Promoting the progression of ESC rights at the UPR

On the 17th June 2015, the Centre for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) and Amnesty International co-hosted a side event in the framework of the 29th Session of the Human Rights Council, which addressed the issue of how the Universal periodic Review (UPR) can strengthen the realization of ESC rights.

The panel was made up of; Alison Corkery, Programme Director, Center for Economic and Social Rights, Mr. Iain Byrne, Policy Advisor, Amnesty International, Mr. Nuno Cabral, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Portugal, Mr. Miloon Kothari President of UPR Info and it was chaired by Ms Sandra Ratjen, Senior Legal Advisor, International Commission of Jurists.

The session opened with Ms Corkery presenting the main findings of a study on the UPR and its impact on ESC rights conducted by CESR and the Human rights clinic of Science Po Paris. The information used in this study was sourced from UPR Info’s data base. This study concerns 8 countries; Egypt, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, Republic of Congo, Spain, Equatorial Guinea and the US and shows that only 18.7% of recommendations made to these countries were ESCR-specific. In comparison, 56% of recommendations were CPR-specific.  Most recommendations made on ESC rights concern the right to education. However in the second cycle, there has been an increase in recommendations addressing issues such as the right to health and the right to water.

In addition the study has created a coding scheme that ranks actions 1-6 according to their specificity which is a new way of measuring the impact of recommendations. According to the study of 8 countries, two thirds of ESCR related recommendations suggested only a general action compared to one third of recommendations on civil and political rights. However the acceptance rate of ESCR specific-recommendations is higher than those that are CPR-specific.  This is a sign of the commitment of governments to improve the social economic and cultural situation in their countries. This study will be published during the year by the CESR.

Concerning quality, Mr. Byrne highlighted the need for more specific recommendations. He also underlined the need for States to justify their reasoning when not accepting recommendations. Mr. Cabral from the Permanent Mission of Portugal provided a States’ perspective on the mechanism, explaining how Diplomats engage in the UPR while noting the political undercurrent of the process.  He stated that a key factor in accepting and making recommendations is understanding the issues, including ESC rights. Therefore the importance of writing comprehensive submissions by NGOs is paramount to providing a better understanding of the human rights issues.

Mr Kothari wrapped up the discussion by stating the opportunities the UPR offers for ESC rights such as the creation of platforms for dialogue among different NGOs and Government. He also emphasised that the UPR is not just Geneva focused and that much of the work can be done at national and regional level before and after the review.

UPR Info hopes this event provided some food for thought regarding how to better promote ESC rights within the UPR mechanism and looks forward to seeing participating actors take these considerations on board when engaging with the UPR in the future.