Sri Lanka’s Inter-ministerial human rights committee trained on the UPR process

On 20th of April, UPR Info had the pleasure of providing a training on the UPR to Sri Lanka’s Inter-ministerial committee on human rights. In view of the State’s third review in November 2017, the focus was fixed on good practices of drafting the National Report, how to involve CSOs in the process and what to expect from the review itself. 

Opening remarks were offered by Mr. Samantha Pathirana, Director UN Division, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He emphasised that Sri Lanka attaches the highest importance to the UPR and informed that the first draft of the National Report was available for internal feedback.

Throughout the session, UPR Info underscored that a transparent and inclusive Government approach to the UPR bolsters reporting duties and paves the way for a constructive dialogue during the Geneva-based stages. The political dynamics of the peer-review was contrasted against the need for action-oriented recommendations which fosters a meaningful implementation of recommendations. In the specific context of Sri Lanka, it was noted that journalists and an active civil society have contributed to detailed deliberations on the UPR nationwide, from Government to the grassroots level. If this keen engagement is tapped to foster multi-stakeholder dialogues on human rights and reconciliation, Sri Lanka has the opportunity to become a role model for other countries to follow. 

As the Inter-ministerial committee is tasked with providing guidance to the implementation of Sri Lanka’s National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) 2017-2021, it was discussed how to integrate 3rd cycle UPR recommendations into the plan. Linked to the NHRAP, the option to use the UPR to spotlight implementation activities undertaken by the Government and to share accomplishments with the wider public also attracted attention. 

Questions from the 18 participants evolved around, among other topics, why the implementation rate for Asia is lower compared to other regions and the usefulness of identical recommendations being repeated in the UPR Working Group Report. On the first issue, the lack of a comprehensive regional human rights mechanism compounded by gaps in coordination and cooperation among UPR actors in some countries were presented as having a detrimental impact on the implementation rate. In terms of duplication of recommendations, the critical element of State sovereignty was recalled; States are free to make whatever recommendations they want. A significant number of recommendations on a specific topic further indicate that it is of concern to a host of States. This in turn adds weight to the issue. 

UPR Info supports all actors which engage with the UPR and runs a Government-oriented programme. In 2015, UPR Info published A Guide for Recommending states at the UPR. In October 2016 we held the third seminar on The role of Recommending States at the UPR. A similar training session was provided to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier the same year.