Universal Periodic Review
The Human Rights Council (HRC) was established in 2006 to replace the ineffective and over-politicized Human Rights Committee. It consists of 47 Member States of the United Nations, and unfortunately does stand the risk of becoming much like its predecessor.
One key difference between the HRC and its predecessor is that the Council is to "undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment 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. "
The information on which reviews are to based includes:
- 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.
- Additionally 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.
- Additional, credible and reliable information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the universal periodic 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. (OHCHR, 2008)
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.
For further information, 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 highly-politicised UN processes.
More importantly and with an eye to the future, do pay very close attention to when your country is due to be examined. This information can be found in the calendar as well as in the agenda for each session. This is particularly interesting as the process needs an input of data and here you can play a central role in organising the civil society of your country. 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 space given to other stakeholders is the one in which civil society can play an active role in mobilisation. Please therefore pay close attention to the deadlines for submission and the technical guidelines.