On 15 – 17 December 2015, the 12th round of UPR Info Pre-sessions were held, in preparation for the 24th UPR Working Group (18 – 29 January 2016). Almost 50 civil society organisations (CSOs) were represented during the three-day international human rights conference.
UPR Info had the pleasure of welcoming the outgoing President of the Human Rights Council, H.E Mr Joachim Rücker, on the final day of the event. President Rücker opened the last day of Pre-sessions with an address to CSOs, national human rights institutes (NHRIs), and Permanent Missions on the role of the UPR for the advancement of human rights.
His Excellency explained how the UPR mechanism is “an excellent platform for studying the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council and its impact on the ground,” and that the process has resulted in “self-reflection and self-improvement” of many States. Looking forward to the third cycle of UPR, the President emphasised the “fine balance between Stimulating national improvements and overwhelming a State with unattainable expectations... Emphasis should therefore be placed on realistic, measurable and implementable recommendations".
The Human Rights Council President recognised UPR Info for its work in “disseminating information on the UPR to national actors and creating innovating tools to facilitate implementation”. He further commended CSOs and NHRIs engaging in the Pre-sessions for their commitment to the UPR mechanism describing them as key actors in delivering human rights.
CSOs and NHRIs from nine States made presentations at the latest round of Pre-sessions, enabling Permanent Missions to engage in discussions and dialogue on both the current human rights situation and the implementation of first cycle recommendations ahead of the UPR in January. The conference enabled civil society to update diplomatic missions in Geneva on a variety of human rights issues on the ground in: Belgium; Denmark; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Paraguay; Sierra Leone; Singapore; and Somalia. In just over one month, these States, alongside Estonia, Latvia, Palau, Seychelles, and Solomon Islands, will undergo their second-cycle UPR review.
A wide variety of issues were raised during the three-day conference including, but not limited to: land rights, the right to privacy, women’s rights, limitations to freedom of assembly and association, LGBTI rights, the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and the rights of the child. While acknowledging the areas in which States have made progress since their first UPR in 2011, CSOs and NHRIs highlighted persisting human rights challenges where governments have not done enough to ensure the effective implementation of their accepted recommendations. Participants in the Pre-sessions not only gave accounts of the human rights situation on the ground, but also presented Permanent Missions with draft recommendations. In some cases, CSOs also proposed questions to be submitted in advance to the State under Review in January. In doing this CSOs, hope to see their issues and concerns translated directly into recommendations that will be made in Room XX of Palais des Nations in January 2016.
Image courtesy of UN HRC Secretariat.