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UPR: Examining Human Rights in the United States

10 August 2015

Last May, the Human Rights Council reviewed the situation of human rights in the United States. WILPF USA and the Human Rights programme have actively engaged in this review, jointly drafted a UPR report and have suggested several recommendations, some of which were endorsed by the UN member states in this Universal Periodic Review (UPR) exercise.


As the U.S. is not a state party to many international human rights treaties, legal accountability in many areas is more difficult to obtain. As such, WILPF recommended States to call on the U.S. to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Several States have made recommendations in line with WILPF’s proposal.


WILPF endorsed and advocated for the recommendations of the Global Justice Center over a USA policy that results in the systematic denial of safe abortion services to girls and women raped in war in violation of their rights under international law. The policy in question is a set of abortion restrictions that the U.S. places on all of its foreign aid, without exception, including on humanitarian assistance to war victims.

As a result of the overly narrow interpretation and implementation of these restrictions, the U.S. funds cannot be used for the provision of safe abortion services to girls and women raped in war. The restrictions also act to limit and censor abortion-related speech abroad.

These restrictions by the U.S. Government render the U.S. noncompliant with its obligations under international humanitarian law, Security Council Resolutions, and international human rights law. Fortunately, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and France have made recommendations urging the United States to allow its foreign assistance to be used for safe abortion for women and girls rape survivors.


The U.S.-Mexico border is increasingly being militarised and this is a serious concern for WILPF USA. The zero-tolerance U.S. immigration laws also place a huge burden on immigrants and further restricts their rights.

WILPF made several recommendations to UN Member States aiming at limiting the use of excessive violence against migrants and at ensuring fair due process and investigation methods regarding the detention of undocumented migrants.

Unfortunately, States did not follow these recommendations demanding the specific needed changes. However, Mexico urged the U.S. to adopt measures to prevent and punish excessive use of force by law enforcement officials against undocumented migrants. Several States also made recommendations calling on the United States to create access to healthcare services for undocumented migrants and their children.

outcomes of the universal periodic review


WILPF USA drew States’ attention to the U.S.’s consistent arms sales to countries where human rights violations are widespread, particularly gender-based violence. Indeed, small arms and light weapons contribute to insecurity within communities and increase the risk for women to experience violent situations.

Hence, WILPF urged States to recommend to the U.S. to urgently ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and to conduct gender-sensitive risk assessments in order to stop arms sales whenever there is evidence that they would be used in the commission of gender-based violence.

One State recommended that the United States ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which would mean all arms sales that are likely to contribute to gender-based violence or other kinds of human rights violations will no longer be allowed. This is a big step towards human rights as it recognises the obligations of countries towards human rights of persons outside the state when they export weapons.


WILPF advocated for the removal of the Fourth Amendment protection granted by a Supreme Court decision to corporations, as they are not humans. According to this decision, corporations would be treated as human beings regarding for instance, prior notification of labour inspections or investigations. This gives employers the time to hide abusive labour practices.

WILPF also recommended that the USA take appropriate legislative measures to strengthen corporate liability in case of labor trafficking and to ensure that CEDAW is duly implemented in the context of companies’ activities. We regret that no Member States took up these topics for recommendation to the United States.


Both the Human Rights programme and WILPF USA will now monitor and advocate for the full implementation of all recommendations and hope that the U.S. government will be open to receive support and advice in this task.

If you would like to know more on the UPR process, visit UPR Info’s webpage to find out how you can engage in the advancement of the human rights situation in your country. Do you know what part of the process your country is in? You might still be in time to make a change! Spreading the word about the UPR mechanism is essential to the protection and promotion of human rights.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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