The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council has been criticized by the 47-member council created in 2006 and based in Geneva who say that revamping of the body is paramount rather than quitting it. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women's rights and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities.
The UNHRC has been active in Africa, a continent that in the 2017/2018 period saw violent crackdowns against peaceful protesters and concerted attacks on political opponents, human rights defenders and civil society organizations as well as Intolerance of peaceful dissent and an entrenched disregard for the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. From Lomé to Freetown, Khartoum to Kampala and Kinshasa to Luanda, there were mass arrests of peaceful protesters, as well as beatings, excessive use of force and, in some cases, killings. Political deadlock and failures by regional and international bodies to address long-standing conflicts led to more violations, with impunity.
The withdrawal of the US, the largest contributor to the body, should not dampen the aspirations that led to its founding. Nations have an obligation to address contentious issues and respect human rights without being policed. The withdrawal is a test to governments, civilians and civil societies to demonstrate commitment to observing and supporting human rights activities.