Obama’s U.N. ‘Engagement’ Swindle
It doesn’t speak well for our foreign policy when the administration has to fabricate supposed successes.


Anne Bayefsky

But here is how the Obama administration scriptwriters rewrote it. The U.S. mission to Geneva issued a press release with the title: “United States Welcomes Engagement by Human Rights Council on Abuses in DRC.” The press release included a large file photo of a full meeting in the council chamber — though the “informal dialogue” had deliberately not been scheduled in that chamber. 

The administration’s press release quotes Ambassador Donahoe as gushing: “Today’s meeting demonstrated that the Council can react to events in real time.” A few days later, Donahoe wrapped up the council session with the following praise: “I also recognize the forward movement made on other important human-rights issues this session. . . . I welcome the council’s engagement on the issue of the mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This showed the council’s ability to react to real events in real time and to contribute its voice to this important issue.”

Not only was two months later not “real time,” but the council itself had not reacted at all. By comparison, in response to the Koran burning in Florida that was called off, the council issued an agreed statement demanding “practical steps to end such intolerance.” Agreement on practical steps to end such intolerance as gang-raping the DRC’s women and children, however, was beyond it.

The Obama administration is pouring significant energy into making U.S. membership on the Human Rights Council a shining example of the benefits of engagement. Back in September, Donahoe penned a New York Times op-ed entitled “Fighting the Good Fight,” in which she said: “I have been very pleased by several developments that confirm U.S. participation was the correct decision.” Three weeks later she was heralding “historic progress.” She pointed to the creation of a new post of U.N. investigator on the theme of freedom of association and assembly and a new working group to monitor “discrimination against women in law and practice.” Attempts by U.N. thematic human-rights investigators to gain entry and report on the world’s worst states, however, routinely fail. And whatever they find, they can expect the same wall of silence with which the council greeted the rape victims of the DRC. Unless, of course, they target Israel.

What the Obama administration is really communicating is that demonizing Israelis and granting exception clauses for African women and children can be offset by human-rights “progress” on other fronts. Little wonder that its tall tales justifying American membership on the Human Rights Council aren’t convincing.

— Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, teaches at Touro College, and is the editor of


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