U.S. nominee to UN rights council pledges to eliminate anti-Israel agenda item, refocus on “real abusers”

GENEVA, December 2, 2009 — Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch welcomed Congressional testimony delivered yesterday (see selected portions below) by the Obama Administration’s nominee as next U.S. ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, in which she denounced the 47-nation body for its “bias” and being “fixated on Israel,” and pledged to eliminate the council’s controversial standing agenda item on Israel, saying this would be a “priority” of the Obama Administration.

“Israel is the only country that has a standing item on the agenda at the council. That’s a problem. We will work to get rid of that,” said Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe yesterday, in testimony before a Senate hearing. She criticized the council’s general focus on Israel to the exclusion of most other countries. “It is a bias. It’s unbalanced, and that is a priority of this administration going forward to work to get rid of that bias.”

Dr. Donahoe spoke of “changing the agenda, putting the most egregious human rights violators on the agenda and changing the focus of the council to the real abusers. And that will be the number one goal.”

In addition, “we’re going to work to change the membership by encouraging human rights supporters to run for membership and lobbying vociferously against human rights abusers when they choose to run. And we hope to change the composition of the body in that way.”

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said he “welcomed the firm U.S. commitment to combat the selectivity and politicization at the council, and the impunity it grants to the worst abusers. The council’s perversion of its founding principles continues to cast a shadow upon the reputation of the United Nations as a whole,” said Neuer.

“We trust that the European Union and other democracies will rally behind the new priority of the U.S. government to eliminate Agenda Item 7 —  the permanent singling-out Israel for discriminatory treatment at every council session — and thereby achieve real change in Geneva, allowing victims of violations around the world to finally be heard.”

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HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: THE NOMINATIONS OF BETTY KING TO BE U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN GENEVA, WITH THE RANK OF AMBASSADOR; AND EILEEN DONAHOE, FOR THE RANK OF AMBASSADOR DURING HER TENURE OF SERVICE AS THE U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL; CHAIRED BY: SENATOR TED KAUFMAN (D-DE);
WITNESSES: THE NOMINEES;
LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

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SEN. KAUFMAN: (Sounds gavel.) I call the hearing to order.

I’m honored to chair this hearing — can you hear me? I’m honored to chair this hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations committee as we consider the nomination of five distinguished nominees:

Ambassador Betty King, nominee to be representative of the United States to the Office of the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva;

Ambassador Laura Kennedy, nominee to hold the rank of ambassador during her tenure as U.S. representative to the Conference on Disarmament;

Dr. Eileen Chamberlain (Donahoe), nominee to hold the rank of ambassador during her tenure as U.S. representative to the U.N. Human Rights Council;

Ms. Anne Slaughter Andrew, nominated to be the ambassador to Costa Rica; and

Mr. David Nelson, nominee to be the ambassador to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

I am confident that President Obama has made the right choice in these nominees, and I welcome them and their families — especially their families too, to the committee.

First, we have nominations related to multilateral organizations. I have been pleased to see (that) the Obama administration’s renewed emphasis on multilateralism, because the largest challenges faced by the United States today are, in fact, global challenges which require global solutions. These solutions require close cooperation with international organizations, starting with the United Nations.

Ambassador Betty King has been nominated to be representative to the Office of the U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva. If confirmed, her duties will include cultivating relationships with some of the most important international organizations in the world, including the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Conference on Trade and Development, the World Health Organization, and the International Committee for the Red Cross. Ambassador King brings a wealth of experience working with international organizations through her philanthropic work, and her time serving as U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council during the Clinton administration.

Also headquartered in Geneva is the U.N. Human Rights Council, to which Ms. Eileen Donahue (sic) has been nominated as U.S. representative. The Human Rights Council includes as members some of the worst human rights violators in the world — Cuba, China and Russia, among others, which obviously limits its ability to address human rights abuse. Since its inception, the work of the Council is demonstrated its limitation with its unwarranted and disproportionate focus on Israel, while gross violations of human rights in conflict- ridden areas such as Tibet and Darfur, among others, have not always received the attention they deserve.

