AMBASSADOR HALEY: Thank you, very much, thank
you. Thank you so much, Kay. And thank you to the Heritage Foundation. It’s great to be back, and I thank you so
much for the work that happens in these halls. I’ve spent my entire public life using the
power of my voice to push for action – and trying to help others do the same. I learned early on that I was not good at
sitting back and staying quiet. If something needs to be said and done to
improve the lives of people, we have to take a stand. And that’s what I’ve spent my life doing. For the past 18 months at the United Nations,
I’ve been inspired to use the power of my voice by one of my predecessors. Jeane Kirkpatrick once said that, “speech
is action – and important action.” She didn’t seek out confrontation with her
fellow delegates at the UN, but she didn’t hesitate to speak her mind and stick to her
guns when American values and interests were at stake. Many times that meant that Ambassador Kirkpatrick
found herself nearly alone – sometimes, completely alone – in the positions that
she would take for the United States. After 18 months in this job, I can tell you
I feel her pain. The United Nations was founded for a noble
purpose – to promote peace and security based on justice, equal rights, and the self-determination
of people. But it has many member nations whose leaders
completely reject that purpose. When that happens, many well-meaning countries
adopt a position of neutrality in the hope of coming to an agreement with these nations. They effectively allow dictatorships and authoritarian
regimes to control the agenda. Resolutions get watered down until they are
meaningless – or they become objectively anti-democratic. Moral clarity becomes a casualty of the need
to placate tyrants, all in the name of building consensus. In such a situation it is imperative for the
United States to use the power of our voice to defend our values. That’s as true today as it was during the
Cold War – maybe even more so. We are a special nation with a special message
for the world. We are a country founded on human dignity;
on the revolutionary idea that all men are created equal with rights including, but not
limited to, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If you take this truth seriously – as Ambassador
Kirkpatrick did, as I do – it is non-negotiable. You don’t sell out to appease those who
deny it. And it’s not a political chit to be traded
for something of greater value. If you take it seriously, you use your voice. You fight for it, even if that means you fight
alone. The United States was instrumental in creating
the United Nations Human Rights Commission precisely because we believe in the inherent
dignity of all women and men. It was meant to be, in the words of its first
chairman, Eleanor Roosevelt, “a place of conscience.” When it has served this function, the Human
Rights Council, as it is now known, has provided a voice for the voiceless. It has brought the injustice suffered by political
prisoners to international attention. It has put a spotlight on crimes committed
by Syria’s Assad and the Kim dictatorship in North Korea. But these have been the exceptions, not the
rule. More often, the Human Rights Council has provided
cover, not condemnation, for the world’s most inhumane regimes. It has been a bully pulpit for human rights
violators. And the Human Rights Council has been, not
a place of conscience, but a place of politics. It has focused its attention unfairly and
relentlessly on Israel. Meanwhile, it has ignored the misery inflicted
by regimes in Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, and China. Judged by how far it has fallen short of its
promise, the Human Rights Council is the United Nations’ greatest failure. It has taken the idea of human dignity – the
idea that is at the center of our national creed and the birthright of every human being
– and it has reduced it to just another instrument of international politics. And that is a great tragedy. I don’t come to this conclusion happily,
or lightly. The Obama Administration decided to join the
supposedly “reformed” Human Rights Council in 2009. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed
that the United States could improve the Council by working from the inside. By the time I became the U.S. Ambassador eight
years later, it was clear that this strategy had failed. There are lots of problems with the Human
Rights Council, but two stuck out for me when I came to the UN. The first was the Council’s membership. When I arrived, and still today, its members
included some of the worst human rights violators. The dictatorships of Cuba, China and Venezuela
all have seats on the Council. Not only was Venezuela a member, but in 2015
the Council invited its dictator, Nicholas Maduro, to speak to a special assembly. He got a standing ovation, which was not surprising
given that 62 percent of the Human Rights Council’s members were not democracies. The other major sign that the United States’
presence had failed to improve the Council was the continuing existence of the notorious
Agenda Item Seven. This is the permanent part of the Human Rights
Council agenda that is devoted exclusively to Israel. No other country – not Iran, not Syria,
not North Korea – has an agenda item devoted solely to it. Agenda Item Seven is not directed at anything
Israel does. It is directed at the very existence of Israel. It is a blazing red siren signaling the Human
Rights Council’s political corruption and moral bankruptcy. For these reasons and others, there were voices
in Congress and elsewhere encouraging the Trump Administration to withdraw from the
Human Rights Council immediately when we took office. We could have easily done that. But instead, we made a good-faith effort to
see if we could fix the Council’s problems. We engaged in a public campaign. President Trump called for changes to the
Council in his speech before the UN General Assembly last fall, and we also worked relentlessly
behind the scenes. We spent the year making the case for reform;
meeting with more than 125 Member States and circulating drafts of reform resolutions. As the year progressed, our case for reform
only grew stronger. In October, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo was elected to a seat on the Council. The Congo is the setting for atrocities that
shock the most hardened international aid workers. They were discovering mass graves in the Congo
even as the General Assembly approved its bid to the Human Rights Council. In December and into this year, the Iranian
