The UN is asking: Will you take a moment to rate the United States’ human rights efforts?

What if I told you there was a way to leave a Yelp review for the U.S. government’s efforts to protect human rights in our country?

Well, there’s a process called the “Universal Periodic Review,” and it’s the closest you can get to such an opportunity.

Yelp can be a black hole of shade, but I’m a huge fan of the purpose Yelp reviews serve — not only because they’ve helped guide me toward many-a-delicious pizza, but because of their ability to influence change and nudge improvement into motion. Most of the time, people use Yelp as a place to share an honest reaction based on an individual experience, whether by showering compliments, spitting fire, or some of each. When common themes emerge from customers’ feedback, it often means it’s time for the establishment to turn things around. And sometimes, they really do listen.

In this analogy, you’re the customer with a keyboard, your country is the pizza parlor, and enjoying the perfect pizza experience is your human right. To bring it back to UN world, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is an intergovernmental UN process that examines each member state through the lens of its human rights obligations and commitments. To put that in terms for those who enjoy food and the internet (like me), the way the U.S. and the UN gather widespread, constructive feedback on our nation’s human rights situation is similar in concept to the way Yelp aggregates customer feedback for restaurants. While it’s helpful for a restaurant owner to know why a customer left a 1-star review, it’s also crucial to understand what prompted a 5-star review. The Universal Periodic Review is no different: Nations need to know what’s working well in order to craft effective solutions for big problems.

In May 2020, the U.S. will undergo a Universal Periodic Review of its domestic human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council. In other words, the Human Rights Council is going to take a long, hard look at the human rights situation here in the U.S.

But how does the Human Rights Council know what to look at when assessing our nation’s human rights progress? That’s where you come in.

To understand what’s actually going on in communities around the country, the Human Rights Council relies on information submitted people who actually know — people on the ground and those directly impacted. Your personal experiences, observations, and ideas are crucial to help illustrate what human rights looks like right now in the U.S. and ultimately catalyze change through a universal UN process. Chances are, reports will find that the U.S. definitely needs to boost its rating in a few areas. Your input will help ensure no injustices go unrecognized.

Right now, in the lead up to May 2020, American citizens and NGOs are encouraged to organize local “UPR consultations” where diverse groups of advocates compile feedback that’s later shared with the UN in a brief “shadow report.” For the sake of my metaphor, think of this as a big meet-up where likeminded community partners collaborate and discuss common themes around their human rights experiences, and decide which “Yelp reviews” (i.e. recommendations) are most productive.

Kind of like Yelp, the Universal Periodic Review process is accessible to everyone — that’s what makes it such an excellent tool. Americans of all experience levels, backgrounds, and interests can (and should) contribute their voices. On top of that, participating in a UPR consultation is the perfect way to turn frustration into action and change (perhaps that’s what makes it the most Yelp-esque of all).

It is important to remember that no country has a perfect human rights record, just like no restaurant can make a perfect pizza every time. But when governments are trying to make things better, feedback is the magic ingredient. When Eleanor Roosevelt said human rights begin at home, she was urging us to celebrate what makes our communities stronger by confronting tough realities that are holding us back. Today, we see families separated at our borders, violent acts of racial discrimination, and harmful gender wage gaps right here in the U.S. to name just a few examples. It’s on us to speak up for change.

“No country has a perfect human rights record, just like no restaurant can make a perfect pizza every time. But when governments are trying to make things better, feedback is the magic ingredient.”

That’s why UNA-USA will be hosting the largest-ever UPR consultation during our annual Global Leadership Summit in Washington, DC. After sharing your perspectives in dynamic human rights discussions, you’ll have a chance to bring your voice to Capitol Hill and lobby Members of Congress to support a strong U.S.-UN partnership. We hope you’ll join us to be a part of the conversation and contribute to the report we’ll submit to UN Human Rights Council.

Here’s the big takeaway:

If you don’t like what you see in the world around you, get it off your chest in a forum that exists to make sure your voice is considered. You will make a real, tangible impact, and I promise you will feel better.


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