States are the primary actor of the UPR when they are reviewed, but they also have a great role to play in the process when reviewing other States. In this context, the success of the UPR relies not only on the States under Review, but also on the “recommending States”. A full and active participation of the highest number of States is crucial to the effectiveness of the mechanism. The UPR process in Geneva contains several stages and the Recommending State should engage in each of them. They can participate in the UPR process before the review takes place in Geneva, during the Working Group session and after it.
The second UPR cycle focuses on the development in the human rights situation since the last review and on the assessment of the level of implementation of previous recommendations. Each recommending State is responsible for enquiring about the implementation status of the recommendations it previously made and for questioning the State under Review about it. New recommendations should always be linked to those made in the previous reviews. If a recommendation has not been implemented, it should then be repeated, followed by the phrase "as recommended previously". This is important to ensure the accountability of the State under Review and to strengthen the cyclical nature of the mechanism. Read more about this in our study underlining the lack of links between first and second cycle recommendations.
Before the UPR, three documents, 1) the national report submitted by the State under Review 2) the compilation of information from the UN 3) the summary of reports submitted by civil society, are available on the OHCHR website aproximately six weeks before the review itself (UPR Info also provides them on its country pages). These documents provide information about the human rights situation, including progress and challenges, since the last review. It is necessary for recommending States to read them in order to have a clear understanding of the human rights in the countries under review.
In order to prepare the statement on a country under review, States can meet with national and international civil society organisations to collect information about the human rights situation in the country and about the level of implementation of the previous recommendations. To find out the recommendations made during the previous review, check our database.
States can also attend UPR Info’s "Pre-sessions" in Geneva, Switzerland. One month before the review, we organise a one-hour meeting on the State under Review and give the floor to national and international NGOs to brief Permanent Missions about the human rights situation in the country. This allows States to receive first-hand and comprehensive information on countries and meet several NGOs at once.
States can, before the review, submit questions to the State under Review (SuR). These written questions have to be transmitted to OHCHR Secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least ten working days before the day of the review. Written questions can be an opportunity to ask about the level of implementation of the recommendations made at the previous review, or to ask for clarification about a specific human rights problem.
The troika is a group of three UN Member States that assist the State under Review. The three States can still participate in the Working Group session as normal, but the troika representatives have two main roles: (1) receive all advance questions and relay them to the State under Review and (2) help to prepare the report of the WG with the assistance of the UN Secretariat and the State under Review. One troika member is in charge of introducing the list of recommendations before its adoption in the Working Group.
The review in the Working Group consists of a 3,5h interactive dialogue between the SuR and United Nations Member States. In total, 140 minutes are given to the latter. Every State willing to speak on a specific review is able to do so. The 140 minutes are divided by the number of States interested in taking the floor. Recommending States must register to speak at the reviews. Registration opens at 10:00 am on the Monday and closes at 6:00 pm on the Thursday during the week prior to the Working Group session. A registration desk is installed in Palais des Nations and the OHCHR Secretariat notifies Permanent Missions of its location. It is important to register during those four days, otherwise States will not be allowed to take the floor.
The lists of speakers for the 14 reviews of a given Working Group session open the week before the beginning of the session and States have four days to register. Then, each list is arranged in English alphabetical order and the HRC President chooses the first speaker by lot. The list continues from that speaker in alphabetical order. States are able to swap place on the list. Those wishing to withdraw from a list have to inform the Secretariat at least 30 minutes before the beginning of the review to allow the latter to recalculate the speaking time provided to each delegation. If a Recommending State is not present when it is due to speak, it may be possible to speak at the end of the review (the OHCHR Secretariat should be informed if this is the case).
During the Working Group session, the Recommending States take the floor to read their prepared statements. Unless already submitted to the OHCHR Secretariat in electronic form, Recommending States should bring an additional copy of the statement for officers of conference services and interpreters. It should be noted that any recommendations that are not read in the room will not be included in the Working Group report.
After the review of a State in the Working Group, the list of recommendations is finalised by the Secretariat with the support of the troika. Recommending States might be approached during the 48 hours pursuing the review by the troika to confirm the language in the recommendations. Changes to those recommendations can only be made orally at the adoption and will not be accepted afterwards. The adoption of the list of recommendations lasts 30 minutes for each country. The final full draft report, including the adopted recommendation section, is distributed by the OHCHR Secretariat one week after the end of the UPR Working Group session. Recommending States can notify the OHCHR Secretariat about any errors to their statement summary within one week by writing to email@example.com.
The final step in Geneva, before the implementation period begins, is for the HRC to officially adopt the Working Group report during a plenary session. During the adoption of the report, recommending States must check if the summary of their statement contained in the report is accurately reflected and if the recommendations they made have been included with the correct wording:
- Editorial changes to summaries of statements should be brought by writing to the Secretariat (uprstates [at] ohchr.org) within two weeks after the end of the Working Group session.
- Changes to recommendations can be brought solely orally during the adoption of the Report at the Working Group stage.
During the adoption of the report at the Human Rights Council session stage, States can use this opportunity to ask for responses to recommendations or clarifications on them.
The adoption only lasts for one hour per country, divided in three segments of 20 minutes between the State under Review, civil society and Recommending States. Registration for the latters begins on Monday of the week before the UPR segment of the HRC session and is open until Thursday. The list of speakers is in alphabetical order, with the first speaker drawn by lot and the list proceeding alphabetically from that point. The speaking time for each speaker depends on the number of States registered, but with a minimum of 90 seconds each, which usually allows for 13 States to take the floor. If time is left, States beyond the 13th on the list are given the floor within the 20 minutes.
Recommending States take the floor at the adoption of the final Working Group report in the HRC in order to:
- Ask for clarification of the State under Review´s responses to recommendations;
- Express regret or concern that certain recommendations that the State under Review has wrongfully indicated as "already implemented or in the process of implementation" and
- Encourage implementation of recommendations.
The Recommending State can also express its readiness to assist the State under Review with the implementation of specific recommendations.
The final Working Group report is always adopted by the HRC by consensus.
Through their embassies, development agencies and local partners, States should monitor the implementation of the recommendations they made. When needed and possible, they should provide support, financial or technical, to the Government and other actors such as civil society in this regard.
Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré