The United Nations has begun the process of filling the seat the United States left vacant at the U.N. Human Rights Council now that it has received official notification that Washington is resigning from the council.
The U.N. body wasted no time adjusting to the new reality. It already has removed the U.S. nameplate from the area where the 47-members of the Human Rights Council sit and has placed it among the observer states.
Council spokesperson Rolando Gomez told VOA the seat eventually will be filled by a new member elected by the General Assembly.
“This is new uncharted territory,” he noted. “This is something — a first — that has never happened before where a member of the council has withdrawn its membership. So, we are moving the best way we can in following the proper procedures.”
Council members are elected from five regional groups — the African, Asian, Eastern European, Latin American and Caribbean, and Western groups. Gomez said the U.S. vacancy will be filled by a country from the Western Group, including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Israel.
“In theory yes, Israel could assume membership as they are members of the western group,” he said. “Any state within the western group has potential to fulfill that vacancy.
The irony of such an outcome is not lost on observers considering that Washington blames what it calls the hypocrisy of the U.N. council and its chronic bias against Israel for its decision to quit the council.
Gomez said the United States can continue to participate and play an influential role as an observer state. He said it is their prerogative to engage or disengage.
“The key difference between a member and an observer is that members can vote, and observers cannot,” he said. “… The United States would be able to sponsor resolutions, hold side events, influence language and resolutions. The key difference is they would not be able to vote.”
While the United States can continue to exert immense influence as an observer, Gomez noted it is always better to be part of the equation than to be on the sidelines watching.