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Division Holds Universal Periodic Review of U.S. Human Rights Record

May 27, 2014

Division Holds Universal Periodic Review of U.S. Human Rights Record

By Natalie Araya, Hastings High School Senior

On Wednesday, May 21, The Division held a consultation to provide an American grassroots voice in the Universal Periodic Review of the U.S. Record on Human Rights. The event took place at the UN Foundation Office in Manhattan.

The consultation began with a welcome from Jeanne Betsock Stillman, President of the Southern New York State Division. She introduced the speakers – Latanya Mapp Frett, Vice President – Global, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Sarah Elizabeth Porter, Development Associate at ECPAT USA; and Ryan Kaminski, Leo Nevas Human Rights Fellow of UNA-USA.  Mapp Frett’s presentation emphasized the importance of the interconnectivity between human rights and women’s rights. Mapp Frett concluded her presentation with information on recent US Policy advances, while stressing the importance of reflecting global values.

Sarah Elizabeth Porter defined trafficking, providing details on this generally overlooked issue specifically in America, as well as listing the goals of the ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) (UNA Queens Chapter) organization. Porter stressed the vulnerability of the youth involved in trafficking, as these young kids tend to be homeless, foster care children who are on the street without any type of support system. Porter also highlighted the increase of exploitation due to the Internet, concluding her presentation with details on the Safe Harbor Law, which states that anyone under the age of 18 in the sex trafficking industry must be considered a victim.

Following Porter’s talk, Ryan Kaminski presented background information on the U.S. Universal Periodic Review of 2015.  Kaminski gave details on the constructive assessment on the Human Rights records that all UN members go through as well as the implementation process in which a Stakeholder’s Report includes specific recommendations for each individual country. Kaminski also provided details on the first U.S. review, which occurred in 2011, where the U.S. received nearly 300 recommendations from other UN members.

After Kaminski’s presentation and a refreshment break, participants divided into two groups. Corinne Whitaker, independent reproductive rights consultant, facilitated the group that focused on advancing the rights of women and girls. Natalie Araya, Hastings High School senior, served as notetaker. Joan A. Levy, vice president of the Southern NY State Division and vice president of the UNA New York City (Manhattan) Chapter, who is also a board member of ECPAT USA, facilitated the group on human trafficking. Ammie Lin, a 2014 graduate of Adelphi University, served as notetaker.

Each group then concentrated on its topic, developing recommendations and specifics to include in the final Stakeholder’s report. After almost an hour, both groups rejoined to share their outcomes. Corinne Whitaker reported on the discussion on women and girls.  She began with the creation of categories to keep in mind when discussing the status of women and girls, which encompasses age, partnership status, schooling, health access, education, residence/citizenship, income as well as participation. The group also focused on the challenges that are presented when coming up with recommendations, as these recommendations must be specific in order to see implemented change. Whitaker stressed the importance of researching in order to find out if the proposed solutions are or can be backed up by bills. Moreover, the status of women and girls group discussed how to address these issues using various mechanisms. For example, in terms of education, many people agreed that the inclusion of human rights content in the core curriculum would be ideal. Other issues discussed included transition efforts, meaning engaging young experts and strengthening mentoring; the possibility of a convention for the rights of older women specifically; domesticating agreements; immigration reforms as well as reproductive rights.

Maria Almario, Co-chair and prior director at Partnership for the Eradication of Human Trafficking (PEHT) summarized her group’s discussions on trafficking victims, the importance of public awareness, education and accessibility; as well as the importance of policies and reliable sources of data. Almario emphasized the importance of all populations having access to their individual rights and the importance of establishing a systematic way to determine trafficking. She concluded her summary by stating the importance of having safe places to get victims who are identified rehabilitated.

The last speaker was the UNA Vice President for Hawai’i, Joshua Cooper, who is also the Director/Lecturer at Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights/University of Hawaii and a member of the Leo Nevas Human Rights Task Force. Cooper spoke on the upcoming periodic review of the U.S. in May of 2015 (which is given 3 ½ hours), where any country can now ask a question of the U.S. (In the last review only up to 70 countries could sign up to ask questions). Cooper went on to explain the State Department’s involvement as well as the importance of not losing steam in between the May review and the September 2015 date, as the in the September date, the U.S. will attempt to implement all the ideas mentioned in May.

The meeting was a great success, with almost 30 participants fully engaged for the 2-½ hours duration of the consultation. The next step is for small working groups to write the groups’ recommendations to UNA-USA for inclusion in its report to the UN Human Rights Council. This consultation’s recommendations will join those of the Chicago UNA Chapter, which reviewed the U.S. actions on several treaties, and those of UNA Georgetown, which studied U.S. actions on LGBT rights. Additionally, members attending the UNA-USA annual meeting in Washington on June 8 will consult on the four topics. Results of all these consultations will be edited into a five-page report to the Human Rights Council.

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Sarah Elizabeth Porter, Jeanne Stillman, Latanya Mapp Frett and Lia Cairone

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Speakers- Latanya Mapp Frett, Sarah Elizabeth Porter and Ryan Kaminski

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Joshua Cooper

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Corinne Whitaker

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Discussion of Rights of Women and Girls

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