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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks on the Election of the U.S. to the Human Rights Council

Press Conference
Susan E. Rice
Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
Remarks to the media following a General Assembly Stakeout
New York City
May 12, 2009



Good afternoon. The United States is very pleased to be elected to join the Human Rights Council. We’re particularly gratified by the strong support we received, 90 percent of the valid votes cast, and we’re gratified by the strong showing of encouragement for the United States to again play a meaningful leadership role in multilateral organizations including the UN on the very vitally important set of issues relating to human rights and democracy.

We ran for the Human Rights Council because this administration and indeed, the American people, are deeply committed to upholding and respecting the human rights of every individual. While we recognize that the Human Rights Council has been a flawed body that has not lived up to its potential, we are looking forward to working from within with a broad cross section of member states to strengthen and reform the Human Rights Council and enable it to live up to the vision that was crafted when it was created.

Thank you.


Reporter: There are some people who contended that because of the membership of the Council, the bad human rights record of some members of the Council—and some people put the United States in that category—that it’s impossible that it can’t be effective on human rights because the members themselves don’t respect it. What do you think about that?

Ambassador Rice: We don’t think it’s impossible. We certainly share the view that the Council has not performed to its potential. But we wouldn’t be running if we thought it was impossible for the Council to fulfill the vision that we all had when it was established. Obviously there will always be some countries whose respect and record on human rights is sub-par; we have not been perfect ourselves. But we intend to lead based on the strong, principled vision that the American people have about respecting human rights, supporting democracy. We look forward to the review that is coming up in 2011 as an important opportunity to strengthen and reform the Council.

Reporter: What are the major changes that you’d like to push for inside the council?

Ambassador Rice: Well, I think I just mentioned, the 2011 review is an opportunity to look at the procedures and the substance of the Council’s actions and to try to ensure that it more closely hues to the goal that we all shared when we established the Council which is ensuring that this premier body of the United Nations committed to human rights is actually focusing on those challenges and those situations that are the most egregious in the world.

Reporter: Ambassador, priority, reform and strengthen, to wait until 2011 (inaudible)?

Ambassador Rice: No, we will be working very hard from our earliest days with a number of other countries—who share our vision as I think was reflected in the strong support the United States received— to try to support the improvement and strengthening of this body so that it is more often acting a fashion consistent with its purpose and our vision in founding it.

Thank you very much.

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