At the same time, human rights are an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and it is in America’s best interests to engage as a member of the Council so we can be an agent for positive change. Membership will allow the United States to promote needed reforms and make it a more effective institution, and I applaud President Obama for deciding to join the Council in March.

It is my hope that under Dr. Donahoe’s leadership the United States can do even more on the Council to ensure that all victims of human rights abuses will have their voices heard. Dr. Eileen Donahoe brings extensive scholastic credentials to the job, especially as it relates to international humanitarianism efforts in the context of military interventions and U.N. reform.

To all our nominees, I look forward to your testimonies.

And I want to thank Senator Gillibrand, who took time from her busy schedule to introduce our nominees.

I also want to thank Senator Bayh for submitting a statement for the record on behalf of Ms. Andrew, and I ask unanimous consent that it be included.

Senator Gillibrand.

SEN. GILLIBRAND: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It’s a real honor and privilege to be here among so many outstanding public servants.

I’m very proud to introduce Eileen Donahoe, who I have known for a very long time. We both attended Dartmouth College and we both spent a lot of time in China. Eileen was nominated by the president for the important role of serving as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council for exceptionally good reasons:

She has a deep history of work on human rights and humanitarian issues; she has written extensively on issues of human rights and humanitarian international law; and she’s been engaged with the work of many independent human rights organizations, such as the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, the Ginneta Sagan Fund for Women and Children at Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. As a scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, she has been engaged in cutting-edge dialogue about the need for collaboration and cooperation with respect to the most pressing global security needs.

Eileen will enter a very challenging arena. After years of absence from an organization fraught with a record of anti-Israel bias, the United States has joined the Human Rights Council. I was encouraged by my conversation with Ambassador (Wright ?) about the U.S. goal of working with the Council to ensure that it focuses its work on the most pressing human rights concerns of our time, rather than solely, or most serving as a venue for anti-Israel bias. With her talent for diplomacy and grounding in human rights law, I am confident that Eileen will serve the U.S. and global human rights interests exceedingly well.

I also have the great pleasure of introducing Betty King. Ambassador King, who served President Clinton as the United States representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, will be extraordinarily effective in this role. She represents U.S. interests in a wide-range of issues, including: development, population refugees, HIV/AIDS, the environment, women and children, and the aged, and in the participation of non-governmental organizations in that intergovernmental body.

Born in St. Vincent, West Indies, Ambassador King studied at S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook. She’s been nominated to lead the U.S. mission at U.N. and other international organizations in Geneva which represents the U.S., not only at the U.N. but also at the World Trade Organization, the Conference on Disarmament, and the Human Rights Council. Ambassador King will serve the U.S. very well, thanks to her extensive experience.

And last, is another New Yorker that must be mentioned. I’m very happy to introduce another New Yorker on our panel today. Ambassador Laura Kennedy is a member of the Senior Foreign Service and has served our nation with distinction for many years. She’s a graduate of Vassar College, and most recently served as deputy commandant of the National War College since 2007. She has worked on pressing challenges in Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and I am very grateful for her service and welcome her and her family here today.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me to at least introduce these three outstanding candidates.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you, Senator.

SEN. KAUFMAN: …. Okay, now we hear from each one of the nominees. I hope you’ll limit remarks. No more than 10 minutes. I’d like you to be sure to recognize your family that’s here. And if you’d like a full written statement can be inserted in the record.

Ms. Donahoe.

MS. DONAHOE: First, I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce my son, Jack Donahoe, who’s in the audience, and I appreciate his support.

Mr. Chairman, I am honored to come before this committee to seek your confirmation of my nomination by President Obama to serve as U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council. I’m deeply grateful to the president and to Secretary Clinton for placing their confidence and trust in me by nominating me to serve in this important role. It’s a humbling experience for me to appear here today. I cannot imagine a greater honor than to be asked to serve one’s country by promoting human rights internationally.

In many ways, I have been preparing for this role my entire adult life. Starting at Dartmouth College, I spent a semester living in Blois, France, and later worked as an intern for the first elected — or, one of the first elected members to the European Parliament in London, Brussels and Strasbourg.

