Tuesday, November 2, 2010

US Human Rights Take Center Stage at UN This Week

Greetings from Geneva! I’m here because United Nations Human Rights Council is going to hold a hearing on the United States’ human rights record on Friday, November 5. This process is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Universal = every member of the UN goes through this process
Periodic = every four years
Review = the UN considers the government’s compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Charter, which together cover the full range of international human rights, and makes recommendations for improvements.

I’m here in person because the UPR is a chance to educate other countries on the human rights situation in the US, so that this isn’t just about politics, but about real people who are falling through the gaps in the protections available in the US and in our global policies. Also, being part of the process can help improve it.

There are critical human rights issues to discuss. The U.S. has not ratified several key treaties that the rest of the world considers no-brainers: the Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), just to name the most obvious ones. Even the treaties we have adopted haven’t been fully incorporated into U.S. laws. That makes Human Rights USA’s work a lot harder. When survivors of human rights abuses ask us to represent them in court, we often have to tell them those rights are just on paper -- there isn’t a way to assert their rights under the treaties in a U.S. court.

Lots of other advocates from the U.S. are here too -- many (like me) with coordination and support from the US Human Rights Network. We have organized a series of educational events on all kinds of issues: discrimination, migrant workers, housing rights, political repression, corporate accountability, labor rights… some of them are blogging too, like Eric Tars from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, whose video blogs you can watch here. As I have more links, I’ll share them.

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