After the adoption of the reports of the twelfth Working Group session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), concluding the 1st cycle of the UPR, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held, on the 16th of March 2012, its usual general debate under item 6. Both members and observer States, as well as NGOs, discussed several issues on the UPR, including: general outcomes of the 1st cycle, follow-up and reporting under Item 6, as well as the upcoming 2nd reviews.
As the first cycle ended with 100% participation, the vast majority of States, such as Pakistan (on behalf of the OIC), the Russian Federation, the United States of America (USA), Cuba, Bangladesh, Uruguay, Morocco, affirmed the success of the 1st cycle of the UPR. The Russian Federation characterised the UPR “a unique mechanism”, and argued that its effectiveness is guaranteed by the universal and voluntary participation of States, as well as by the depoliticised and constructive dialogue carried out in the framework of the mechanism. Additionally, the USA affirmed the overall success of the UPR, and argued that the mechanism has motivated stakeholders in every country, and has increased the involvement of civil society.
On the other hand, Pakistan, although it recognised the success of the UPR, expressed its concern regarding the overwhelming number of recommendations. On the same note, the United States of America voiced its disappointment regarding the Working Group reports of Libya and Syria, characterising them as “a fictional account of the state of human rights in those countries”.
Follow-up and reporting under Item 6
Many of the States, such as Moldova, Hungary, Czech Republic, Uruguay, and Colombia presented their progress in improving the human rights situation in their country, and in implementing some of the recommendations received during their review, while Spain, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Sudan and Portugal informed the Council of their submissions of Mid-Term reports.
Denmark, taking the floor on behalf of the European Union (EU), encouraged the production of clear implementation plans, and the voluntary submission of interim reports. Moreover, Spain suggested sharing best practices on the follow-up of the implementation of recommendations, while the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie informed the Council of the organisation of three international seminars on the UPR and the follow-up, and Colombia proposed the voluntary establishment by all States of follow-up mechanisms for the implementation of recommendations. Additionally, the Council of Europe stressed the importance of implementation, and congratulated the Office of the High Commissioner, as well as the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, for organising UPR workshops on strengthening national implementation of recommendations. Finally, Morocco stated that one third of the Voluntary Fund’s 1,4 million dollars were contributed by itself, and emphasised, along with the Republic of Korea, the need for financial and technical assistance in the process of implementation, since, as the latter argued , implementation requires time, resources, and commitment.
Many of the statements made by States and NGOs focused on the issue of recommendations. Algeria, taking the floor on behalf of 40 countries, informed the Council of their commitment to exercise restraint on the number of recommendations, to a maximum of two per state. As far as the quality of the recommendations is concerned, the same countries committed to submitting “precise, practical, constructive, forward-looking, and implementable” ones, and encouraged the grouping of identical recommendations, as it would help states in managing the high volume of recommendations received. Denmark, on behalf of the EU, expressed its support to the efforts made for recommendations to be pertinent, meaningful, and useful, while the International Service for Human Rights also proposed that recommendations should be SMART- Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Together with the Action Canada for Population and Development, they also emphasised the importance of not neglecting the rejected recommendations in the second cycle. In addition to that, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik suggested that the review should focus more on issues that are not covered by treaty bodies, while Denmark (on behalf of the EU) argued that “the Council must remain flexible to address new issues as they arise”.
Finally, many countries, such as the USA, Cuba, Morocco, and Denmark (on behalf of the EU), praised the new modalities of the second cycle, such as the increase of the list of speakers, the stronger role of National Human Rights Institutions, and the use of video conference to allow participation from the field.