I also began studying Mandarin at Dartmouth, and then went to live in Tianjin following my graduation; later studied Chinese law in Shanghai; and worked at a law firm in Hong Kong. As part of my joint- degree program in law and East Asian Studies at Stanford, I focused on the evolving political culture and development of the rule of law in post-Mao China.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to contribute to the work of several human rights organizations, including: International Defense and Aid for Southern Africa, the Ginneta Sagan Fund for Women and Children at Amnesty International, and the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights. Most recently, I have focused my work as a scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford. My focus has been human rights, the rule of law, U.N. reform issues, with a particular focus on ethical and legal justifications for humanitarian military intervention.

The United States was elected to a three-year term on the Human Rights Council on May 12th of this year. The Obama Administration sought a seat on the Human Rights Council to underscore America’s commitment to human rights and to join the efforts of other member nations to make the body a credible entity and fulfill its promise.

The United States has always been a champion of the human rights, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The commitment is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected.

The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. As a member of the Council, the United States has a greater ability and responsibility to influence and refocus the Human Rights Council’s work. Participation in the Council provides the United States with an opportunity to engage in dialogue with nations around the world about our most fundamental values, interests, and concerns.

Furthermore, the Human Rights Council is the highest profile institution in the U.N.’s human rights structure, and its decisions and actions influence the operation of the other U.N. human rights mechanisms. This fact adds additional weight to the importance of exercising U.S. leadership at the Human Rights Council.

During its first several years of operation, the Human Rights Council has been criticized for its anti-Israel bias, as well as for avoiding discussion or investigations of serious human rights abuses that take place within member states. If confirmed, my primary goal will be to strengthen the Council’s effectiveness in fulfilling its core mission, which is to defend and protect human rights around the globe.

I intend to promote transparency and objectivity in all of the Council’s endeavors, and will work to ensure that greater focus is given to the most serious human rights violators. With strong U.S. leadership, the Human Rights Council can be encouraged to set priorities based on a more objective assessment of the most pressing human rights abuses and gain enhanced credibility as the lead entity for addressing global human rights concerns.

I am well aware that, if confirmed, my work as U.S. representative to the Human Rights Council will be difficult, and at times may be highly contentious. Much work needs to be done to spread a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, human rights in all regions of our world. If confirmed, I will specifically endeavor to bring balance to the Council’s unconstructive focus on Israel, and to hold all states accountable for human rights abuses occurring in their countries.

Given the congruence between the universal principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental values held in the United States, I believe we are well positioned to help lead the Human Rights Council to fulfill its mission. If confirmed, I will whole-heartedly dedicate myself to that important work.

Thank you for the opportunity to appear here today, and I look forward to your questions.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you.

Ambassador King.

MS. KING: Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am deeply honored to appear before you today to seek your confirmation of my appointment by President Obama to be the representative of the United States of America to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva. It is an even greater honor and privilege to be appearing before this committee for the second time in my career. I would like to thank President Obama and Secretary Clinton for the trust and confidence they have shown in nominating me for this important post.

I grew up on the tiny island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean when the only sources of current information about the outside world were the sporadic news reports on BBC radio. I did, however, have broader access to the written word thanks to the generosity of the great American philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, who built and maintained libraries across the developing world. It was in that library that I first read the Constitution of the United States of America, which cultivated my understanding and early appreciation for the difference between governance by a document that begins with we the people and governance by a distant monarch. It is this early appreciation that brought me to the United States as a graduate student and led to my embrace of the ideals and opportunities of this, my adopted country.

There were three American influences that had tangible impacts on my early years: the presence of Peace Corps workers who broadened my horizons by augmenting the staffs of the secondary schools, dispensing invaluable career development assistance and guidance on college admissions; the USAID workers who provided technical assistance, training and resources; and, most importantly, the remittances that were sent from emigres to the United States. It would be difficult for me to overstate the impact of these influences on the development of that small country of my birth and in the broader Caribbean region. It would also be difficult to overstate their impact on the views of America’s role in the developing world and the desire of people like me to be part of these American ideals.

