Marshall Islands elected to UN Human Rights Council

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RMI President Hilda Heine. (Photo from the RMI Government)

The Republic of the Marshall Islands won the competitive election to the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

A release from the Marshall Islands government described the outcome as a “major diplomatic victory.”

The Marshall Islands’ three year term will start on January 2020.

Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Iraq of the Asia-Pacific regional group also vied for the four open seats in the hotly-contested race.

Marshall Islands took the final seat, with a narrow two-vote victory of 123 to 121 votes over Iraq.

RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade John Silk spent three weeks after the Leaders’ Summit, working closely with over 100 other nations to secure RMI’s win, according to a release.

“In an atmosphere where large nations can sometimes dominate the agenda with their political muscle, I am particularly proud that RMI and the Marshallese people stood proudly on our own human rights record,” said Silk. “We made a lot of new friends.”

Silk said “On the Council, we will be an independent voice – a careful listener and bridge-builder, and we are also unafraid to take strong stands in the world, where it is needed,” Silk saod.

Silk said the Marshall Islands want to use its unique experience on complex human rights issues, such as climate change and nuclear testing impacts, to help the international body, which tries to tackle tough human rights situations around the world.

In the release, Dr. Hilda C. Heine also expressed her appreciation to all the UN member states which supported small island states and other small and vulnerable developing countries.

Dr. Hilda C. Heine on Twitter

Today the Marshall Islands became one of the smallest countries ever elected to the Human Rights Council. We will emphasize the role of small states as bridge builders & ensure the human rights impacts of climate change & the legacy of nuclear testing are addressed. #HRCelections

“We agree the Human Rights Council has shortcomings, and sometimes has failed to be accountable, but the only way to really change that is to participate,” said Heine.

“Building on our campaign, we will work tirelessly at the Human Rights Council to ensure the voices of the most vulnerable communities are heard, regardless of the politics.

“We will ensure that more attention is given to Small Island Developing States, and we will work with others to boost the vital role of small nations on the global stage,” she said.