United Nations

Luxembourg voted into UN Human Rights Council

The Luxembourg delegation, led by foreign minister Jean Asselborn (far right) during the vote at the UN on Thursday MAEE

The Luxembourg delegation, led by foreign minister Jean Asselborn (far right) during the vote at the UN on Thursday MAEE

Luxembourg on Thursday was elected to fill one of the three Western European vacancies on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council for the 2022-2024 term, the country’s first mandate as a member of the council.

Three seats were up for grabs in the Western Europe and other states group in a rotating member system. The grand duchy in December last year formally launched its campaign, focused on four priorities: gender inequality, rule of law, climate change and the protection and promotion of children’s rights.

Luxembourg received 180 votes out of 193 ballot papers. A majority of 97 votes was needed to secure a spot. Finland also received 180 votes while the US received 168. There were six abstentions with 187 members present.

This election represents Luxembourg’s first term as a member of the UN human rights council. Finland--previously a member from 2006-2007--while the seat marks as return for the United States, which had dropped out of the council under president Donald Trump.

Luxembourg in 2013 and 2014 served as a member on the UN’s Security Council after a successful bid for one of the body’s non-permanent seats.

Prime minister Xavier Bettel (DP), while addressing the UN general assembly last month, promised Luxembourg’s involvement with currently ongoing crises. For example, the prime minister said Luxembourg would support at-risk people from Afghanistan in their relocation to Europe. In addition, Bettel mentioned Luxembourg’s focus on climate action, arguing in his speech that climate change will continue to impact the lives and rights of many dramatically if the situation is not handled correctly.

The government has also allocated 1% of gross national income in 2022 to cooperation and development assistance payments.

Due diligence laws for businesses

Despite its international pledges, Luxembourg faces criticism at home. Amnesty International in a statement on Thursday said the country isn’t doing enough to hold companies accountable on human rights violations.

The government has launched a human rights due diligence action plan but has so far shied away from introducing legislation. An EU directive setting minimum standards is being developed and Luxembourg said it would favour a Europe-wide approach to national initiatives.

The discussion gained traction after Luxembourg came under criticism for hosting the Israeli spyware firm NSO--accused of being complicit in the surveillance of human rights activists and journalists --as well as Mindgeek--a firm operating porn websites accused of profiting off sex abuse and trafficking. A group of 32 Luxembourg businesses has asked for national laws.

Amnesty International in Luxembourg congratulated Luxembourg on its election but also said it “will be particularly attentive to ensure that the government fully assumes this responsibility.”

Luxembourg, alongside 32 other nations, earlier this year was taken to court by six young activists, who claim the countries’ lack of involvement in solving the climate crisis is a direct attack on their human rights.

The case is still pending, but Luxembourg has defended its climate record. The grand duchy is part of the European Union’s Fit for 55 pact that aims for a reduction of 55% of climate reduction by 2030 and complete climate neutrality by 2050.