The charter of the United Nations also begins with the phrase we the peoples. It too gives hope to millions around the world that they can peacefully coexist with their neighbors, enjoy freedom from hunger and fear, live healthy and productive lives, and, most importantly, be governed by democratically elected leaders. Although the United Nations has not always lived up to the ideals of its charter, it remains the best and most viable option for international engagement and collaboration.

In her testimony before this committee, Ambassador Susan Rice noted the imperfections of the United Nations, but she focused on the indispensability of the organization that provides a forum where countries small and large work together to address multiple challenges. Should I be confirmed, this too will be my focus.

Having spend four years at the United Nations as the United States representative to the Economic and Social Council, I am acutely aware of the promises and shortcomings, strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations. The millennium development goals, which brought critical worldwide attention to the issues of universal education, maternal and child health, poverty and hunger and environmental degradation, and now the universally accepted framework for development — this is the U.N. at its best. Unfortunately, the United Nations is also known for bureaucratic gridlock, inconsistent treatment of human rights violators, and blocked voting over careful consideration based on values.

The position for which I seek your confirmation focuses on issues that are of paramount importance to the United States. They are also issues on which I have had the opportunity to work in both the public and nonprofit sectors, and I very much look forward to applying these experiences to the inherent and future challenges that these issues represent to the international community. I am keenly aware of the concerns of members of this committee and other members of Congress about recent developments in the Human Rights Council. If confirmed, I will work closely with the United States representative to that council to ensure that human rights abusers do not continue to shape its agenda. I will also work to improve the effectiveness of that council to avoid the pitfalls of the discredited Commission on Human Rights, which is replaced, and to ensure that the promised improvements are realized.

As a member of the Board of Directors of Refugees International for the last six years, I have had the opportunity to follow closely the major humanitarian crises of recent times, including Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraqi displacement and Burma. From this vantage point, I have seen the United States take the lead as a donor in Darfur and the Congo. As the U.S. representative to the Office of the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, I will work to ensure that U.S. contributions are used effectively to reduce the suffering of 12 million refugees and the 26 million internally displaced persons around the world.

Over the last seven years, my work in the philanthropic community has focused on the social determinants of health. We now know that poverty and social and physical environments are significant drivers of poor health outcomes. The World Health Organization similarly recognizes the contributions of poverty and other social factors to poor health. If confirmed, I will work to ensure continued focus on these issues and on efforts to respond effectively and expeditiously to epidemics like the H1N1 and to foster health security around the world.

The U.S. mission to the international organization in Geneva also oversees the work of a number of technical and specialized agencies, including the International Telecommunications Union, the International Labor Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, and the Universal Postal Union headquartered in Berne. I pledge to bring the same attention to good governance and efficiency at those multilateral organizations and to work towards making them more efficient institutions.

The agenda of the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva is broad. In addition to the experiences I bring to these issues, I assure you that if I am confirmed the United States will be effectively represented in Geneva, that I will promote the interests and values of the United States, and that I look forward to working with you on the challenges ahead. Thank you, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you, Ambassador.

Seven-minute round of questions. I’m going to hold my questions for later and let Senator Cardin and Senator Risch ask theirs first.

So Senator Cardin.

SEN. BENJAMIN L. CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you for that courtesy. I appreciate it very much. And let me start off by thanking all of our nominees for their prior public service and their willingness to continue in the service to their country. This is a family effort, so we not only thank you, but we thank your families for being willing to share your talent in helping our country.

I want to talk a little bit about the United Nations Human Rights Council, and I appreciate the testimony of our nominee, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, and I thank you very much for your willingness to serve. You stated in your statement that during its first several years of operations the Human Rights Council has been criticized for its anti-Israel bias. And I certainly agree with President Obama that it’s better to engage than to walk away, particularly on a council that’s supposed to be one of our priorities, human rights.

I also am somewhat concerned by the way this is worded. The Human Rights Council has been fixated on Israel and Gaza.

They’ve had twelve meetings — (off mike) — understand, and six have been related to — six have been related to Israel. That’s certainly not balanced.

I have the honor of chairing the U.S. Helsinki Commission where human rights is one of our fundamental principles and we spend a lot of time on human rights issues, and I can give you a list of countries that I would suggest that you spend some time in dealing with their human rights issues.

