Trump Chose to Withdraw From UNHRC – Is Anyone Really Surprised?

Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council... just another in a long line of pull-outs and pull-backs.

5 min read
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In yet another startling move administered by the “game-changing” 45th President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, the country on Wednesday, 20 June, announced that it would be pulling out of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), claimig that the council has a "chronic bias against Israel".

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, on Wednesday, 20 June, explained the Trump administration’s move, saying:

The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny and the council continues politicising and scape-goating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks.
Nikki Haley, as reported by ABC News

She added that the council was motivated by “political bias” and not “human rights”, said the ABC report.


Now let’s take a look back at recent international history. The UNHRC is a relatively young grouping, established by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006, for the stated purpose of protecting and promoting human rights across the world.

The council has 47 members, all of whom have been selected by the Assembly for a term of three years each, on a regional group basis. The thus chosen council investigates human rights breaches that come to international attention in any of these member states.

Since its inception in 2006, the Council had condemned Israel in 78 different resolutions, and passed more resolutions condemning Israel than all of the other countries combined. Israel is also the only country which the Council had specifically condemned – an important fact, considering Trump’s justification for taking the US out of the Council.

While the US’ term was to end in 2019, it withdrew from the council prematurely by about eight months, in a move that activists said would impact the global order, as the council would now be left without one of its “traditional defenders” of human rights, reports AP. 

While this move has certainly shocked the international community, let’s not forget that this definitely isn’t the first time that Trump has pulled the US out of international organisations, accords and summits.


The Broken Paris Accord

Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council... just another in a long line of pull-outs and pull-backs.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took aim at Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, calling the move “very regrettable”, at a summit in Berlin on Tuesday, 19 June 2018. 
(Photo: AP)

On 1 June 2017, Trump, openly skeptical about human-caused climate change, announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, where about 195 countries had signed up to fight pollution and global warming.

A The New York Times report quotes Trump saying that the accord the US had signed up for back in 2015 under former President Barack Obama, imposed “wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers”.

Calling it a “draconian” deal, he stated that it affected American sovereignty and that he had been elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council... just another in a long line of pull-outs and pull-backs.

The report states that Trump’s statement regarding US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was the strongest and most “sweeping assertion” of an “America first” narrative, an integral point of his foreign policy doctrine that he had promised since he first assumed the hot seat.

However, according to Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, the earliest withdrawal date by the United States can’t be before 4 November 2020, four years after the Agreement first came into effect in the country. Till then, the US is expected to maintain at least some of its commitments under the deal.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership in Tatters

In a move that certainly affected its relations with the Indo-Pacific, Trump on 23 January 2017, and on his third day in office as President, withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

The move, BBC states, distanced the US from its Asian allies, even as China’s influence in the region continued to grow.

The trade deal, which included an agreement between 12 nations, was a pivotal part of Obama's US-Asia policy, which he had drawn up back in 2015. However, it had never been approved by Congress. While he was still campaigning, Trump had called the agreement a “potential disaster” for the country and added that the deal would have damaged US manufacturing. This too, fulfilled a part of his “America-first” narrative.

Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council... just another in a long line of pull-outs and pull-backs.
Trump, after signing the document withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Deal. 
(Photo: AP)

However, in a complete 360, Trump in April 2018, asked trade officials to explore the possibility of the US rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. An AP report says that Trump’s sudden reversal could have been due to pressure from the Republicans who are worried that his protectionist trade policies could lead to a trade war with China, something that would impact rural America – their constituents – most.

Other than the US, the other countries involved in the deal were Japan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. The TPP’s aim was to strengthen economic ties, boost growth, reduce tariffs and most importantly, create a new single market like the one that had been in EU, the report says.


The Iran Nuclear Deal That Almost Was

Earlier in May 2018, in yet another move that raised eyebrows, President Trump pulled the US out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

This was another deal that had been painstakingly negotiated and signed by Obama in 2015. It imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, reducing the amount of higher-enriched uranium that the country could stockpile, from 100,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms. In return, the US would lift most of the sanctions – local and international – which it had imposed on the country, reported The National Post.

The deal took shape after the Obama administration had begun “secret talks” with Iran after its relatively moderate President, Hassan Rouhani, took office. The other nations involved in the deal were Britain, France and Germany.

Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council... just another in a long line of pull-outs and pull-backs.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. 
(Photo: Reuters)

Tearing up the deal like he had promised to do during his campaign, Trump said that he would move to reimpose all the sanctions that the US had first imposed on Iran before they had been lifted due to the 2015 deal.

Criticising the deal for not including Iran’s ballistic missile program or Tehran’s support of groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah or providing aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Trump seems to be working on the assumption that he can coerce Iran into agreeing to a better deal for the US.

Now, with Trump withdrawing from the UNHRC, it seems that the world’s foremost superpower is on a mission to isolate itself from the global order it helped create.

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Topics:  Obama   Iran   Asia 

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