was to reform the council rather than leave it, she refused to cooperate with an effort led by the Netherlands to reduce the number of resolutions passed against Israel. One of the more controversial examples included a 2016 resolution which condemned a number of mostly US and Israeli businesses which had invested in illegal Israeli settlements in the West bank. Since the council’s inception in 2006, it has passed 310 country specific resolutions, with 76 targeting Israel. The final straw came earlier in June when the council voted 120 to 8 condemning Israel’s massacre of Palestinians peacefully protesting the occupation of their land.

Leaving the Human Rights Council is par for the course for this administration. Trump has pursued an agenda of complete seclusion from the world, interacting only through threats and ultimatums rather than treaties and cooperative diplomacy. Since the last election we have most notably withdrawn from the Paris Climate Change Acord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, UNESCO, and all global health programs which support abortion rights. This isn’t to say there aren’t issues within the council which warrant attention. The membership of human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia and China in an anti-human rights abuse organization is hypocritical. Of course this isn’t Trump or Haley’s true concern. Their issue is with the council working as it should: allowing a certain amount of international democracy in the condemnation of human rights abuses rather than filtering such moral conversation solely through the channels of those in power.

The United States has never been the champion of human rights that Nikki Haley would like us to believe. We have supported Israel and Saudi Arabia both economically and militarily in what borders on ethnic cleansing in Palestine and Yemen. US ships enforce the embargoes which have created a critical lack of clean water in the Gaza Strip and the worst cholera outbreak in history in Yemen. Trump has complimented and allied himself with authoritarian human rights abusers such as The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, and of course Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The US has used their position in the council to vote against a resolution decrying the use of the death penalty against LBGTQ citizens. A recent UN report highlighted the humanitarian concerns of economic conditions within the United States, citing our position as the country with the highest income inequality and lowest intergenerational social mobility among Western countries. With our historical willingness to overlook glaring human rights abuses within our borders and commit them overseas, any moral condemnation of corruption within the Human Rights Council rings hollow. This is only another tactical move from a government wholly uninterested in the ideals America prides itself upon.

Engagement Resources

  • Donate to the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights: The USCPR is an organization founded in 2001 with the mission of shifting US policy towards recognizing the human rights of Palestinians.
  • Learn More About Domestic Human Rights Issues Caused by the Trump Administration: Philip Alston is the UN official which published the recent report examining how the economic policy of our political establishment has led to inhumane living conditions for low income Americans. You can listen to his interview on Democracy Now here.

This Brief was prepared by USRESIST NEWS Foreign Policy Analyst Colin Shanley. For further information contact Colin@usresistnews.org

Photo by Rob Bye

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