UPR Cities Project

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About the UPR Cities Project: Bring Human Rights Home!

The Universal Periodic Review process involves quadrennial reviews of every United Nations member government's human rights performance. It was established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2006 in order to strengthen governments' compliance with international human rights obligations and to help identify models of best practices. Another aim of the process, and a requirement for improved human rights performance, is to develop greater connections between people in local communities and international human rights processes. Work at local levels is critical to building a global constituency of human rights defenders who can help defend rights locally while enhancing our global capacities for protecting and promoting human rights, dignity, and justice for everyone. The human rights cities movement is an effort to help further this work, and we're encouraging local activists to take part in this 2019 UPR review of the United States.

Key aims of the initiative are to realize the possibilities for us to: use international processes to strengthen local work for justice, build local alliances and our national network of cities committed to working together to advance People-Centered Human Rights, and to shift political and public discourse and common sense away from market ideologies to prioritize human rights across all areas of policy. Local governments have jurisdiction over a range of human rights issues, including those related to housing, education, employment, and criminal justice. Mayors, local governments, and organized communities are particularly well-situated to advance human rights and build a culture of human rights based on dignity, freedom from discrimination, and opportunity. The international community provides resources for local communities through regular monitoring of human rights treaties and related international standards.

U.S. Alliance of Human Rights Cities files Stakeholder Report to United Nations on Human Rights & Cities

This report to the UN Universal Periodic Review of the United States was developed through consultations among human rights organizers around the United States to identify key challenges to realizing human rights for all residents. The report is part of an ongoing conversation and political organizing process that aims to "Bring Human Rights Home" to our cities and communities. We believe this is the first UPR Stakeholder Report compiled to reflect the needs of cities across a country, and we hope to work with UN officials to develop lessons and strategies for improving human rights in urban settings worldwide.

Other Stakeholder Reports

What is noteworthy in these stakeholder reports submitted by groups involved in our UPR Cities initiative is that housing rights, racial inequities, and lack of democracy are among the top concerns in these reports. Our effort to develop an analysis of the systemic issues that affect human rights conditions in our cities aims to generate a set of recommendations for changes that can help uplift the human rights of all U.S. residents-in cities and rural communities alike!

Next Steps: Pittsburgh Joins National Lobby Days

Jan. 30-31 & February 27-28, 2020 in Washington DC & NYC; Geneva date TBD

The 2019-2020 United Nations Review of the United States human rights record provides an important opportunity for us to build support for more people-centered national and local policies. Organizers in cities and communities across the U.S. have submitted our report to the UN on the human rights challenges faced by cities around the country. Our next step is to send delegations of grassroots human rights defenders to lobby UN officials in New York, Washington DC, and Geneva to bring our human rights priorities and recommendations into the official proceedings of the US Universal Periodic Review. We need you to help support this delegation with your donation!

Please help us build on the powerful work of grassroots human rights activists and bring community voices to hold public officials accountable! Tell the international community that despite the actions of the Trump Administration, US residents believe in human rights and are working hard to “bring them home!” We know from past work that grassroots organizers can have a powerful impact on the thinking of international officials, and the experience of seeing the United Nations in action can help our movements develop creative ideas for using these mechanisms to build power. Please make a contribution to support your city or our national delegation. Working together, we can amplify our voices in the global conversation about how we can improve human rights conditions for more of the world’s people.

UPR Cities: Background & How to Get Involved

It's not too late for your city to be part of the 2019-2020 Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. human rights record. We need your voice to bring together our analysis of how federal, state and local policies can better support the realization of human rights and dignity for all residents!

  • Read and share the US Human Rights Cities UPR Report: “The Growth of Corporate Influence in Sub-National Political & Legal Institutions Undermines U.S. Compliance with International Human Rights Obligations”, convene local discussions of possible connections with your community's experiences;
  • Convene local residents in conversations aimed at identifying local human rights priorities and considering what changes are needed. Discuss recommendations that can target local, state, or national officials. Consider what steps local groups and institutions (schools, colleges, business entities) can take to improve local human rights. Produce your own local UPR report and present this to public officials and the media.
  • Work to draw public attention to the UN's Universal Periodic Review process, and prepare to view and discuss the formal review of the US on May 12, 2020. Write letters to the editor, media advisories, or organize local UPR Cities events to draw public and media attention.
  • Join with other UPR cities in our lobby days in NYC and Washington DC (Jan. 30-31, February 27-28) or Geneva (Date TBD) to urge UN officials to bring our recommendations to the formal proceedings and final report for the US. These recommendations will require some action from the US government.
  • Help us raise resources for your city and others to send a delegate to these national and UN-Geneva lobby days! Click here to make a donation via the US Human Rights Network. In the "Funding Designation" line, indicate if you wish to have your donation allocated to support a delegate from your community.
  • Join our national convening in April in Atlanta or another southern US City (Details TBA)
  • May 11 2020, Organize viewing parties to watch the UN Universal Periodic Review of the US live and help residents learn about how we can work with the international community to hold public officials accountable to human rights obligations.
  • To learn more, View our recorded UPR Cities Webinars on this website!


