HRC holds panel discussion on technical cooperation at the UPR

On 21st March 2012, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held its first annual discussion on technical cooperation. Initiated by resolution 18/18, adopted in September 2011, the first theme selected was the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The list of panellists included Ms Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Shireen Said, a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) policy advisor, H.E. Ridha Bouabid, Permanent Representative of the Organisation Internationale de La Francophonie (OIF) to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Ms Etta Rosales, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of the Philippines and Mr Victor Bwire, from the Kenya stakeholders coalition for the UPR.

All the panellists, as well as the moderator of the discussion, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN in Geneva, pronounced the 1st UPR cycle a success, and emphasised the importance of the implementation of accepted recommendations in the second review. As the High Commissioner stated, the second cycle constitutes a challenge, and an opportunity to confirm the mechanism's success, which can be achieved only if the States prepare for their next review by producing Mid-Term reports and adopting concrete action plans. The High Commissioner also noted that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is integrating the UPR recommendations to its strategies, and is developing ways to assist States, by inducing the dissemination of information regarding the UPR, creating tools to facilitate participation, introducing creative initiatives regarding the implementation of the UPR recommendations, responding to requests for assistance, and supporting the participation of all stakeholders.

The UNDP policy advisor emphasised the importance of mutual reinforcement of human rights and development, and argued that linking the UPR with the Millennium Goals can ensure more effective outcomes. She added that UNDP has so far supported several national and regional UPR processes, and has held three regional meetings in partnership with the OHCHR on the follow-up. Those meetings aimed at formulating UNDP's Global Strategy to Support States' participation at the UPR.

The OIF stated that it has already held three international seminars regarding the implementation of recommendations, arguing that the role of the NGOs in the implementation phase should not be neglected, as many of them have produced Mid-Term reports, and underlined that "the UPR is a process and not an event".

The chairperson of the NHRC of Philippines, informed the Council of the production of action plans for all the treaty bodies and the UPR, and referred to the comprehensive monitoring of all international human rights obligations, and to the national consultations in preparation of the second national report. Finally, the representative of the Kenya stakeholders coalition for the UPR, emphasised the significance of raising awareness regarding the mechanism, and informed the Council of the production of an annual report, reviewing the implementation of UPR recommendations by Kenya, which can be found on our website. The coalition also stated that it assisted Kenya in prioritising the recommendations, and drawing up an implementation plan.

Apart from the panellists, thirty-four speakers took the floor, emphasising the importance of the implementation phase of the UPR. Many of the states, such as Pakistan (on behalf of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference), Senegal (on behalf of the African Group), Mauritania (on behalf of the Arab Group), Chile, Costa Rica, Qatar, and Honduras, emphasised the importance of, and the need for technical assistance and cooperation in order to achieve the implementation of UPR recommendations. In more details, Senegal stated that developing countries need technical and financial assistance more than ever, while Qatar focused on the Arab region and the challenges faced because of/ in the aftermath of the Arab spring.

Furthermore, States shared best practices, made suggestions for the improvement of cooperation, and expressed their willingness to offer assistance to other countries. The European Union expressed its commitment to providing assistance, while Mexico stated that it was ready to share with others its experience and knowledge in electoral management. Additionally, Mauritius suggested the development of proper human rights indicators and informed the Council of a project proposal sent to the OHCHR, while Austria proposed forming a link between development and human rights, a proposal that was warmly welcomed by the UNDP policy advisor.

Some of the states also gave an overview of their strategy in implementing the recommendations. For instance, the United States of America emphasised that the UPR is an on-going, daily tool for them, and informed the Council that they have divided the recommendations received in ten thematic categories and have created working groups for their implementation. Additionally, Switzerland stated that the drafting of the second report should be made in a collaborative manner with the participation of all States' services and of civil society, and it also emphasised the importance of regular meetings, the production of Mid-Term reports, and the dissemination of information through an independent website. Finally, Japan proposed that each state should make a plan of implementation, specifying for which recommendations it would require assistance in their implementation, and making the relevant requests.

Finally, in reference to the Voluntary Fund, the Maldives, expressed their deep disappointment on the assistance given to them and to other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and questioned the OHCHR's rejection of their proposal. Additionally, Senegal, as the representative of the African group, claimed that the Voluntary Fund did not live up to its promise, and emphasised the bureaucratic difficulties related to receiving financial assistance, while Ecuador called for an expansion of the issues addressed and of the list of beneficiaries. Finally, Barbados stated that it was encouraged by an assistance project proposed by the OHCHR, adding, however, that it is concerned over its possible non-realisation. In reply, the representative of the OHCHR stated that Barbados' proposal had been noted, and informed the Council of the forthcoming visit of the High Commissioner to the country.