So I am somewhat concerned about the elevation of the U.S. participation by an ambassador. As I understand it, this portfolio used to be handled by our ambassador in Geneva, so now we are even elevating the participation of the United States.

We are certainly still very mindful of the Goldstone Report and the fact that that was anything but balanced. And I wish you would just elaborate more for the record how you see your role in presenting the United States’ position on human rights, one that is, again, a fundamental principle of our nation, but not being co-opted by an entity, at least in the past, that has been anything but a beacon for human rights.

MS. DONAHOE: Senator, I very much appreciate the question and the tone of the question. As a starter I would say that the Obama Administration intended to signal its desire to engage in multilateral organizations by choosing to run for membership of this organization, and, more importantly, to signal the importance of human rights to the United States of America and the focus of human rights in the administration’s foreign policy.

So that was the overarching goal. Without a doubt, this entity has been fixated on Israel. And I would make it a very important goal of mine if confirmed to convey that the Human Rights Council is not the venue for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You sounded like you were a bit concerned about the way I worded the phrase about bias against Israel. Israel is the only country that has a standing item on the agenda at the council. That’s a problem. We will work to get rid of that.

Since the council was created in 2006, there have been more than 20 resolutions passed on Israel alone. And that’s more than the total number of resolutions on the 191 other member nations in the United Nations combined.

SEN. CARDIN: Let me explain. My concern with this wording was I think you could have reached a definitive judgment —

MS. DONAHOE: Absolutely. I —

SEN. CARDIN: — rather than saying it was just a matter of criticism —

MS. DONAHOE: I hear you.

SEN. CARDIN: — rather than bias.

MS. DONAHOE: I hear you. It is a bias. It’s unbalanced, and that is a priority of this administration going forward to work to get rid of that bias. In addition, though, the other reason for elevating this post to the level of ambassador is to attempt to have this body turn into what its full potential is, which is to be the pre-eminent human rights body in the U.N. system and perhaps around the world.

So my number one focus will be to enhance its credibility. In part, that will be by taking the focus off of Israel. Second, I will work to dramatically change the polarized, divisive culture there and the approach by many countries, which is to vote in blocks based on political considerations rather than looking at genuine human rights concerns on the merits. So I will work very hard to change that culture.

SEN. CARDIN: Let me make — as I’m sure you’re aware of, the State Department has a great deal of information about human rights violations around the world on a pretty uniform basis. And I would hope that would be one of your references for matters that the United States would like to see this council focus on.

I also invite you to work with the Helsinki Commission staff, which also has a documented record on the 56 countries that are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We have pretty voluminous documents on human rights — outstanding human rights violations. I think if the council is going to carry out its responsibility, it needs to look at the global problems of human rights and not be co-opted by the politics of particular countries.

I also would suggest that this administration is going to have to be prepared; that if we are unable to reform the United Nations Human Rights Council, that it should not be given the credibility of U.S. participation; and we have to be prepared as we have in the past to walk away when, in fact, it has been co-opted by those that — whose records on human rights violations are well known and not their concern for international human rights. And I see that our record doesn’t reflect the shaking of your head, but I’ll just put it in the record.

I’m very pleased to see your reaction of your agreement, and just would ask you for your commitment to be prepared to make recommendations to the administration if confirmed about the realities of this commission — this human rights council, and that — a realistic assessment of where they’re heading.

MS. DONAHOE: I completely concur in everything you’ve said. I would hope that we are able to change the set of priorities that comes before the council and to put the most severe human rights abusers at the top of the agenda, and that will be an important goal of mine.

SEN. CARDIN: Thank you.

I don’t mean to avoid asking questions of the other four of you. I do have a great deal of interest in all of your portfolios, and I thank you very much for your commitment here. And our representative in Geneva carries out a very important responsibility for the United Nations international organizations, and I’d be interested just very briefly how you see your role changed as a result of not having the human rights portfolio.

I guess it’s a headache that you’re glad to get rid of?

(Laughter.)

With that, I won’t ask for a reply.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT): Thank you.

