US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



Upcoming Universal Periodic Review: Hold the US Accountable to its Human Rights Obligations

May 24, 2019

The United Nations Periodic Review (UPR) is a cyclical process through which the human rights records of all UN Member States are reviewed every four years. The UPR is an opportunity for States to declare the actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their countries and uphold their international obligations and commitments; for UN Members to develop best practices; and for stakeholders like NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, and grassroots organizations to share the realities of human rights violations on the ground.  

The Human Rights Council organizes the quadrennial UPR process by holding two-week convenings three times per year (a total of fourteen sessions per four-year cycle) of the UPR Working Group, which is composed of the forty-seven member States of the Human Rights Council. The review takes the form of an interactive dialogue between the State under review and the member and observer States of the Council. The Working Group reviews documentation submitted by States under review, by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and by other stakeholders including national and regional civil society and NGOs in the State under review. According to the UN, the aim of the UPR is to improve the human rights situation in all countries and address human rights violations wherever they occur [1].

Despite the current US administration’s ongoing withdrawal from international engagement, the government is not exonerated from its treaty obligations nor the UPR review [2].

The UPR Working Group will review the United States in April-May 2020. The deadline for the US government to submit a report is February 2020. The current administration did not elect to submit a mid-term report, which was due this month. To date,  four US-based NGO stakeholders submitted mid-term reports to the UN, including USHRN member Human Rights Educators USA. The NGO submission process remains open.  Final stakeholder reports by NGOs and Indigenous Peoples on the human rights records of the US are due on October 3, 2019, ahead of the country’s April-May review in Geneva.

If you are interested in learning more or would like to engage in the UPR review to hold the US accountable, please be aware of several opportunities to do so:

  1. Apply to join the USHRN-facilitated UPR Taskforce.
  2. Apply to join the USHRN UPR and/or International Mechanisms listservs to receive periodic updates.
  3. Participate in the UPR Cities Project, a new initiative of the USHRN member-led Human Rights Cities Alliance.

If you would like to join the UPR Taskforce or Listservs, or if you would like more information on how to participate in the UPR, please contact Roberto Borrero, International Mechanisms Director at:    

[1] United Nations Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review 

[2] Since Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, the administration has withdrawn the US from the UN Human Rights Council, cut funding to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and continues to skirt human rights treaty reporting and reviews. Most recently, the administration declined to nominate a human rights expert to serve on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Inter-American Commission. The administration’s disengagement from its domestic and international human rights obligations further threatens human rights at home and risks weakening international and regional human rights institutions.