U.S. Loses Seat on U.N. Human Rights Committee, AIDS Policy Cited Among Reasons
In a "blow to U.S. prestige and an indication that Washington may be losing influence with traditional allies," representatives from the U.N. Economic and Social Council yesterday voted the United States off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights for the first time since the commission was established in 1947, the Washington Post reports. According to U.N. diplomats, the vote was "a sign of international irritation over the Bush administration's stands" on several issues, including AIDS medications. Even nations that consider the United States to be a "champion of human rights" were "annoyed by Washington's opposition to recent votes by the commission to provide AIDS treatments to poor people." The commission recommends measures to protect human rights across the globe, tracks violations and censures countries that "trample basic freedoms." France, Austria and Sweden won the three seats available for Western nations, while Washington won only 29 out of a possible 54 votes (Lynch, Washington Post, 5/4). Joanna Weschler, the U.N. representative of Human Rights Watch, called the exclusion a "wake-up call" to Washington that she hopes "will prompt a review of their policies." She said, "This has been coming. It should not have been a surprise to Washington. They've voted alone, on the wrong side of several important issues" (Farley, Los Angeles Times, 5/4). U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. James Cunningham said of the decision, "Understandably, we're very disappointed. ... We very much wanted to serve on the committee" (Leopold, Reuters/Washington Times, 5/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.