Speaking at the United Nations last week, Vice President Pence had harsh words for the UN Human Rights Council—an entity he claimed “doesn’t deserve its name.”
“As we look at the membership of the council today, we see nations that betray these timeless principles upon which this institution was founded. Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council actually attracts and welcomes many of the worst human rights violators in the world.” (emphasis mine). The vice president concluded, “[a] clear majority of the Human Rights Council’s members fail to meet even the most basic human rights standards.”
Pence singled out Cuba and Venezuela as examples of countries that didn’t belong there. They aren’t the only ones.
President Trump, speaking the day before, had emphasized the same point: “In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution’s noble aims have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.”
While these words may seem harsh, they are true, and make a long-overdue point more world leaders need to recognize themselves.
While the UN began with a noble purpose and a framework to achieve a worthwhile goal, it has become corrupted in the years since 1945. The term “human rights”—which recognizes that all people have certain rights that come from God and not government because they are made in the imago dei, or “image of God”—must retain its core meaning to bear any fruit in the international arena. Yet the term has been used and abused over the years to mean many things to many people, and hence nothing at all. Through this definitional watering down along with intentional noncompliance and hypocrisy, we have achieved a “Human Rights” Council of human rights violators.
The only thing consistent about the council is its irrational and mind-boggling hatred of Israel, the Middle East’s most successful democracy and a human rights leader in that area of the world. As Vice President Pence pointed out, “[t]he council’s agenda item seven actually singles out Israel for discussion at every single meeting, something no other country must endure. As evidence, the Human Rights Council has passed more than 70 resolutions condemning Israel, while largely ignoring the world’s worst human rights abusers.” Such anti-Semitism further discredits the already scornful behavior of the council.
The UN was founded with a worthy goal, and it is one worth continuing to strive for. But striving includes reform where needed. The “head-in-the-sand” mentality too often taken in the face of ongoing problems will only prolong abuse and the suppression of human rights—not their protection.