- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 10, 2020

GENEVA (AP) - The U.N. human rights chief is hailing “some extremely encouraging pledges” from U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, citing his call to address issues like systemic racism, women’s rights, torture, and climate change, and signs that his team could shepherd in a “more humane” approach to migration.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, made the comments in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday on how the incoming administration might have an impact on Geneva-based U.N. institutions.

“The President-elect of the United States has made some extremely encouraging pledges, including his promise to revitalize the U.S. commitment to advance human rights and democracy around the world,” said Bachelet, a former Chilean president.

The comments suggested that Bachelet’s office is reassured that the U.S. - traditionally one of the world’s stalwart voices for human rights - will be under new leadership. But political realities could affect how much Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will make good on campaign-trail pledges after the Jan. 20 inauguration.

The current Trump administration has faced criticism from rights advocates for policies such as a ban on entry of some foreigners based on their countries of origin; the detention of migrants and their children; the targeted assassination of an Iranian general; its response to protests of police violence against unarmed Black people; and its rollback of federally supported family-planning services.

Alluding to the killing of George Floyd, Bachelet said Biden’s recognition of the need to deal with systemic racism and his decision to make racial equity a top priority were “enormously important.”

Floyd, a handcuffed Black man, died in May after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

Biden has also promised to rescind a Trump administration rule that has had a far-reaching impact on family planning by barring taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions.

“The incoming administration has also signaled it will halt the rollback of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive health, and appears to be taking a much more humane approach to managing migration, including ending what it has – rightly – described as ‘the horrific practice of separating families’ at the U.S. border,” Bachelet said.

“I also very much welcome the President-elect’s commitment to reaffirm the ban on torture,” she added. “And, perhaps most importantly of all, since it affects the future of everyone on this planet, I am delighted that the incoming Biden-Harris administration is pledging to commit to science, take serious actions to combat climate change at home, and rejoin the Paris agreement.”

She was referring to the 2015 Paris climate accord. Trump has pulled the United States out of the agreement.

“The world needs a fully engaged United States if we are to prevent irreversible disaster on the climate front,” Bachelet added.

Trump’s administration two years ago also pulled the U.S. out of the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council, a 47-member state body, citing its alleged anti-Israel bias and its acceptance of autocratic regimes that regularly abuse human rights as members.

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