They hold a parade of hypocrisy every year about this time in the United Nations General Assembly.
Cuba sponsors a resolution blaming the island’s poverty, repression, and lack of freedom on the United States economic embargo. The resolution doesn’t help a single Cuban family. It doesn’t feed a single Cuban child. It doesn’t free a single Cuban political prisoner. But virtually every country still votes for it – last year only the United States and Israel stood in opposition.
This year, the United States did something different. We gave the UN the opportunity to actually do something about the horrendous human rights conditions in Cuba. We offered a series of amendments that affirmed the Cuban people’s right to speak freely; their right to not be imprisoned for their political beliefs; and their right to the fruits of their labor, among others.
The resulting vote was a prime example of why the American people are deservedly reluctant to send their tax dollars to the United Nations.
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Only three nations out of 193 supported affirming the human rights of Cubans. No doubt, many of the countries who voted in opposition thought they were poking the United States in the eye. But all they were really doing is proving, once again, the necessity of continued U.S. leadership on human rights in Cuba – because no else will do it. When the UN had the opportunity to show its own leadership, it refused to take it.
The Castro dictatorship denies the Cuban people the most basic human rights and freedoms. Uncooperative journalists and opponents of the regime are arrested and even killed. The Cuban economy is rigged in favor of the ruling elite. The Cuban government has the absolute authority to restrict travel inside Cuba and to determine who gets to leave.
Each year, many countries acknowledge this lack of freedom, even as they vote blindly for a resolution that absolves the dictatorship of any responsibility for it.
Last year, the European Union – whose members supported the Cuban resolution – nonetheless called on the Cuban government to “fully grant its citizens internationally recognized civil, political and economic rights and freedoms, including freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and free access to information.”
Multiple UN regional groups representing a majority of countries in the world also expressed concern for the promotion of Cuban human rights. They called on the dictatorship to fulfill the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a list of the benchmarks of freedom and human rights necessary for countries to thrive.
The language of the United States’ amendments was taken directly from these expressions of support for human rights. In some cases, the amendments repeated other countries’ statements word-for-word. But when these countries had the chance to make their support for human rights in Cuba actually matter by putting it in a resolution, they refused to take it. The European Union dodged the issue by abstaining. Many countries that supported human rights for Cubans during debate on the resolution actually turned around and voted against the amendments.
The unfortunate thing is not that the United States was left, once again, standing virtually alone on behalf of human dignity at the United Nations. To the contrary. We are proud to buck the mob when it comes to the principles we believe in.
The really unfortunate result of this UN charade is that the Cuban people were once again abandoned by an organization that is supposed to advocate for human rights.
Thankfully, the United Nations does not have the power to end the United States embargo. That power belongs exclusively to Congress and the American people. But the United Nations has a big megaphone. It has the unique ability to send a moral message to the Cuban dictatorship on behalf of the entire world. That it refused to do so should give Americans cause to re-examine the limits of what we might expect from the UN.When the United States withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council in June, critics argued that this represented a retreat from America’s commitment to human rights. That argument was entirely wrong at the time, but this week’s voting at the UN provides the clearest evidence of why. In Cuba, and in the face of many similarly corrupt and barbaric governments around the world, the United States stands as a human rights beacon when most other countries refuse to.
In the absence of a world message of support, the United States reiterates its message to the people of Cuba: We will continue to stand with you until the day comes when we can stand together as free peoples in our shared neighborhood.
Nikki Haley is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.