Sen. Risch.

SEN. JAMES E. RISCH (R-ID): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I — and you’re going to have to excuse me. I have to go to an Intelligence Committee meeting. But before I do, I wanted to first of all associate myself with the remarks of Senator Cardin in the strongest possible terms. This is a bipartisan feeling, I believe, in the United States Senate, and I hope you will communicate that to the Human Rights Council.

I’m aggravated by what the council does and how it gets thrown in our face as being something that is credible when in fact if you look at how they are focused, they have very little credibility as far as this senator is concerned.

I look at the human rights violations, and we hear about it in this room on virtually a daily basis where atrocities are being committed, and yet the focus, for whatever reason, seems to be on — not seems to be — is on Israel. And I’m disgusted with it, and I hope you will communicate that to your colleagues when you do join the Human Rights Council.

And with that, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I’m going to have to excuse myself. Thank you.

….

SEN. KAUFMAN: Ambassador King, can you talk a little bit about how you see the relationship between Geneva and New York and the U.N.?

MS. KING: As you know — sorry. Thanks for the question. As you know, Senator, there are a lot of organizations in Geneva and our main goal for all of these organizations is to improve and increase the efficiency and efficacy of these organizations. I would like to mention just a few of them to illustrate the point.

One of our primary focuses is on the World Health Organization, which is grappling with the H1N1 pandemic. And we would like to continue to see that organization respond in the way it has to this disease. We know that these infectious diseases do not respect geographic boundaries, and so we want them to be able to respond wherever in the world these occurrences happen.

We are also focused on the international trade issues there in Geneva. We are focused on the ILO, around jobs, the global jobs fact that was 0– that’s being negotiated by Juan Somavia around response to the current downturn in the global economy, around developing jobs for the 21st century and other issues that were presented to the G20 recently in Philadelphia.

We want also to strengthen the intellectual property rights in Geneva. We want to focus on the preservation of U.S. control of the Internet. That is a very big issue in the ITU. The other organizations and other countries of course want to loosen that governance by the U.S., but we want to maintain the dynamism of the Internet. And we think the best way to do that is to keep the governance as is because the Internet has such a wide reach that we want to preserve the safety that we have experienced with it so far.

So those are some of the top-of-the-agenda issues. There are a lot more of course.

SEN. KAUFMAN: And have you talked to Susan Rice about how you coordinate that with the U.N. Mission in New York?

MS. KING: Yes, Susan Rice and I have frequent communications. We have been in frequent communications over the past few months. She and I have known each other for a very long time, so we have a naturally good working relationship.

The economic and social council, as you know, does come to Geneva. It meets there, and we are very involved in the work of that body. We are particularly involved in the work of the third committee because of the work of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The work there is part and parcel of the third committee. So we have to naturally work together very closely to be able to carry out the work in Geneva.

So I foresee a very close and cooperative working relationship with all the people in New York, not just Ambassador Rice but with the ECOSOC ambassador who was recently confirmed, Rick Barton, and others there.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you very much. ….

SEN. KAUFMAN: Okay. Dr. Donahoe, I want to associate myself, too, with the remarks of Senator Cardin and Senator Risch. I mean, there’s no sense repeating all this. But, you know, and I have a hard time — I haven’t spent that much time thinking about it — a hard time kind of figuring out how do you do what you’re going to do? I mean, you’re sitting on a human rights council as some of the greatest human rights violators in modern time — have you thought about how do you bring credibility to the Human Rights Council? Have you thought about that at all?

MS. DONAHOE: Yes, I have. Yes, Senator, I have thought about that. I’d say two things. One is procedural, and one is substative. The substative issue is what was mentioned earlier, which is changing the agenda, putting the most egregious human rights violators on the agenda and changing the focus of the council to the real abusers. And that will be the number one goal.

Second thing, procedurally we’re going to work to change the membership by encouraging human rights supporters to run for membership and lobbying vociferously against human rights abusers when they choose to run. And we hope to change the composition of the body in that way.

SEN. KAUFMAN: And who would you say would be on this list of egregious human rights violators?

