The Human Rights Council (HRC) held from 25th to 29th of October the first session of the Open-ended Working Group on the review of its work and functioning.
After adopting the programme of work and holding a general discussion on the Work and Functioning of the Council in accordance with the General Assembly mandate on Monday, the Working Group moved on Tuesday to discuss the Universal Periodic Review. Giuliano Comba, head of UPR Unit at the OHCHR, presented the proposals of the Office to improve the UPR, inter alia: allocating a full day for each review; reviewing 13 States per three-week session over a five year cycle; clustering Working Group reports summaries of statements by issue rather than by delegation; making addendum 1 providing for responses to recommendations mandatory and clustering recommendations.
Following, States, National human rights institutions and NGOs took the floor to provide their inputs. The main issues debated were:
- Length of the cycle: some speakers wanted to move to a five year cycle others wanted to remain at four years.
- Gap between the first and second cycle: some speakers wanted a gap year while others did not.
- The organisation of the calendar of the UPR: many speakers called to have the plenary adoptions either grouped in a separate HRC session in September or after UPR Working Group sessions.
- Length of the review / speakers' list: almost all speakers agreed to extend the review to 4 hours or one day in order to allocate all States willing to speak to do so.
- Action-oriented and clustered recommendations: a large number of speakers called for action-oriented and thematically clustered recommendations.
- Clear response to recommendations: another broadly supported call was that each recommendation should receive a clear response in writing and in advance.
- Mid-term reports: presentation of mid-term reports was largely encouraged with some speakers wanting to make it mandatory.
- Second cycle: a small divergence was expressed between speakers who wanted the second cycle to focus primarily on the implementation of recommendations and those who wanted it to focus equally on the implementation of recommendations and the assessment of the human rights situation in the country.
- Role for NHRIs: many speakers wanted to give a greater role to NHRIs, either by allowing them to submit a fourth basis document or having a dedicated space in the OHCHR summary, by taking the floor at the Working Group review stage or by taking the floor immediately after the SuR at the plenary adoption stage.
- NGO participation: few States mentioned this issue but many NGOs did. They called for better inclusive national consultations and more speaking time and opportunities for non-ECOSOC accredited NGOs and videoconferencing participation at the plenary adoption.
- Technical assistance: the importance of technical assistance was underlined and many speakers called for the modalities of the Voluntary Trust Fund to be established and for the assistance in implementing recommendations to be strengthened.
On Friday, States, NHRIs and NGOs restated their position and reacted to other's proposals. At the end of the day, the HRC President presented a Compilation of States Proposals and a List of Stakeholders Contributions listing inputs on all issues made orally during the week.
The HRC President appointed His Excellency Mr. Omar Hilale, Ambassador of Morocco as facilitator on the UPR. Negotiations will continue over the coming weeks. The next stage of the review is the retreat in Bangkok in December organised by the President before the second session of the Working Group from 17th to 21st January 2011.