First session of the Working Group - 25-29 October 2010
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 29th, 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.
A revised version of the Compilation of States proposals was released on November 16th and those proposals were divided into three specific categories:
- Concrete proposals;
- Cross-cutting and other proposals and
- Other issues on which differences exist as to whether they fall within the purview of the review in Geneva and require further determination on which the President will consult with States.
The Concrete proposals were divided into five issues: Universal Periodic Review; Special Procedures; Advisory Committee and Complaint Procedure; Agenda and Framework for a Programme of work and Methods of Work and Rules of Procedure. For each issue, a facilitator was nominated. H. E. Mr. Omar Hilale, Ambassador of Morocco, held informal consultations on 11, 15 and 18 November on the UPR.
For the two other categories of proposals, the President will hold a consultation on November 22nd.
Please see here the calendar of meetings.
First UPR informal consultation - 11 November 2010
On November 11 was held the first of the three informal consultations organised by H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale, Ambassador of Morocco and facilitator on the UPR. Following the 1st session of the Working Group on the review held from 25 to 29 October, the President of the Human Rights Council (HRC) nominated five facilitators to lead negotiations on: the UPR, Special Procedures, Advisory Committee and Complaint Procedure, Methods of Work and Rules of Procedures and Agenda and Programme of Work. Each facilitator organised informals in November to further discuss their issue and try to identify convergences.
Prior to the first informal consultation, the facilitator circulated a list of “Issues to be discussed” to guide the discussions. During the informal, he presented issue by issue the main proposals made at the 1st session of the Working Group contained in the Compilation of States proposals and then asked delegations to react to each other’s proposals and not restate their positions.
Eight points were discussed during this first informal consultation:
- Basis, principles and objectives of the UPR
- When to apply changes to the UPR
- Order of review
- Gap between first and second cycles
- Other proposals
- Consider whether the footnote in 5/1 about the review post 1st cycle should be maintained or whether this present review should be the only one
- Give equal time to each country
- Give particular attention to least developed country, landlocked countries, small islands countries and take into account specific consideration:
- Ensuring that the UPR is not only used as a tool to identify problems but also to share best practices
- Focus of second and subsequent cycles
The divergence on this issue was that some speakers believed that the second and subsequent cycles should focus primarily on the implementation of recommendations and that others believe it should focus equally on the developments in the human rights situation and the implementation of recommendations. Egypt on behalf of NAM and the Russian Federation belonged to the first group whereas Belgium on behalf of the EU, Mexico, Liechtenstein, the United States, Japan and Argentina belonged to the second one.
- Reports of the second and subsequent cycles
Second UPR informal consultation - 15 November 2010
On November 15 was held the second of the three informal consultations organised by H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale, Ambassador of Morocco and facilitator on the UPR. The first one was held on the 11th and the third one on the 18th.
The Facilitator continued to follow his list of “Issues to be discussed” and presented issue by issue the main proposals made at the 1st session of the Working Group contained in the Compilation of States proposals and then asked delegations to react to each other’s proposals and not restate their positions.
Four points were discussed during this second informal consultation:
- Guidelines for the reports of the second and subsequent cycles
The discussion on this issue took two different tracks: those of the view that the existing guidelines for those three reports, HRC Decision 6/102, were sufficient and simply needed to be updated and those believing that new guidelines were necessary.
For Belgium, on behalf of the EU, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the existing guidelines were sufficient and the three documents should have the same guidelines. Thailand and Iran called for guidelines for the 2nd and 3rd report. Egypt was open to adopt the existing guidelines.
France, Thailand, the Russian Federation, Egypt on behalf of NAM, the United States, Brazil, the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) and ISHR suggested the OHCHR summary of stakeholders information contain a dedicated section to NHRI. Algeria was against.
- The interactive dialogue
All speakers supported the extension of the interactive dialogue. Liechtenstein, Egypt, Civicus, ISHR suggested that the SuR could have more time. However, France, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Moldova stated that the extension of the three hours could be done within a four year cycle. Germany, the United Kindgom, ISHR and the ICC supported A status NHRI to take the floor at the interactive dialogue while Nigeria, Egypt and Indonesia insisted on the intergovernmental nature of the working group.
Nigeria, the Russian Federation and Cuba specified that the SuR was not required to respond to all recommendations.
The Secretariat took the floor to precise that an extension to four hours would not be sufficient to accommodate all speakers and recommended instead to dedicated one day per State.
- List of speakers
- Voluntary Trust Fund for Participation
Third UPR informal consultation - 18 November 2010
On November 18 was held the third of the three informal consultations organised by H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale, Ambassador of Morocco and facilitator on the UPR. The two first ones were held on the 11th and the 15th.
