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Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Pete Marovich/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday the U.S. will seek election to the United Nations Human Rights Council next year after the country left the body during the Trump administration.

Why it matters: The council is a body of 47 countries and is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the globe.

Context: The Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the council in 2018.

What they're saying: Blinken acknowledged criticisms of the council, saying it has an "unacceptable bias against Israel and membership rules that allow countries with atrocious human rights records to occupy seats they do not merit."

  • "However, improving the Council and advancing its critical work is best done with a seat at the table," Blinken said.
  • "We seek to return to the Human Rights Council to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners to ensure that this important body lives up to its purpose. We do so with determination to listen, learn, and work toward a world in which human rights are universally respected."

The other side: “The UNHRC has revealed its hypocrisy too many times by empowering governments like the Chinese Communist Party and the Maduro and Putin regimes, all of whom are committing atrocities the Council was created [to] fight against," ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in a statement Tuesday.

  • "But, if we are not on the field, then we cannot win the game. Our participation must be focused on implementing significant reforms, especially eliminating the clear bias against Israel and ensuring the body investigates the genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang without delay," he added.

Go deeper

Feb 23, 2021 - World

Rights groups question Columbia over professor's interview

Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

After Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, evaded questions about China's genocide against Uyghurs during an interview last month, a coalition of 18 advocacy and rights groups sent a letter to the university but have received no response.

The big picture: The Chinese government is known to punish people who criticize its abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, leading to an epidemic of self-censorship among those with ties to the country.

Updated Feb 23, 2021 - World

Blinken asks for Israeli help in facilitating COVID vaccines to the Palestinians

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken asked his Israeli counterpart in their phone call on Monday for Israel to facilitate the transfer of COVID-19 vaccines to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli officials told me.

Driving the news: On Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister’s office announced that Israel has decided to send a "symbolic amount" of vaccines to the Palestinian Authority and to several countries that have asked for assistance.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from Saturday night, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is forecast to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.