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For more information on how to understand and use the potentials of UPR as an instrument to put pressure on the State, please visit the homepage of the UPR.


The Human Rights Council (HRC) was established in 2006 to replace the ineffective and over-politicized Human Rights Committee. It consists of forty-seven Member States of the United Nations, and does stand the risk of becoming much like its predecessor.

However, the council is also mandated to "undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies."

Thus, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is the latest reporting mechanism at the UN, created by this new UN Human Rights Council. It is states themselves who examine other states (as opposed to independent experts on the convention committees), with each country in the world reporting and being examined during a 4-year cycle. This means a great degree of politics enters into the process – both as peer pressure and as unholy alliances between countries with shared interests. But it also gives great room for civil society to play a role: in submitting a shadow report with additional information, and in putting pressure on either the examined or the examining states to focus on the critical issues.

The information on which reviews are based includes:

a) Information prepared by the State concerned, which can take the form of a national report, and any other information considered relevant by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing. The written presentation summarizing the information shall not exceed 20 pages, and should be submitted six weeks prior to the session of the Working Group at which the specific review will take place. States are encouraged to prepare the information through a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders.

b) A compilation prepared by the OHCHR of the information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, including observations and comments by the State concerned, and other relevant official United Nations documents, which shall not exceed 10 pages;

c) Additional, credible and reliable information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the universal periodic review which should also be taken into consideration by the Council in the review, which will be summarized by the OHCHR in a document that shall not exceed 10 pages. Stakeholders include, inter alia, NGOs, NHRIs, Human rights defenders, Academic institutions and Research institutes, Regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives.

For more information on how to understand and use the potentials of UPR as an instrument to put pressure on the State, please visit the homepage of the UPR.

If you are looking for interesting links related to this topic, we recommend you search the database, which can be done either by country or by theme. Like the UN human rights committees, there are documents here from past sessions that can be used for “naming and shaming”, as these are all publically accessible. Again, it must also be stressed that these documents are the outcomes of a highly politicised UN process.

Looking to the future, it is particularly important for civil society to pay close attention whenever their country is due to be examined. You can find out when your country's turn is in the calendar. This is especially interesting as the process needs an input of data and this is an excellent opportunity for you to play a central role in organising the civil society of your country. As outlined above, the documents employed by the examining countries are threefold: the report of the country under review; the documents of the UN; and the submissions of National Human Rights Institutes and other stakeholders. The latter is where civil society can play an active role in mobilisation. Please therefore pay attention to the deadlines for submission and the technical guidelines.