CSOs offer critical human rights insights during UPR Info Pre-sessions

The 11th round of UPR Info Pre-sessions was held on 7 – 9 October 2015, ahead of the 23rd UPR Working Group (2-13 November 2015). CSOs and NHRIs from 10 States presented an update on the human rights situation on the ground to members of the international community, including Permanent Missions, international CSOs, and Government officials that had travelled from the State capitals (Nepal and Mauritania) to be present at the event.
 
The three-day international human rights conference was opened by UPR Info President, Miloon Kothari, who reiterated the importance of civil society engagement with the UPR stating: “we [UPR Info] believe that NGOs should be able to speak publicly about human rights, free from any reprisals”. Mr. Kothari also spoke to the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and expressed that “a strong link should be built between the SDGs and the UPR [as] the SDGs represent a real opportunity to advance economic, social and cultural rights ... and will provide better opportunities to raise these issues at the UPR”.
 
The latest round of Pre-sessions presented a key opportunity for discussions and dialogue on both the current human rights situation and the implementation of the first cycle of UPR recommendations in each of the 10 States. The conference enabled civil society and NHRIs to update diplomatic missions and State Government officials on a variety of human rights issues, specifically informing those present of the Governments actions since making international human rights commitments in 2011.
 
From Wednesday to Friday the conference hosted CSOs from Rwanda, Nepal, Georgia, Myanmar, Lebanon, Mauritania, Australia, Oman, Austria, and Naura, with an average of 32 Permanent Missions attending each State Pre-session. 45 CSOs were given the floor, with the vast majority of them representing grassroot organisations and CSO coalitions. UPR Info selected the panellists in order to ensure the representation of as many CSOs as possible and also the inclusion of a wide variety of human rights issues during the conference. In less than one month’s time, these States, alongside Micronesia, Sao Tome and Principe, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia, will undergo their second-cycle UPR review.
 
Some of the recurring themes raised during the international human rights conference included: limitations to freedom of assembly and association, the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, women’s rights, the rights of the child, and LGBTI rights. National and international CSOs alike raised concerns over the lack of implementation of the accepted recommendations since the 2011 UPR. There were numerous calls for more specific action-orientated recommendations, as well as reiteration of holding States accountable for the commitments that are yet to be met by the states. Nevertheless, the majority of CSOs recognised the positive steps taken by their States in improving the human rights promotion and protection. The panellists further discussed the areas in which they still have concerns, proposing specific recommendations for the recommending States to take forward to the UPR in November.  
 
Looking ahead, the 23rd UPR working group will take place on 2 – 13 November, and we are hoping to see many recommendations that have been influenced by the proposals from CSOs at the latest round of Pre-sessions. December will see the 12th round of Pre-sessions for States taking undergoing their UPR at the 24th Working Group in January/February.  More details to follow shortly.