Pre-sessions overview1. What is a "Pre-session"?
A Pre-session is a country-specific human rights conference. The Pre-sessions are organised by UPR Info and take place in Geneva.
2. How long is a Pre-session?
Each Pre-session lasts for one hour.
3. How many Pre-sessions are organised per series and when do they take place?
Each series of Pre-session mirrors the formal UPR session, i.e. the same 14 countries due to be reviewed at the UPR session will also be reviewed in the same series of Pre-sessions. The Pre-sessions are organised one month in advance of the formal Review at the Working Group. While there can be up to 14 countries reviewed at the Pre-sessions, there is normally an average of 10/11 countries reviewed at each series of Pre-sessions. This is because there needs to be a minimum amount of applications from civil society in order for a Pre-session to be organised. It is sometimes the case that for countries that are geographically isolated from Geneva, it is not always possible for civil society organisations (CSOs) to make the trip.
4. What is the format of a Pre-session?
Selected CSOs and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) join a panel in which they each present a different human rights theme affecting the State under Review (SuR). They then provide recommendations that they would like the Recommending States (RS) to make at the UPR. After all speakers have made their presentations, the panel's moderator asks follow up questions to the speakers, and then opens the floor to questions from the Permanent Missions in the audience.
5. What is the purpose of the Pre-sessions?
The Pre-session pursues two main objectives:
1) Supporting bottom-up advocacy at the UPR; The Pre-sessions serve as a unique sounding board for grassroots and national voices to bring their knowledge and expertise to the attention of the international community. Upon returning to their home countries after participating at the Pre-sessions, civil society speakers continue to maintain ownership in the next step of the UPR process, the crucial implementation phase.
2) Providing Permanent Missions with first-hand sources of information; The Pre-sessions represent a prime opportunity for Permanent Missions to save time by engaging with both national and international CSOs in a single forum. Rather than having to rely solely on the large quantity of UPR written submissions, the Pre-sessions bring the information to life by affording the RS the opportunity to hear the human right testimony first-hand.
3) Permanent Missions can also benefit from the specific and action-orientated UPR recommendations drafted by civil society that directly reflect the needs of the rights-holders.
6. Who can attend the Pre-sessions?
The Pre-sessions are open to all interested UPR stakeholders including States, CSOs, NHRIs, academics, media, and UN bodies. To apply for accreditation to access the Pre-sessions, applicants should contact presessionsupr-info.org.
7. Who from the diplomatic community attends the Pre-sessions?
UPR Info invites all the Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Geneva to attend the Pre-sessions. To date, 156 out of the 178 Permanent Missions located in Geneva have attended the Pre-sessions.
8. Does the State under Review attend its own Pre-session?
In the spirit of cooperation and transparency, UPR Info always invites the State under Review to attend its own Pre-session. The vast majority of SuRs are present at their Pre-session, offering an opportunity for dialogue between the State and its national civil society.
Participating at the Pre-sessions9. How can interested organisations apply to speak at the Pre-sessions?
UPR Info will launch a call for applications through its website and social media approximately three months before the next series of Pre-sessions. Interested parties should complete and submit the relevant application form, as well as a copy of the organisation's UPR submission, by email to UPR Info. Further information is available here.
10. Are all applicants guaranteed a place as a speaker?
Unfortunately, as the time for each Pre-session is limited to one hour, only five speakers can be accommodated on the panel. Therefore, it is not always possible to select all applicants organisations as panellist speakers.
11. How are speakers selected?
The speakers are selected according to an objective set of criteria, where priority is given on the following bases:
- Grassroots and national CSOs; because they ensure a bottom-up approach to advocacy, placing local voices at the forefront of international human rights dialogue;
- National coalitions; CSOs working in coalitions benefit from the collective knowledge of each of its members, as they often represent a large spectrum of human rights, and their engagement tends to be more sustainable;
- CSOs that have submitted a report to the UPR and are committed to engaging in the process, in particular in the implementation phase;
- A broad representation of the various human rights issues representing the concerns of the local population. In particular, a balance is sought amongst civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights; and
- Ensuring a gender perspective for each Pre-sessions; where possible, gender parity amongst panellists is also sought.
Each speaker has 5-7 minutes to deliver the presentation. This allows time for interactive dialogue between the panellists, moderators and Permanent Missions after the speakers' presentations have been delivered.
