About the Author: Suzanne Nossel serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs.
On Friday, November 5, the United States made history when we participated in our first Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council. The review was marked by positive engagement from other governments and domestic and international civil society. Led by the State Department, the U.S. delegation was comprised of senior officials from eleven U.S. departments and agencies, a representative of local authorities, and two advisers from civil society groups. The UPR consultation process, U.S. report, and Friday's presentation are a reflection of the depth of our national commitment to human rights at home and complemented by the deep commitment from President Obama and Secretary Clinton to multilateral engagement, human rights, and the rule of law.
The United States is proud of its human rights record, and is pleased to lead by example in conducting the UPR with honesty, transparency, and self-scrutiny. As the U.S. report acknowledges, though we are proud of our achievements, we will continue to work to ensure that our laws are fair and justly implemented, and to foster a society in which people are empowered to enjoy their rights. The United States is not perfect. We acknowledge imperfections and injustices to discuss and debate them, and are pleased to seriously engage with civil society on difficult questions.
Civil society engagement was a hallmark of the UPR consultation process in the United States, and we brought this commitment with us to Geneva. Following the official session, the United States hosted a town hall meeting to engage with civil society leaders. The discussion was substantive, and the U.S. delegation engaged honestly on in-depth and hard-hitting questions from NGOs from the United States and around the world. While these conversations are not always easy, we particularly encourage critical questions from U.S. NGOs, those who know our country and are close to its issues on the ground. We cannot respond to every idea raised in hundreds of conversations or debated in the blogosphere, but we welcome the opportunity to talk with thoughtful interlocutors in a constructive dialogue.
We hope that other governments will display a similar depth of engagement with civil society in the UPR process, to expand citizens' voices in advancing human rights around the world. Domestic NGOs, too, echoed appreciation of the town hall meeting. "Congratulations to the U.S. delegation. We are proud that the U.S. is the first delegation to offer this kind of open discussion," said Karin Ryan, Director of the Human Rights Program at the Carter Center.
We in the United States government have approached the UPR process with a seriousness of purpose and a commitment to engage genuinely with comments and questions raised in good faith. We hope that this effort of transparency will be adopted by other nations as they, too, make history.