The United States has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council. Washington is citing “chronic bias against Israel” as the reason. The decision was announced by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN. The US has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the 47-member body. Haley at one time slammed the council as a “hypocritical and self-serving” organization. It looks like the White House has had enough.
In a statement released to the media, Haley said that for a long time the Human Rights Council has been protecting human rights abusers. She added that the required reforms in the council didn’t go through. Haley’s announcement came barely days after Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s top human rights official, criticized Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy on immigration that has led to the separation of families at the border. Zeid called the policy “unconscionable” in an address to the council.
The withdrawal received immediate support from the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a tweet sent today, the Israeli PM thanked the Trump administration for withdrawing from the council, calling it a courageous decision against the hypocrisy of the “so-called UN Human Rights Council”.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been a staunch critic of the UN body. As recently as March this year, Haley accused the council of treating Israel worse than Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Haley demanded more changes at the time adding that the US was actively evaluating its membership to the body. Haley warned that the US’s patience was not unlimited, and it looks like that patience has finally run out.
Previous administrations have also expressed concerns over the work of the UN Human Rights body. The council has been criticized for doing very little to crack down on human rights abuses around the world. John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, is a key member of the current administration that has criticized the council since 2006 when he served as the US ambassador to the UN. Bolton once voted against a resolution to establish the council during the George W. Bush administration.
In 2009, the Obama administration reversed that decision paving the way for the US to rejoin the body. This latest decision by the White House to withdraw is, however, not a surprise. President Trump has consistently criticized the UN and has led the US out of major international agreements and commitments including the Paris Accord on climate change. Trump’s “America First” policy that seeks to reduce US involvement in global affairs to focus more on local issues has remained very popular among his supporters.
However, many critics of the President have argued that “America First” shouldn’t be interpreted as “America Alone.” Nonetheless, the President has continued to pursue a nationalist approach in international relationships, something that has put the US at odds even with its allies. Nikki Haley has been the key figure in driving the US out of the Human Rights council. This makes the US the first country to drop out voluntarily.