Cities and Communities are Key Partners for Human Rights!

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Calls for Greater Coordination with Local Governments & Civil Society.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights clarifies the important role of local governments in the implementation of international human rights standards, providing reports and recommendations for actions by local and national governments. Many of these recommendations complement the work we are doing in the Human Rights Cities movement and the UPR Cities project. Download Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Local Government and Human Rights


"The 3 Cs": Key steps to participating in the UPR Cities Project:

  1. Collect local testimony about human rights: Convene community conversations about the state of human rights in your locale and invite residents to provide their experiences about the state of human rights in your community. Identify groups and activists in your city or community to participate or provide input about local conditions, or organize one or more events where diverse groups of residents can share experiences and consider the content of your local report. Public meetings, collecting video or written testimony from residents and most impacted communities, surveys, or other kinds of activities can generate local input and raise awareness about human rights and the UPR process.
  2. Compile national and local reports and recommendations: Prepare a summary report of local human rights conditions, achievements, and recommendations for change. For the national review, provide a 5 page summary report of key issues and recommendations emerging from local conversations. What are some key problems/challenges faced by people in your region? Are there some areas where your community does well? (We want to identify both positive advances as well as places where work is needed). Include recommendations of what changes you think are needed to improve human rights locally. (These can draw from prior reports--see links below--or reflect original ideas from your local work). National reports are due September 15, but local reports can be longer and the time frame can be determined to best support local organizing. The formal UPR review process extends to the fall of 2020.
  3. Clamor: Once the reports are done, it's time to make sure our elected officials hear what both residents and the international community are saying. It's up to us to hold leaders accountable to human rights values, so make sure they know what's in your local report and in the international reports as well. Share results of the UPR process with local officials and residents and increase local residents' skills in "human rights enforcement." In April of 2020, the United Nations will release its official recommendations to the United States government, based on the UPR process. It is essential that local human rights defenders work to raise consciousness about this document and to press local governments to take action in response to official recommendations. It is not enough to secure international treaties. We also need vigilant communities ready to stand up and demand that human rights are recognized and protected for everyone. Be sure your community is informed about the offical UPR report, and convene community residents and groups to discuss the results and how to hold local officials accountable for the recommendations.


UPR Cities Webinars

  • Questions? Want more information? Contact us: uprcities [at] humanrightscities [dot] mayfirst.org

MORE RESOURCES From the US Human Rights Network

The US Human Rights Network is supporting activists from across the United States to participate in the UPR process. We are partnering with the US Human Rights Network with a focus on human rights in cities, but there are other ways your organization may wish to engage with the process. Human rights advocates can work under varying sub-groups to convey information about the state of particular kinds of human rights in the United States and to lobby UN delegates to bring content into the final UPR text. The US Human Rights Network helps demystify international law and institutions so everyone can have a voice in this global space. Check out USHRN webinars to learn more about the UPR!

Tools, Examples, and Templates

  • 2015 US Human Rights Network UPR Stakeholder Report This report compiles documentation from grassroots human rights organizations across the United States for the most recent UPR review of the United States. Organizers can model their local reports on the examples provided here. Short, clear, and concise statements and concrete examples are most effective. Also, suggestions of recommendations residents believe will help protect and advance human rights in your area should be included in local reports.

*Notes on Compiling Your UPR Reports

    • For examples, see 2015 National civil society report
    • You can draw from the Official Report of the UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council for recommendations that were made for improvements to US human rights policy. It is good to reinforce previous recommendations that remain unfulfilled.
    • US State Department documentation for 2015 UPR Review
    • National UPR Report-A team will work to compile your local reports into a national civil society report that will be submitted to the United Nations. It is helpful if you can, in addition to your 5 page report, develop a short 1-2 page summary that can inform the overall US civil society report and our lobbying strategy at the United Nations Human Rights Council UPR meeting in April 2020. All documentation for the national report must be received by September 15, 2019.
    • Local UPR Report-You do not need to stop your local process of consultation and documentation in September, and we encourage communities to keep mobilizing attention to the UPR process. You might set your own local deadline for testimony and organize one or more events to present your local human rights assessment to public officials in fall 2019 or early 2020.


Contact us: uprcities [at] humanrightscities [dot] mayfirst.org

The UPR Cities project is coordinated with the US Human Rights Network's Universal Periodic Review work. The USHRN will hold addtional UPR-related webinars that can support local work.


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