The Role of Parliaments at the UPR: a side event

The Friedrich-Elbert Stiftung and the Inter-Parliamentary Union presented on September 17th a side event on "The Role of Parliaments at the UPR" with a panel consisting of MP Herta Däubler-Gmelin (Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, former Federal Minister of Justice, Germany), MP Mélégué Traoré (Deputy Chair of the Inter-Parliament Committee of the WAEMU, Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Burkina Faso), and Camilla Asano (CONECTAS, Brazil).

The discussion was lead by the premise that the involvement of parliament in the UPR is crucial as it has a key role in implementing the recommendations that come out of the UPR. It is unfortunate, however, that many parliaments are simply not aware that the UPR exists and the ways in which they can get involved. The panelist´s experience from Germany (who went through the UPR in February 2009), Burkina Faso (UPR in December 2008) and Brazil (UPR in April 2008) enriched the discussion as they had first had information in their countries recent UPR processes.

MP Herta Däubler-Gmelin noted after observing the United Nations Human Rights Council´s (HRC) current practices that there is no role for the parliament in the Council. Giving national parliaments a bigger role on UPR at national level as well as a role on the international level in the Council would allow for greater synergy in this process. She added that this could start simply by allowing members of parliament to be present at the HRC when the UPR report is adopted.

Further more in Germany, MP Däubler-Gmelin stated, there is a missing link between NGOs and the Parliament that needs to be created. She stressed that the goal being the improvement of standards and implementation of human rights one needs an interested public as well as an active NGO population where issues are being discussed and some pressure is built up. Not to mention the importance of making the public interested and find some sort of procedure to give feedback to the parliament.

MP Mélégué Traoré commented that the UPR provided with a new experience for his country where the parliament was unfortunately not very involved and which was hampered by a lack of institutions dealing directly with Human Rights as well as a lack of communication and cooperation with the NGO´s who are in fact the first to act where it comes to Human Rights in Africa.

When it comes to the UPR in Burkina Faso, MP Mélégué Traoré added that it is clear that the parliament needs to own the problems of Human Rights, be ready to implement, monitor and follow up on the recommendations made as well as set up an institution to control and monitor Human Rights all of which have yet to be done in his country. While during the UPR neither the government nor the parliament were ready to cooperate the experience as such was overall positive.

Camilla Asano highlighted the role of parliament in Brazil’s UPR review with the creation of a Human Rights committee within itself to better serve this process. Currently waiting for recommendations to be implemented it would be fair to say that the involvement of the parliament is as key now as it was during the process. But the process was not without flaws, in Brazil, the main issue was a lack of information on what their delegation was and is doing in Geneva on the UPR and other issues. To help this matter a number of documents have been translated into Portuguese and the HRC webcast is being promoted.

The Role of Parliaments at the UPR is key as their involvement can lead to a more inclusive look at human rights, as well as closer monitoring and implementation of the recommendations that come out of the same. Keeping the goal to improve and implement human rights in mind one must also highlight the link between the civil society and the political process, not to mention the importance having every citizen see the importance of this process and Human Rights in their every day life. The examples of Germany, Burkina Faso and Brazil help to illustrate the importance of these actors in the UPR process.