Denmark will apply to fill an empty seat on the 18-member UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the period 2019-2021, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said.
“The area of human rights is increasingly developing into an international battleground over value politics. The rights that Denmark views as given and naturalization are increasingly under pressure. That applies to freedom of expression, a free press, religious freedom and the protection of the rights of minorities and women,” Jensen said in a ministry press release.
The UNHRC has 47 seats that are geographically distributed. African and Asian countries hold 13 seats each, Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) nations have eight, Eastern European six and the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) has seven. The member states serve on the council on rotating three-year terms.
Denmark has never held a seat on the council, which was established in 2006. In 2009, the nation unsuccessfully applied for a seat after a disagreement with the council’s decision to put restrictions on what might be considered religiously offensive.
Current Justice Minister Søren Pind last year accused the UNHRC of having “an anti-Semitic sentiment”.
“I don’t think one can doubt that when you look at the overall make-up of the UN or when you look at the composition of the Human Rights Council,” Pind told Jyllands-Posten in August 2014.
The UNHRC is currently made up of 11 Muslim-majority countries, including Indonesia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Jensen said that while there is no guarantee that Denmark will be accepted onto the council, “it is a fight that is worth fighting”.
“It’s important that Denmark is placed as centrally as possible to the discussions of important values issues,” he added.
According to Jyllands-Posten, the government’s application has the backing of the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals (Radikale) and the Danish People’s Party (DF), even though the latter had harsh words for the UNHRC.
“It is a ridiculous committee that is controlled by Arabic and African countries but when it comes down to it, it’s better that a Nordic country is represented rather than some sort of criminal state,” DF spokesman Søren Espersen told the newspaper.