News & Politics

Ambassador Haley Targets UN Human Rights Council in Blistering Op-Ed

United States' Ambassador United Nations and current Security Council President Nikki Haley reacts as Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, Friday, April 7, 2017 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote a blistering attack on the UN Human Rights Council in an op-ed in the Washington Post Sunday.

What makes the op-ed significant was the stunning break by the Trump White House with the Obama administration’ milquetoast criticisms of the organization and their refusal to advocate massive reforms. In fact, Haley hints that the US may walk if things don’t change for the better.

After pointing out the ludicrousness of Cuba and Venezuela occupying seats on the HRC, Haley outlined changes on the HRC the US is looking for:

Next week, I will travel to Geneva to address the Human Rights Council about the United States’ concerns.

I will outline changes that must be made. Among other things, membership on the council must be determined through competitive voting to keep the worst human rights abusers from obtaining seats. As it stands, regional blocs nominate candidates that are uncontested. Competition would force a candidate’s human rights record to be considered before votes were cast. The council must also end its practice of wrongly singling out Israel for criticism. When the council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel, a country with a strong human rights record, and just seven resolutions against Iran, a country with an abysmal human rights record, you know something is seriously wrong.

The presence of multiple human rights-violating countries on the Human Rights Council has damaged both the reputation of the council and the cause of human rights. When the world’s preeminent human rights body is turned into a haven for dictators, the idea of international cooperation in support of human dignity is discredited. Cynicism grows. There is already more than enough cynicism to go around these days.

I believe the vision of the Human Rights Council is still achievable, but not without change. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to reclaim this vision and to restore the legitimacy of universal human rights.

In an ideal world, seats on the HRC would only go to countries that respect and practice human rights – no Arab countries and few nations from Africa and Asia. Sure, it would be a smaller body. But at least the current level of hypocrisy would be reduced. And we wouldn’t have to listen to a delegate from Cuba or Venezuela lecturing the US or Israel about human rights.

Haley has performed a difficult task well so far. I would like to see her tackle the corruption in the UN Secretariat – the office of the secretary general. Most of the scandals that have afflicted the UN have come out of that office.

But judging by this op-ed, she’s making a good start.