| 21-06-2018

USA pulls out from HRC while smashing human rights within borders

USA announcement takes place against a backdrop of violence against migrant families and a neglect of an increasingly food insecure population in its own country.

This week’s statement by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announcing that the USA withdraws from the Human Rights Council (HRC) was a slap in the face for the international community. Seventy years after its adoption, for which then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt played a leading role, the USA is sending a clear message about where human rights and dignity stand in its priorities today. 

At a time where human rights institutions and defenders are under attack, it is time to step up commitment rather than to retreat. This move sets a dangerous precedent, further undermining the human rights obligations that states have to global citizens. However, to some this may come as no surprise.

Blocking progress internationally

The USA does not boast a strong track-record when it comes to supporting human rights internationally or domestically. Indeed, it is one of the few states that has taken a firm position against ratifying or adopting any international human rights into its domestic legal structure. More concretely, for the USA, the right to food, a basic right for the survival of any human being, is not an “    enforceable obligation”.  Its stance in international spaces for the right to food, such as in various processes in Geneva and the Committee of World Food Security in Rome, has focused on  blocking any progressive policy making, further threatening the multilateral spaces in which those most impacted by hunger and malnutrition make their voice heard. 

The public financial future of the UN is currently at risk, as the USA has already significantly reduced its annual UN financial contribution, impacting several agencies and processes, particularly  the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has been the main support for some 5 million Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. 

Food insecurity within its borders

In addition to increasing abuses and violations as a result of condoned police brutality, racism, violence and abuses to migrant adults and children, the current administration has also presented proposals to cut social support for food programs ( including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), which would end or cut benefits for a substantial number of low-income people. 

In a situation where roughly     41 million people in the USA are facing food insecurity, a number that has increased by some 5 million since 2008, this move is a clear signal that human welfare and dignity is not at the top of its to-do list. 

Ahead of us, without the US

In the present moment, where human rights institutions are weakened and corporations are acquiring a disproportionate power, it is fundamental that states call for a more inclusive multilateralism that aims at protecting people and not business. The HRC does have room for improvement, and  ongoing processes, such as the Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and the Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises are opportunities to reassert the role of the UN, and ensure that the issues of those persons who are most marginalized globally are addressed.

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