UPR Cities Project

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About the UPR Cities Project

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.

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.

"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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

*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.

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.

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