The facilitator continued to follow his list of “Issues to be discussed” and presented issue by issue the main proposals made at the 1st session of the Working Group contained in the Compilation of States proposals and then asked delegations to react to each other’s proposals and not restate their positions.
Nine points were discussed during this third informal consultation:
- Recommendations of the second and subsequent cycles
On formulation of recommendations:
- Formulate new ones or re-use previous ones.
- Develop guidelines for formulation
- Establish limit for the number of recommendations
- Let a State make recommendations on behalf of other States
- Alert the HRC when a recommendation is outside international standards
- The troika could cluster recommendations by theme with the agreement of the SuR and the help of the Secretariat
- Establish criteria for clustering
- Take into account recommendations from States which could not take the floor
On responses to recommendations: present an addendum to the final report containing precise responses to all recommendations or remain with the possibility to accept or note recommendations.
Most speakers supported the clustering of recommendations. A precision was brought by different States that it was understood as a simple clustering and not an editing of the recommendations. Armenia, Belgium, Mexico and France supported the addendum with clear responses to all recommendations. France, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada proposed to include experts to check conformity of recommendations with international human rights law. Egypt and the Philippines opposed to this inclusion of experts.
- Role of the Troika
Egypt, the Philippines, Brazil, Botswana and Viet Nam wanted to maintain the role of the troika as it is now. Mexico and Belgium, on behalf of the EU, suggested strengthening it.
- Role of OHCHR and other stakeholders
On NHRIs and NGOs the proposals were: to keep the same role or to broaden the role such as giving the floor at the interactive dialogue and more time at the adoption and give the floor to NHRIs just after the SuR.
As for experts the main idea was to include them on a voluntary basis.
Mexico suggested that the OHCHR could play a role in identifying the need for international cooperation to assist states in connecting need and resources. This was supported by Brazil, Egypt and the Philippines.
Civicus and ISHR called for greater speaking time for NHRIs and NGOs at the adoption, participation of non-ECOSOC accredited NGOs and the possibility for video-conferencing.
- Adoption of outcome
There was a wide convergence to increase the time allocated to the adoption. Germany, Lebanon and Egypt wanted to give more time to the SuR while France and Brazil more time to NHRIs and NGOs. France and Egypt were open to the two options put forward for the calendar while Norway and the United Kingdom were not in favour of the September HRC session dedicated to adoptions. Brazil and Argentina suggested using video-conferencing for the participation of NHRIs and NGOs and Algeria was against.
- Implementation of recommendations
- Follow-up by the SuR: there was three proposals made at the Working Group stage: ask States to make report on the need for technical assistance; continue consultations with the civil society ; create regional Rapporteurs.
- Drafting guidelines for the follow-up ;
- Dealing with cases of non cooperation by the SuR.
Japan, Belgium on behalf of the EU supported the idea of an implementation plan. Mid-term reporting should be mandatory for Belgium on behalf of the EU, Civicus and Austria and remain voluntary for the Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria, Cuba and China. Civicus and Germany stressed the need for the follow-up to include the civil society.
- Mid-term reporting
- Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance
- Role of OHCHR and other UN mechanisms
Algeria and Cuba were reluctant to give more role to other UN mechanisms, notably UN resident coordinators and stated that the follow-up should be made by States. The United Kingdom responded to those concerns by suggesting adopting broad terms when referring to the role of UN country teams and resident coordinators.
Brazil put forward the idea of the OHCHR to play the role of a clearing house for UPR recommendations.
UPR facilitator’s summary of informal consultations - 3 December 2010
Human Rights Council (HRC) President organised Friday 3 December a meeting to discuss Part 2 and Part 3 of the Compilation of States proposals issued after the first HRC review Working Group session. Following these discussions, the five facilitators presented a summary of the informal consultations held over the last three weeks.
H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale, facilitator on the UPR, started to present the points of convergence drawn from the three informal consultations:
- To maintain the Basis, principles and objectives of the UPR ;
- To maintain the order of review of the first cycle;
- To maintain the content and focus of the reports of the second cycle;
- To cluster recommendations;
- To dedicate a part of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) summary of stakeholders’ information to National Human Rights Institution;
- To keep the voluntary nature of mid-term reports;
- To strengthen the voluntary fund for developing countries and technical assistance for States requesting it;
- To underline the central role of the OHCHR in coordinating technical assistance.
