"Beyond promises", a study and a side event to assess the impact of the UPR

On Friday, 31st October 2014, UPR Info hosted a side event to launch its latest report titled "Beyond promises". With this report, UPR Info addresses the question of the usefulness of the mechanism: is the UPR really worth it? "Beyond promises" highlights the impact of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism on the ground and gives examples of best practices for states, civil society, and national and international institutions.

The event was an opportunity to discuss how to better implement the UPR recommendations. The panel was comprised of Mr. Roland Chauville (UPR Info), Ms. Kira Youdina (UPR Info), H.E. Mr. Jamshed Khamidov (Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Tajikistan), Ms. Harriet Berg (Minister-Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Norway), Mr. Alberto Gimenez (First Secretary of the General Human Rights Unit of Paraguay), and two representatives of civil society organisations: Ms. Jennifer Philpot-Nissen (World Vision) and Mr. Vincent Ploton (CCPR Centre).

In her opening remarks Ms. Berg stressed the importance of the UPR and how it has empowered civil society. She pointed out UPR’s main challenge: the gap between norms and reality, namely the “implementation gap”. Ms. Berg commended UPR Info’s work, especially, for being a point of contact between stakeholders and she established UPR Info as the "leading institution on the UPR process in Geneva".

Kira Youdina, UPR Info’s Programmes Manager, proceeded to present the publication that came out of the follow-up programme, which started in 2011. For the purpose of the report, States under review, UN agencies, NHRIs and civil society organisations (CSOs) were contacted for information in between two UPRs. She explained the methodology of work, and how UPR Info  has obtained its main finding: at mid-term, 48% of recommendations have been either partially or fully implemented. Another finding of the report is that even noted recommendations are implemented, as by mid-term, 19% of them have triggered an action by the government.

Three elements are essential to the effective implementation of recommendations: coordination, collaboration and communication. Coordination can be done by means of matrixes, national plans of action or databases, as that of Paraguay. Collaboration implies working with all stakeholders, both national and international, in order to make the implementation a sustainable reality. In regards of communication, States should share best practices, implementation plans, etc. Mid-term reports are a good way to let other partners and the international community know what the government has done so far.

One should keep in mind that the implementation does not only concern the State under Review, since other actors – CSOs, recommending states and UN agencies – can help in the implementation process. In the United Kingdom and Morocco for instance, civil society members and the Parliament worked together on the implementation of the recommendations received. Recommending states and UN agencies can also assist States under Review by providing resources and expertise.

In order to give living examples, the representatives from Tajikistan and Paraguay then presented their national strategies and shared their experience on that matter. In Tajikistan, a national plan of action was adopted in consultation with NGOs and with the financial support of non-governmental bodies. The country also submitted a mid-term report to demonstrate its commitment to comply with the recommendations. In Paraguay, another approach was taken as the government, with the assistance of the UN High Commissioner in Paraguay and the contribution of CSOs, set up a database. The aim of this database - which is open to all stakeholders - is to monitor the implementation of the recommendations as well as prioritise their action.

World Vision International and the CCPR Centre were also invited to present their own experience with the UPR. World Vision (an NGO focused on the rights of the child) had two points of concern: the lack of adequate data and the difficulties to obtain an invitation from states to participate in the drafting of the national report. Nevertheless, World Vision had a positive attitude towards the UPR and shared a good experience: the organization managed to bring children from Albania to Geneva to meet Mission Representatives and speak about violence against them at the UPR Info's pre-session of Albania; this had a strong impact as some recommending states picked up the recommendations suggested and changes were subsequently made at the national level.

As for CCPR Centre, Mr. Ploton highlighted that the UPR is an opportunity to cover issues not handled by the Human Rights Committee. According to Mr. Ploton, the recommendations made by treaty bodies experts can be disseminated at the UPR, revealing how intertwined the two mechanisms are. He also stated that CSOs can still have an opportunity to make progress through collaboration to ensure the monitoring of the recommendations.  To prove this point he presented his experience in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the organisation collaborated with CSOs before, during and after the UPR.  This was done in order to ensure their input was taken into account and that a follow-up on the implementation was established.

In conclusion, the constructive exchange between the panellists and the audience made this side event a success and supported the findings of UPR Info's new study "Beyond promises", namely that the UPR does have a promising impact on the ground.

To learn more about best practices and experiences, download the study “Beyond promises”