Seminar on the role of “Recommending States” at the UPR

On Thursday, 2nd of October 2014, UPR Info with the support of the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands in Geneva hosted a seminar on the role of  "recommending States" at the Universal Periodic Review. The panelists included Mr. Thomas Falkenhagen, Member of Netherland's Permanent Mission, OHCHR's Representative Ms. Myriam Tebourbi, Mr. Roland Chauville and Mr. Jean-Claude Vignoli, respectively UPR Info's Executive Director and Programmes Director.

The seminar included four different sections: the different technical aspects for recommending states, the relevance of making specific and precise recommendations, their acceptance and implementation and the follow-up of recommendations between the first and the second cycle.  

Technical aspects for participating states
OHCHR's Representative, Ms. Myriam Tebourbi, conducted this section of the seminar and - after an overview of the UPR system itself and its history - explained step by step the different technical aspects involved in a State participating in the UPR as a recommending State. Ms. Tebourbi paid special attention to the specific rules and mandatory steps recommending states must follow in order to be successful in  of the Universal Periodic Review.

The recommendations: specificity and precision
According to UPR Info's data only 31% of all recommendations made in the second cycle are considered as specific. This fact supposes a challenge for States as vague recommendations are often not understood by the State under Review, and the latter do not know how to implement them.  Vague recommendations are counterproductive in general and it is harder to assess the level of implementation achieved. This will be problematic for recommending states when they will have to assess the implementation of recommendations they made.

Roland Chauville warned that between the first and the second cycle the number of recommendations received by all States under Review has increased but the number specific ones has dropped from 35% to 31%. Governments should be aware that the increase of recommendations is due to the larger number of "recommending States" and it has happened to all States under Review during the second cycle, since in the second UPR cycle all states that want to take the floor can do it. On average, each recommending states make 2.5 recommendations, a number which demonstrate that the UPR is in a stabilising phase.

Roland advised that for recommendations to produce real changes in the human rights situation on the field, the action should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Examples of and specific terms to use were also presented to the attending Missions.

Acceptance and implementation of recommendations
For this section Jean-Claude Vignoli exposed the results of UPR Info's long-term study on 165 countries and over 11,000 recommendations that will be published by the end of October. Jean-Claude pointed out that recommendations cannot be rejected, they are either accepted or noted. This is relevant because even if accepted recommendations are more likely to be implemented - 57% of the accepted ones have been fully or partially implemented by mid-term - a 20% of the noted recommendations triggered some action from the government 3 years after the review.

UPR Info's study shows that the specificity of recommendations is also important in regards of acceptance and implementation. Specific recommendations are more prone to be noted but they are implemented anyway - 36 % by mid-term - and as mentioned before it is easier to assess their implementation. This number is promising, as it is close to vague recommendations.

Follow-up of recommendations between the first and the second cycle
Roland highlighted the importance of following up on the recommendations made in the first cycle during the second. So far, this has not been done as only a 20% of the recommendations from the first cycle were followed-up by recommendations containing a similar issue or action in the second cycle. Missions were also told the opportunity of using voluntary pledges and advanced questions for following up on recommendations. 

To improve the links between both cycles, he advised to keep a list of the previous recommendations made, meet with NGOs and use UPR Info's most useful tools: its database and attend the pre-sessions.

The event was a success as representatives from more than 40 Permanent Missions attended to learn about the role that "recommending states" play in the UPR and they actively participated with many questions and comments to the panelists.

We look forward to seeing improvements in the quality of the recommendations made in the UPR.