On Tuesday, 19 June, the United States officially announced that it would withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council in protest of the body’s recent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. The move represents the latest and perhaps most blatant manifestation of President Trump’s desire to pull away from supranational organizations and treaties. It is the first time a member nation has left the Human Rights Council voluntarily, and the United States now joins Iran, North Korea, and Eritrea as the only countries in the world that refuse to participate in the meetings and deliberations of the council.
Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, said in her speech that “Earlier this year, as it has in previous years, the Human Rights Council passed five resolutions against Israel—more than the number passed against North Korea, Iran, and Syria combined. This disproportionate focus and unending hostility towards Israel is clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not human rights. If the Human Rights Council is going to attack countries that uphold human rights and shield countries that abuse human rights, then America should not provide it with any credibility.”
Of course, Israel has been under fire in recent weeks for the killing or injuring of thousands of Palestinian civilians, who were attacked while protesting the construction of new settlements in the West Bank in conjunction with the American decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy to the embattled city.
The American withdrawal also comes as the Trump administration faces a massive and international wave of backlash for its decision to support the policy of family separation at its southern border. It is a policy that has created a near human rights crisis in a country which has preached for so long its commitment to defending human rights across the globe.
President Trump, through these actions, has reversed decades of American foreign policy that date back to the period immediately after World War II, when many of these supranational organizations were established. Trump has withdrawn from both the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. He has imposed tariffs on the nation’s closest allies and insulted their leaders. Decisions like the one to leave the Human Rights Council not only signal a crass disregard for the world structures intended to promote international cooperation and peacekeeping but also freely give up international leverage to countries like China and Russia, who may not have American interests at heart.
While many acknowledge that organizations like the Human Rights Council are far from perfect, it is also important to acknowledge that these organizations symbolize a degree of international cooperation that is important to forestalling major international conflict. Withdrawal from such organizations may have irrevocable consequences.