"What does the council actually do, then? Each year, the 47-member body issues a “Universal Periodic Review,” an evaluation of the human-rights conditions of all 193 UN member countries. It also produces reports on issues like the use of chemical weapons in Syria, enforced disappearances, and the rights of children and people with disabilities around the world. The council’s many independent experts carry “the UN’s blue flag to dark prison cells and homeless shelters to document abuses of international law and demand remedies from local and national governments,” wrote Ted Piccone, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In December 2017, the council held an important special session on the human rights nightmare facing the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. (The UN Security Council has refused to act.)
Sitting on the council allows the United States to participate in an ongoing conversation on human rights. It is certainly problematic that Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo, countries with atrocious human rights records, also have seats on the Human Rights Council. But members are voted on by the UN General Assembly, and each of five major regions of the world (Africa, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia-Pacific) receives a certain number. For all its flaws, the council has allowed the United States to demonstrate its commitment to human rights and dignity very publicly. Being a member at least signals an interest in accountability—if not of a country’s own policies, then at least those of others."