13. How should speakers prepare their presentations?
Each speaker will receive an exemplar statement from UPR Info that can serve as a good starting point to structure the intervention. In general, the following elements should be included:
1) Presentation of the organisation;
2) Succinct explanation as to whether national consultations took place for the drafting of the national report;
3) Brief presentation of the plan of the statement. Indicate the number of issues that will be raised and in which order;
4) Selection of issues: It is important to select a limited number of issues, as well as to break down the issues. Women, children, minorities, indigenous peoples etc. can contain several sub-issues such as violence, discrimination, trafficking, education, and many more. It is highly encouraged to use a Power Point presentation highlighting the main issues raised in a statement (i.e. suggested recommendations and questions)
For more detailed guidelines, see Chapter 8 in UPR Info Pre-sessions: Empowering human rights voices from the ground
14. In what languages are the Pre-sessions offered?
In general, to reflect the main languages of diplomacy in Geneva, English and French are the primary channels of communication at the Pre-sessions. UPR Info is normally able to provide French to English interpretation where needed. In cases where the majority of CSO and NHRI speakers of a particular country are unable to present in English or French, UPR Info will do its best to provide simultaneous interpretation from another language, if possible.
15. Are there many questions asked by the Permanent Missions?
The amount of questions that Permanent Missions raise depends to a great extent on the level of complexity of the human rights issues within the SuR.
16. What happens if I am not selected as a speaker?
If you are not selected as a speaker, you may nonetheless apply for accreditation to attend the Pre-sessions in the audience. By being present at the Pre-sessions, you can maximise the occasion to arrange to meet with the Permanent Missions that are in attendance at the Pre-sessions. You may also bring advocacy papers/UPR statements that UPR Info will display at the venue.
17. Is it safe to participate at the Pre-sessions?
In general, the Pre-sessions are conducted in a spirit of transparency and open discussion, where all States, including the SuR, attend with a genuine will to listen to civil society concerns. However, while cases of intimidation have been rare at the Pre-sessions, there have been situations where certain CSO participants were either physically or effectively prevented by State authorities from coming to Geneva to speak at the Pre-sessions. As the Pre-sessions are a public event, potential participants are strongly encouraged to evaluate carefully any potential repercussion their participation may trigger, and to share any concerns they may have with UPR Info. In addition, UPR Info advises all Pre-session participants to consult its Guidelines on Reprisals, available here.
Pre-sessions programme of events18. Are there other events organised in the same week, in addition to the conferences?
Yes! UPR Info offers two further events:
UPR Info organises a general training session on the UPR one day before the beginning of the Pre-sessions. The training enables participants to be guided through a wide range of UPR topics in preparation of the Pre-sessions, and broader advocacy strategies CSOs should adopt at different stages of the process. Participation is open to both civil society and NHRIs, including speakers and non-speakers.
During each series of Pre-sessions, UPR Info hosts an evening drinks reception, where Permanent Missions, NHRIs, national and international CSOs are all invited. The event offers an opportunity for participants to meet in an informal social setting to continue the discussion from the Pre-sessions.
Financial and logistical support to attend the Pre-sessions19. Does UPR Info offer financial support to CSOs/NHRIs to attend Pre-sessions?
UPR Info has limited funds to support a small number of CSOs from select countries. For more information on availability of funds, please contact UPR Info directly.
20. What financial resources are available to support participation at the Pre-sessions?
Organisations in need of financial support should consider reaching out to embassies/overseas development programmes of those countries that have made recommendations to the SuR. To help identify what States made recommendations to your SuR, please consult UPR Info's database.
21. How many days should participants plan to spend in Geneva for the Pre-sessions?
Based on the feedback of former participants, CSOs and NHRIs should plan to stay in Geneva for approximately three to four nights, if their financial resources so permit. The exact length of the stay should depend on the date of the country's Pre-session, and whether the organisation plans to participate in both the UPR training and the networking reception.
22. Is there any logistical support available to help participants arrange their trip to Geneva?
Kindly note that UPR Info is unable to make hotel bookings/Arrange other travel-related logistics for Pre-session participants. However, Participants who need to organise accommodations for the Pre-sessions are strongly encouraged to contact the Geneva Welcome Centre (Le Centre d'Accueil - Genève Internationale, "CAGI"). Within the CAGI, the Delegates Welcome Service supports CSO and NHRI delegates with many practical aspects of their stay in Geneva, including logistical support for planning of accommodation, and may grant financial aid to reduce the cost. Requests for financial aid are examined on a case-by-case basis.
Media briefing23. Can the media attend the Pre-sessions?
Absolutely. Interested media outlets can contact the Pre-sessions Programme Manager directly to arrange a media briefing.
Ms Ashleigh Shields
Pre-sessions Programme Manager
Tel.: +41 22 321 77 70
Further informationFor a detailed guide on participation at the Pre-sessions, including best practices and how to prepare, see UPR Info Pre-sessions: Empowering human rights voices from the ground.