International Law, Political Commentary

Foreign Policy Implications of US’ Withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Commission

It is not as simple as just removing yourself from the UN Human Rights Commission, particularly if you are the USA. The US is the bastion and the main proponent of all human rights and human rights provided a soft policy building blocks for all US foreign policy for near to 70 years. Why withdraw based on some hyperbolic loyalty to Israel? Far from helping Israel by showing solidarity, this move amongst others, would further isolate Israel from the world outside except for itself. Worse, it isolates the US from the circumspect soft power it has left internationally, further compromising the power, sway and say the US has amongst the community of nations. Under POTUS 45 US power is being called out by foes and allies alike; no one is blinking in the face of US’ bullying tactics.

However the US abdication of human rights eliminates  a very critical test and control to understand the value or dereliction of political leaders, governments and movements around the world. By relinquishing the HRC, the US

  1. Gives a clear indication that human rights is no longer a soft policy framework used to evaluate granting of aid and assistance to other countries, governments, leaders and groups;
  2. Thereby giving dictators and would-be-dictators a green light to proceed in marginalizing or eliminating populist democracy in Turkey, Philippines and many others.
  3. It removes the US from contributing to a very important discussion forum for normative and policy discussions with global parters – a unique one in fact. So less chance for norm setting, consensus building and policy discussions.
  4.  It clearly makes space for China, Russia and others to now build a new discussion space in the HRC- one that potentially perverts its purpose and content to justify a menu of atrocities and violence. Europe is now the last stronghold but also riddled with nationalism and fascism.
  5. It actually achieves the opposite purpose then intended by the US – to protect Israel, it removes the critical veto of the US from the proceedings of the Council. So no protection at all.
  6. It also lays the US open for condemnation by countries and peoples that have been at the receiving end of the US military adventurism – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya to name a few- by opening the way for condemnation based on human rights violations.
  7. In a legal and moral sense, this withdrawal creates a divergence between the US constitution and the lack of role of the US in promoting freedom and the founding principles of the Union based on universal freedoms. A challenge in the Supreme Court would produce an interesting debate.

The HRC is going to continue to work and work and the US is an odd-man-out. What has the Trump administration to gain and does it understand the ramifications of the withdrawal?

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