HRC continues discussion of the contribution of Parliaments to the Universal Periodic Review

During this 35th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), under Item 5, States discussed the contribution of parliaments to the work of both the HRC and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), whilst referring to last year’s panel discussion on the same topic.

By way of context, HRC resolution 30/14 (October 2015) called for a panel discussion aimed at identifying ways to further enhance the contribution of parliaments to the UPR. This event, funded by the Voluntary Trust Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the Implementation of the UPR, took place at the 32nd Session of the HRC, in June 2016. During the discussion, the panellists noted the growing international consensus regarding the importance of the role of parliaments in the promotion and protection of human rights. It was recognised that parliaments play a crucial role, and that 60-70% of UPR recommendations required or involved parliamentary action. However, the panel also identified that during the first and second cycles of the UPR, parties had failed to ensure significant parliamentary participation. Finally, parliaments that did not have specialised human rights committees were encouraged to establish such.

On 16 June 2017, during the Item 5 General Debate of the 35th Session of the HRC, Spain took the floor on behalf of a group of States to comment on the outcomes of the panel discussion. They reiterated the crucial role parliaments have in the protection of human rights as they are responsible for passing human rights sensitive legislation and ensuring the implementation of recommendations from the different human rights mechanisms. Spain noted the progressive incorporation of parliamentarians to UPR delegations, their contribution to national reporting, and other good practices. Spain also welcomed the development of a cooperative relationship with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in a hope this could enhance capacity building.

Spain was, however, keen to address two main shortcomings with current processes, by highlighting the need for:

  • Parliamentarians to gain expertise in order to be involved in the national HR arena; and
  • Parliaments to effectively oversee human rights policies.

Thus, the core group of States presented a new text to the 35th Session of the HRC, calling for a collaboration between the OHCHR and the IPU to prepare a study that would provide guidance and orientation to States on how to bridge existing gaps between, and explore ways to improve engagement of, parliaments and parliamentarians at the UPR.

Resolution A/HRC/35/L.24, sanctioning a study on the role of parliaments, was adopted on 22 June 2017 by consensus. The Resolution calls on the IPU to present the findings of said study during the 38th Session of the HRC (June 2018), under the same Item 5.

UPR Info prioritises the importance of bringing all stakeholders to the UPR, to ensure the mechanism is effective, and this includes parliamentarians. In our publication, The Butterfly Effect, we share a number of good practices regarding multistakeholder engagement, including parliament’s role to ensure a sustainable full UPR cycle.

Read Resolution A/HRC/35/L.24.