Issues needing more consultations led to three “informal informals” with regional coordinators and some delegations. Those consultations enabled to bring positions closer and reduce divergences. Convergences were found on the following points:
- To add one hour to the interactive dialogue while keeping the same proportionality between the State under Review and other States.
- To increase the plenary adoption time of half-an-hour while keeping the same proportionality between the State under Review, States and other stakeholders.
Concerning the periodicity, a compromise between 4 and 5 years was suggested: 4,5 years with 14 sessions of 14 reviews each.
The plenary adoption being linked to the agenda and the programme of work, the facilitator explained that he was working in close cooperation with the concerned facilitator.
As for the gap between the first and second cycle, there should be no need for it if the guidelines for the second cycle reports are concluded by September 2011 and if the second cycle starts after March 2012.
Finally, H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale announced that a solution would soon be put forward for the list of speakers for the three last sessions and if it is accepted, it will be kept for the second cycle.
Bangkok Retreat - 8-10 December 2010
The Human Rights Council (HRC) held an "Ambassadorial retreat" in Bangkok, Thailand, from 8 to 10 December 2010 in the framework of the HRC review.
Ambassadors of Permanent missions in Geneva as well as National human rights institutions (NHRI) and ECOSOC accredited non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were invited by the HRC President and Ambassador of Thailand H.E. Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow to continue the discussions on the review before the second session of the Open-ended Working Group to be held in February.
The "Retreat" started on Wednesday 8 afternoon by an Opening remarks by H.E. Mr Theerakun Niyom, Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and followed by an introduction by H.E. Mr. Sihasak Phuangketkeow.
The latter stated that the "Bangkok Retreat" was an occasion to brainstorm in order to see the way forward clearer. Despite the fact that the occasion was not for making decisions, he hoped that delegations would be able to go beyond their talking points. He announced that the outcome of this review should be a supplement to the Institutional Building Package resolution 5/1 and that facilitators will work on the texts for this supplement. In addition to this supplement, the outcome will contain a summary of the discussions to be sent to New York reflecting the key issues discussed, the agreements reached and perhaps the issues where views did not converge as well as the overlapping issues between Geneva and New-York. Finally, he hoped that this work could be completed in March 2011 so New York could complete the review in July.
Following this introduction, the five facilitators made briefings on the state of discussions on their respective issues. H.E. Mr. Omar Hilale, facilitator on the UPR, made a very thorough and detailed PowerPoint presentation on the degree of acceptability of each proposal made so far, based on the discussions held during the three informal consultations and the three “informal informals”.
For each proposal, a colour was given reflecting the degree of acceptability:
- Green for issues upon which there was a large convergence of views
- Orange for issues that required further discussions
- Red for issues with deep divergences
See the PowerPoint presentation here.
On Thursday, States and stakeholders engaged in a "General discussion" on "Expectations from the HRC review process in Geneva: what do we seek to achieve in enhancing the work and function of the Council and what are the key issues". Statements were of general nature and rarely touched upon concrete points of discussions of the review. Most speakers stressed the importance of the UPR as a new human rights mechanism and touched upon the issue of country situation.
In total, eight NHRIs and NGOs took the floor during this General discussion: Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Conectas Direitos Humanos, Democracy Coalition Project, East and Horn of African Human Rights Defenders Project, Human Rights Watch, International Disability Alliance, International Service for Human Rights and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.
CHRI dedicated its statement to the UPR. It was based on discussions held with NGOs previously and followed the topics of the three discussions to be held by Ambassadors on Friday and described below. The statement is available here.
On Friday, the meeting was closed to the other stakeholders while Ambassadors discussed in three sessions the following questions:
- "How to make the Council be more effective and efficient, maximize time and resources we have and improve the culture of work?"
- "How can the Council make more impact on the ground?"
- "How to deal with the country specific/emergency situation in a more cooperative, constructive and timely manner?"
At the end of the day, the HRC President held a briefing with the other stakeholders to summarize them the discussions.
On the first question, the President explained that Ambassadors discussed the number of sessions, the interactive dialogues, the number of resolutions, the agenda of the HRC and the number of reports presented by Special Procedures mandate holders.
The second question was mainly concerning the UPR and technical cooperation. Delegates touched upon the following points: how to ensure implementation and follow-up at the UPR; how to mainstream human rights at the United Nations, underlining the role of the UPR and of the UN Countries Teams in this regard; what capacities have countries to implement human rights at the national level and finally the importance of highlighting the visibility of the HRC on the ground.
On the third question, were debated the issues of tools at hands to address country situations: the trigger mechanisms; the role of the President; the early warning mechanisms (Special procedures, group of experts, UPR?) and technical cooperation.