US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



UPR Process: Guidance on the Interaction Phase

Nov 27, 2019

UPR Process: Guidance on the Interaction Phase

By: Independent expert Joshua Cooper (UPR Task Force Co-Chair)


The Universal Periodic Review process allows for activism and bold advocacy, creating a multi-pronged peoples-centered approach covering community to country and global civil society. The UPR promises a refreshing proactive and participatory political approach to reinvigorate our public policy rooted in human rights.

The five phases of the process — Preparation, Interaction, Consideration, Adoption and Implementation — offer opportunities to organize that build a national movement for human rights promotion and protection for all. 

The Interaction phase provides potential for directly impacted peoples and communities to frame and claim their rights through 1 -  2 pagers providing essence of engagement with ultimate aspiration for ideas generated in the first phase of Preparation to become initiatives that can be generated by governments, based on the peoples will, through interventions to improve institutions to the state under review. 


During the Preparation phase, the priority was meeting together ensuring the voice of directly impacted peoples and concerned communities are the core of the conversation across the country.  We the people mobilized through the “3 C’s” — Collect, Compile and Clamor —  to submit the first word on the state of human rights in the United States of America. 

In the second phase, Interaction,  we build on the success of drafting significant stakeholder reports, transforming those research-rich documents into dynamic discussion pieces to be shared with States prior to the consideration of the United States of America by the UN Human Rights Council UPR Working Group.

For the Interaction phase, the “3 C’s” are Collaborate, Coordinate and Communicate.   The National UPR Task Force will ensure collaboration among thematic working groups in the country to transform the stakeholder reports into 1-2 page summaries in the format of Issues, Questions and Recommendations. Then, there will be coordination to ensure thematic working groups match best with countries championing specific human rights. Finally, up until the actual consideration, the National UPR Task Force mobilizes the human rights movement with states sharing common concern via creative and concise communication so the actual 3.5 hour review reflects the priorities of we, the people in the state under review. 


The heart of the Interaction phase is Coordination of translating the single and joint stakeholder reports bringing together all of the complaints, criticism, as well as constructive considerations to realize human rights in the United States of America.  

It is important to reconnect with one’s community, city, and country-wide thematic partners to move beyond naming and shaming toward framing and claiming our rights. For each human rights violation documented in the stakeholder reports, one can summarize the Issues linked to rights enshrined in the UN Charter, the UDHR, the core human rights treaties ratified, rights cited in a UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures country visit or thematic report, UN Specialized Agency, Program and Fund mandates as well as international humanitarian law. Then, one can work together to create most imminent and important Questions to pose to the United States of America during the 3.5 hour UPR. The final focus of the 1-2 pager is the framing and claiming of a series of developing SMART (specific, measurable, action-oriented, relevant, time-sensitive) Recommendations.

We, the people living the violations, are the experts and know more than most what needs to be done to right the human wrongs. We, the people can draft language that is significant, meaningful as well as motivating that is results based and time bound with specific steps to realize the recommendations. While we are the experts, it is possible to begin becoming familiar with the UPR-INFO database that stores all questions and recommendations with a tool to search by theme what has been done in the initial first and second cycle as well as so far in the current third cycle. One can review what questions have been posed and recommendations provided in previous examination of states. However, it is important to come together and craft together with partners from the Preparation phase what you really want to say with specific steps to shape the future of the nation. The 1 -2 pager will be used throughout the Interaction phase in our cities, the country, and global community. 


The Interaction phase can be divided into two distinct area of advocacy. The Communication is with two distinct parts of the Interaction phase of the UPR process. The first area of advocacy is Communication with the City, State and Federal Officials, both public elected officials and administrative agencies responsible for domestic and foreign agenda. The second area of advocacy is with all states and observers eligible to speak in the actual 3.5 hour review.  Communication is essential to share your specific issues, questions and recommendations to ensure the views and vision of the people is featured prominently in the UPR. When successful, one can recognize language in the government 10-page submission and the interventions presented during the actual 3.5 hours review in the Palais des Nation in Geneva. 

