Q: What is the Universal Periodic Review?

A: According to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), “The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists.”

Q: When is the United States’ review?

A: The United States’ review will be in November 2010.

Q: Who conducts the review?

A: As the OHCHR states, “The reviews are conducted by the UPR Working Group which consists of the 47 members of the Council; however any UN Member State can take part in the discussion/dialogue with the reviewed States. Each State review is assisted by groups of three States, known as “troikas,” who serve as rapporteurs. The selection of the troikas for each State review is done through a drawing of lots prior to each Working Group session.”

Q: What human rights obligations are addressed?

A: “The UPR will assess the extent to which States respect their human rights obligations set out in: (1) the UN Charter; (2) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (3) human rights instruments to which the State is party (human rights treaties ratified by the State concerned); (4) voluntary pledges and commitments made by the State (e.g. national human rights policies and/or programs implemented); and, (5) applicable international humanitarian law.”

Q: To which human rights instruments are the United States a party?

A: There are a number of multilateral human rights treaties that the U.S. is a party to, including:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
  • Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
  • Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
  • Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery
  • Supplementary convention on the abolition of slavery, the slave trade and institutions and practices similar to slavery
  • Inter-American convention on the granting of political rights to women
  • Convention on the political rights of women
  • Agreement for the suppression of the white slave traffic
  • Trafficking in Persons Protocol
  • International Labor Organization Convention on Forced Labor