State Department Calls for State Input in U.S. Human Rights Review
By Scott Busby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
To paraphrase former first lady and the first U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt, human rights begin in small places, close to home. In that spirit, the U.S. State Department would like to share important information about the Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, a major international human rights mechanism in which every U.N. member state participates, and invite state government officials to join public consultations that are part of this process.
In 2006, the U.N. Human Rights Council was established to create an international forum to promote respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms. One important function of the Human Rights Council is to oversee the UPR, which requires every U.N. member state to present a report on its own human rights record every five years and receive comments and recommendations from other states. The United States underwent its first UPR review in 2010 and its second review in 2015.
In our 2015 UPR, the United States received a total of 343 recommendations from fellow U.N. member states, the most in UPR history. In September 2015, we announced that we accepted, in whole or in part, 260 of those recommendations. To facilitate the hard work of implementing those recommendations, the federal government has established, under White House leadership, six interagency UPR working groups made up of representatives from relevant federal agencies. The working groups cover topics such as civil rights and non-discrimination, criminal justice, human trafficking and national security. They are designed to consider UPR recommendations with a view to strengthening integration of international human rights into the daily work of federal domestic agencies, and to foster our engagement on human rights issues with the public and with state and local government partners.
Although the federal government represents the United States at the UPR, the recommendations we receive frequently relate to actions and policies at the state and local levels as well. For example, the United States accepted recommendations to “continue to fight crimes of human trafficking” and to “continue efforts in strengthening police-community relations.” We also have included state and local government representatives on our UPR delegations, most recently Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. State and local governments play a vital role in protecting and promoting human rights, and the experiences and best practices of state and local leaders should inform our country’s efforts to implement accepted UPR recommendations.
To further these implementation efforts, the UPR working groups each will hold periodic civil society consultations on the UPR recommendations, and we encourage state and local government officials to participate in person or by phone in those consultations. Information about dates and topics to be covered and about the working groups, more generally, is available here or by emailing IGA_humanrights@state.gov.
Since our founding, the United States has worked to promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every human being. The U.S. Department of State believes the UPR process provides us with an additional useful tool to help fulfill that commitment, and the agency looks forward to collaborating with our fellow citizens, state and local governments, civil society and the international community in doing so.