After completion of the main task of submission of stakeholder reports built on education, empowerment and engagement among wide civil society advocacy, the Interaction phase is ensuring the will of the people is understood and utilized thoroughly in the second phase prior to the actual Consultation. After the stakeholder reports arrive at the Office of the High Commissioner to be synthesized and summarized in a 10-page document, the next major core document besides the OHCHR analysis is the State Under Review submission of 20 pages.  

The first area of advocacy is to influence and aim to have peoples perspectives input into the national submission. The U.S. State Department usually takes the lead bringing together the dozen plus other relevant federal agencies including Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs as well as National Security Council. 

In the first area of advocacy for the Interaction phase, there are more actions to contact with state and local public elected officials. An increasing interaction is evolving in municipal diplomacy.  It is imperative for local human rights advocates to engage effectively communicating the content of the stakeholder reports and to encourage their state officials as well as local city councils including the mayor to explore ability to realize human rights raised.  A UPR City consultation can be an all day conversation among all parties involved in the decision-making process from public officials to directly impacted peoples. 

UPR Birmingham is a model where mayor hosted multiple panels with municipal staff, local NGOs, stakeholders and directly impacted peoples all discussing specific steps to achieve the UDHR bringing human rights home. By having these state and local consultations, it will better prepare possibility for an informed delegation at the UPR including state and local officials aware of the UPR, not merely selected by the State Department. More importantly, responsible public officials will be prepared to step up and share if requested to be part of official government delegation to the UPR. 

The second half of the Interaction phase builds on the discussion with one’s public officials and shifts to the global diplomatic community that sit in the seats at the UPR Working Group and sign up to pose questions and make recommendations to the state under review. Communication is crucial to provide the specific insight from impacted peoples to the global stage through series of stakeholder-state sessions shaped by sharing specific questions and recommendations that can be the core of the intervention by states at the Palais des Nations.  


A very important initiative is in the capital of the country where all of the embassies are based that provide essential function of sharing developments with their respective executive branch and foreign ministries. It is also closest for community to coordinate at the country level.

The first step is to review all of the 1 - 2 pagers and cite all of the human rights issues introduced.  Then, match the list in the UPR-INFO database typing in the various themes and being able to review all of questions and recommendations asked by which state during the previous cycles. Then, analyze and begin plan of action to compare and compile strongest similar language that would be useful to be built upon and bolstered during the UPR actual review and also submission of pre-review questions to the SUR. 

After coordinating and crowning champion countries on specific human rights, one can begin to reach out to their embassies in the capital by creating a database of all governments represented. Finally, research all of the contact information for all embassies and contact them with proposed Summit schedule leading up progressively to the actual UPR.  


Another important initiative is to build upon the research on the UPR-INFO database and continue coordination with Champion Countries of respective human rights issues with their UN Missions in New York and Geneva. As we are organizing closest to directly impacted peoples it allows for local and national NGOs to arrange advocacy campaign at the UN HQ reaching out to UN missions connecting with their diplomat civil servants sharing the 1- 2 pagers and inviting them to attend and hear firsthand from the frontline about freedom at the Stakeholder - State Summit. 

The Summit format can cover civil and political one month and then economic, social and cultural. In the final one at the end of Summit series can split into panels covering latest information prior to the states intervention at the UPR. At the back of the Summit room, the 1-2 pagers can be available providing entire rainbow of rights highlighted by the human rights defenders. 

The communication can continue up to and through the third phase of Consideration and fourth phase of adoption even potentially the final phase of Implementation through advice and development assistance in line with 2030 Agenda rooted in human rights. 

Another potential to connect with the UN Missions can be through side events during annual meetings held prior to the UPR. Some examples in spring would be to coordinate at the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women in March and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issue in April focusing on themes of the annual sessions as well as intersectionality of multiple issues allowing for national human rights movement to learn and lead together. The Stakeholder - State Summit series can be hosted at the UN Church Center or colleges/universities in NYC allowing for affordable access for advocacy.