people took to the streets in peaceful protest against their horrendous regime. The government responded with beatings, arrests,
and killings. The Human Rights Council was silent. And throughout the year, Venezuela descended
further and further into misery and dictatorship. But the Council didn’t address the massive
abuses in Venezuela for the reason I’m sure you’ve guessed by now: Venezuela sits on
the Human Rights Council. In the end, the United States couldn’t convince
enough countries to stand up and declare that the Human Rights Council was no longer worthy
of its name. Why this happened is telling. The first and most obvious reason is that
authoritarian regimes are happy with the status quo. Many seek membership to protect their own
and their allies’ human rights records from scrutiny. Russia, China, Cuba, and Egypt – they all
benefit from making a mockery of the Human Rights Council. So it’s no surprise that they openly resisted
our efforts to reform it. What was more baffling was the resistance
we received from groups and countries that should know better – from those who believe
in human rights and human dignity. First, there were the nongovernmental institutions,
or NGOs – the private groups that usually do good work on behalf of human rights. They agreed with the need to keep human rights
violators off of the Council. So you can imagine our surprise when they
came out publicly against our reforms telling other countries to vote against us. Groups like Amnesty International and Human
Rights Watch sided with Russia and China on a critical human rights issue. And I’ll let you be the judge of their reasoning. The NGOs were afraid that opening up the Human
Rights Council to changes would result in hostile amendments in the General Assembly
that would make the Council even worse. Think about that for a second. Their view is that a bad situation can’t
be improved because it could get worse? This is yet another example of the world’s
worst human rights regimes calling the shots at the United Nations. These NGOs’ unwillingness to challenge the
status quo also comes from their institutional comforts. They have big staffs and lots of relationships
with the UN bureaucracy. Change is threatening to them. If we approached everything with their attitude,
nothing would ever improve and complacency would rule the day. Even more troubling was the pro-human rights
countries that refused to speak up. These are countries that, in quiet, off-the-record
conversations, share our embarrassment and concern with the actions – and inactions
– of the Council. They told us in confidence that they, too,
are disgusted with countries like Cuba and Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and the Congo serving
on the Council, as well as the constant attacks on Israel. We gave them opportunity after opportunity. But after months of agreeing with us on all
of the flaws of the Human Rights Council, they would not take a stand unless it was
behind closed doors, and out of public view. These countries share our belief in the inherent
dignity of every human being, and yet they lack the courage to make a difference. They have a voice. They just refused to use it. On June 19th, Secretary Pompeo and I made
an announcement that the United States was withdrawing from the Human Rights Council. Many of our friends urged us to stay for the
sake of the institution. The United States, they said, provided the
last shred of credibility the Council had. But that was precisely why we withdrew. The right to speak freely, to associate and
worship freely; to determine your own future; to be equal before the law – these are sacred
rights. We take these rights seriously – too seriously
to allow them to be cheapened by an institution – especially one that calls itself the “Human
Rights Council.” No one should make the mistake of equating
membership in the Human Rights Council with the support for human rights. To this day, the United States does more for
human rights, both inside the UN and around the world, than any other country. And we will continue to do that. We just won’t do it inside a Council that
consistently fails the cause of human rights. We have already begun to make the case for
human rights, and that it should be addressed in the UN Security Council in New York. Last year, during the U.S. presidency, we
held the first ever Security Council session dedicated to the connection between human
rights and peace and security. The fighting and instability that has spilled
over the borders of countries like Syria and Burma began with extreme or massive violations
of the human rights of the people of those countries. Human rights violators deserve our condemnation
on their own terms, but they also often lead to conflicts which threaten the peace of an
entire region. When we act to protect human rights, we act
to prevent conflict. Just this month, we successfully fought back
Russian and Chinese efforts to drastically reduce the number of UN peacekeepers dedicated
to human rights protection and promotion. And the United States has taken the initiative
to do what the Human Rights Council refused to do. Despite protests orchestrated by the Venezuelan
government, the United States organized an event on Venezuela outside the Human Rights
Council in Geneva. This January we had a Security Council session
on human rights violations of the Iranian regime. And just last week the United States led a
historic effort in the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and sanctions on the
combatants in South Sudan, which has been the scene of enormous suffering and human
rights abuses in the country’s short life. And as I have said before, our withdrawal
from the Human Rights Council does not mean that we give up our fight for reform. On the contrary, any country willing to work
with us to reshape the Council need only ask. Fixing the institutional flaws of the Human
Rights Council was, is, and will remain one of the biggest priorities at the UN. I have traveled to refugee camps in Ethiopia,
Congo, Turkey, and Jordan. I have met with mothers that have been scarred
by trauma. I have seen battered, aimless children lost
to ignorance and extremism. Their memories will always haunt me. As long as we have a voice, we must use it
to advocate for these mothers and children. I will use my voice. Not just because I am a mother. Not just because I am an ambassador. But because I am an American. And America can no more abandon the cause
of human rights than abandon itself. It is who we are. It is who we are proud to be. And it is who we will always be. Thank you, and God bless you.