MS. DONAHOE: Well —

SEN. KAUFMAN: I mean it’s a long list.

MS. DONAHOE: It’s a long list but two that have run for membership and failed are Iran and Zimbabwe.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Yeah.

MS. DONAHOE: And those would be two that we would continue to oppose.

SEN. KAUFMAN: And how do you deal with China? Have you thought about that?

MS. DONAHOE: Very good question. Ideally, having the Chinese understand that putting scrutiny on human rights within their boundaries is not a challenge to their sovereignty and that by allowing freedom of expression, freedom of the press, ending censorship of the Internet et cetera will strengthen them. And I believe that there is an unnecessary fear on the part of the Chinese — and it’s been enduring — that scrutiny from outside is always a bad thing. And if we could get change in that mentality, it would be very helpful.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Yeah, and one of the problems we have with China is we have so many things in the United States in terms of bilateral negotiations. And there are so many issues that when you start making up the list, human rights has a way to kind of fall to the bottom just like press freedoms, another thing that keeps falling —

MS. DONAHOE: Right.

SEN. KAUFMAN: — to the bottom of the negotiations with China.

MS. DONAHOE: Right.

SEN. KAUFMAN: And since you’re on the Human Rights Council, it seems to me that this is a good multilateral place to say to China, “Look , this is — that human rights is important to the United States; it’s important to the U.N.; it’s important to the world and it isn’t like we’re trying to embarrass you or anything like that,” but —

MS. DONAHOE: Right.

SEN. KAUFMAN: — because I don’t think they get much criticism for what they do because of the fact there are so many issues we have to deal with.

MS. DONAHOE: I think that’s correct. And I wish I could help influence the way they think about human rights so that they understood if they were to embrace human rights more fully, it would strengthen them and strengthen their relationships around the world, especially with the United States.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you. And I want to thank everybody for their public service. I — this is really a distinguished panel. You are clearly extraordinarily well qualified for what you’re doing, the fact that you’re willing to pack up and leave the United States and live somewhere else and even more than you, frankly, your family’s willing to put up with you doing that is really — it says a lot about the country, and I have a great deal of pride to have a country that develops such good public servants to go forth and help us with what we’re trying to do around the world.

And so I want to thank you for that. I want to thank you for your testimony. I ask unanimous consent, the record remain open until 4:00 tomorrow. (Sounds gavel.)

The hearing’s adjourned.

3 Responses to “U.S. nominee to UN rights council pledges to eliminate anti-Israel agenda item, refocus on “real abusers””


  • It is time for the US to clarify its position regarding the fairness and honesty of the UN Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Commission, the predecessor of the Council, had to be disbanded because of the many scandals that stained its reptutation. The new body is apparently marching to the same tune: among its members are by far more countries violating human rights than respecting them. Therefore the outcome of the Council will be similar to that of its predecessor. Where is the effectiveness and efficiancy of the United Nations?

  • Sadly, I think that her open declaration will kill her winning the nomination.

  • It is hard to see how Dr Donohoe will be able to affect either the substantive issues (agenda etc) or indeed the procedural issue.

    Presumably the HRC agenda is related to the wishes of the majority on the HRC. With an in-built majority of OIC countries, Cuba, China and sundry third world/’non-aligned’ countries – virtually all of whom are human rights abusers – how on earth does Dr Donohoe imagine that she’ll be able to ‘persuade’ autocratic regimes to change their minds – esp. since the status quo serves them so well!?

    The procedural issue, which to my mind is the key, should have been resolved when the HRC replaced the (equally) disgraced Commission. It’s astounding that ‘honouring human rights’ wasn’t made an absolute criterion when a country sought to become a member of the HRC.

    I hate to sound pessimistic, but this goes to the heart of the UN as an organisation. With a near-majority of states being semi- or all-out authoritarian in the UN, how does Dr Donohoe imagine she’ll be able to change the membership of the HRC? It eludes me.

    Whilst I see the value of an outfit like the HRC, Islamic countries in un-holy conjunction with sundry dictatorships and autocracies have ensured that in it’s three short years as an (dys-)functioning body, it is already corrupted and disgraced beyond repair.

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