Testify Project - Universal Period Review of the US
Monitoring Human Rights in the United States
On November 5th 2010 the US underwent a new United Nations Human Rights Council process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the first comprehensive review of the US human rights record on an international stage. During the UPR process, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) analyzed the US government’s human rights record and provided over 200 recommendations on how to fulfill human rights obligations within the country.
Beginning in 2005, this “peer-review” of human rights will take place every four years within all 192 UN member states. The UPR is significant in that it is the only universal human rights analysis mechanism of its kind and reminds member states of their responsibility to fully respect and implement human rights principles and commitments.
The Videos and the Campaign
In preparation for this review, our allies, the US Human Rights Network (USHRN), which consists of over 300 prominent human rights organizations and community groups, launched the UPR Project and implemented three main campaign strands.
First, human rights organizations from across the US came together to write a series of reports that spotlight the shortcomings of the country’s human rights protections and practices. USHRN then produced a summary report detailing the glaring inadequacies in the United States’ human rights record.
Second, throughout 2010, members of civil society met with US government officials to ensure that on-the-ground perspectives were heard and incorporated into the review. Participating organizations also met with UN HRC members to help inform the questions and recommendations for the UPR.
Finally, the USHRN launched the Testify! Project to help understand how individuals and communities in the US experience human rights violations, and to amplify voices and broaden grassroots engagement with international human rights advocacy.
This project collected video testimony from individuals across the country that shared their stories of human rights abuse and proposed solutions in the lead-up to the UPR.
How the UPR Process Works
Joshua Cooper, the USHRN-UPR Geneva Coordinator, gives a summary of the UPR process and reactions to the November 5th review
The following are the four key recommendations from the UN HRC:
- Adopt and implement a National Plan of Action on racial discrimination;
- Establish an accredited National Human Rights Commission to protect our basic human rights;
- Recognize and honor economic, social and cultural rights as basic human rights;
- Sign and ratify key international and regional agreements.
- March 2011: The US issued its final response to the UN HRC’s recommendations.
- December 10, 2010: In celebration of International Human Rights Day the compilation video Testify! Voice for Human Rights in America will released and published online on this day.
- November 9, 2010: The U.N. HRC issued a set of over 200 recommendations for the US to bring its human rights policies and practices in line with international standards and the US delegation then issued its initial response.
- November 5, 2010: The US government underwent the first-ever UPR of its human rights record before the U.N. HRC in Geneva, Switzerland. Watch webcast of the review »
- November 1–4, 2010: US civil society activists and advocates held a series of side events in the lead up the US’ first UPR, including the screening of a series of films that highlighted the many challenges the country faces. To watch video highlights of the week’s events see the six-part series sent from Geneva by Eric Tars with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty:
- August 23, 2010: The US government submitted its first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC).