Summary of our side event on implementation of recommendations

UPR Info held a side event on Wednesday 24th of October to introduce their latest publication, On the Road to Implementation, and to facilitate a discussion on the successes and challenges that states face in the implementation of UPR recommendations. The new publication and its findings were introduced by Mr. Roland Chauville, Executive Director of UPR Info, who then went on to moderate a lively discussion with the other three panellists, Minister-Counselor Ms. Harriet E. Berg (Mission of Norway), Counselor Mr. Razvan Rotundu (Mission of Romania), and Francesca Restifo, International Advocacy Director at Franciscans International (FI). The event was attended by over one hundred people, and the initial discussion by the panellists was followed by a wide variety of questions and comments from stakeholders and states.

Presentation of the publication

Mr. Chauville began by outlining the purpose of UPR Info's study, namely to assess the progress that states have made in the implementation of recommendations in the two years following their reviews, by studying over 3000 recommendations made to 66 states. As he explained, this study was enabled by UPR Info's unique 'Follow-up Programme', which collects information from states and stakeholders regarding the implementation of recommendations made to a given state at mid-term, and compiles these submissions into a Mid-Term Assessment (MTA). This report is then published and sent to all interested states, stakeholders and actors on the ground, with a view to establishing the Human Rights situation on the ground, and keeping up the momentum of the UPR cycle in its potentially most dormant period.

In summarising the findings of UPR Info's study, Mr. Chauville emphasised that 40% of recommendations had been implemented (fully or partially) by mid-term, and that 15% of rejected recommendations had triggered action by the Governmentby that stage. The study has shown that the given response to a recommendation, its level of specificity, and the issue with which it is concerned are all very important factors influencing the degree to which it is implemented. In closing his presentation, Mr. Chauville concluded that in order to achieve effective implementation, UPR recommendations must be specific, rejected recommendations must still be discussed, states must produce Mid-Term reports, and the engagement of all relevant stakeholders must be encouraged. The floor was then given to the other panellists, whose discussion, summarised below, has been arranged thematically.

Best practices in implementation

The three panellists presented first their engagement so far in the follow-up. Norway first grouped recommendations and published a table with the full list of recommendations and their responses and which ministries were responsible for their implementation and then met with civil society. At mid-term, they published a report containing a table with updates on the implementation so far and particularly on difficult issues. Romania, on its side, held an internal consultation in June 2008 (one month after its review) with ministries and civil society organisations, chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The consultation then spurred the government to create an internal inter-governmental structure for the implementation of UPR recommendations, which though not formalised, was an administrative practice. In September 2010, they presented a mid-term report. Ms. Restifo explained that FI first identifies the issue of interest among the recommendations adopted and then build an action plan and a road map. The activities they engage in for the implementation were of three type: capacity-building, advocacy and awareness-raising. Finally they cooperate with UPR Info's "Follow-up Programme".

Lessons learnt

In terms of lessons learnt, both Ms. Berg and Mr. Rotundu emphasised that the effective coordination between different governmental ministries has been essential for the implementation of recommendations. The publication of mid-term reports was also highlighted. Mr. Rotundu stated that the production of their report had been a very useful exercise, especially as it does not have a pre-set format, thus giving a state the freedom to include all recommendations and all levels of implementation. The production of a mid-term report was also extremely helpful to report to other human rights mechanisms such as treaty bodies.

Challenges

In terms of challenges to their engagement, the panellists raised the issue of the specificity of recommendations. Ms. Berg stated that with many recommendations being weak, unspecific and repeated, it was very difficult to establish whether they had been implemented. However, she argued that it was understandable and acceptable that states would sometimes want address very specific issues, whilst at other times choosing to encourage a move in a general direction. Mr. Rotundu explained that Romania chose to keep their recommendations broad, especially those relating to neighbouring states, instead concentrating on addressing the more general causes of problems in the SuR. On the other hand, Ms. Restifo argued that as a regular contributor to UPR Info's "Follow-up Programme'", it is much easier for FI to work with "recommendations that are action orientated, concrete, and measurable". She went on to state that if a recommendation lacks precision or contextuality it will be as hard to implement as it is to assess and evaluate that implementation.

Another challenge raised by Ms. Bern was the difficulties her government had faced in engaging ministries whose mandates are less obviously relevant to Human Rights and the high number of repeating recommendations. Mr. Rotundu for his part explained the difficulty Romania had faced in the organisation of regular meetings of its inter-governmental groups. Romania had also experienced difficulty in processing the information provided by institutions given the disparate criteria used by law enforcement agencies and in collecting data. Furthermore, the Romanian national human rights institution’s lack of an active monitoring role had limited progress, as has the difficulty in finding specifics on cases of Human Rights abuses which had not been formally investigated. As for FI, the major problem encountered was that the UPR remains a tool for human rights which well known in Geneva but not in government institutions and at ground level.

Overall, Ms. Berg commented that the UPR has increased the transparency and speed with which Norway has worked to promote and protect Human Rights. Mr. Rotundu added that it's the survival of the mechanism will ultimately depend on the interaction of states with the process, and the their determination to ensure that recommendations are useful. Ms. Restifo argued that the UPR process was a valuable method of driving advocacy policy as it offers an effective advocacy time-frame, creates domestic momentum for the discussion of Human Rights, and legitimises NGOs' engagement with governments. Quoting a participant to the 2011 review of the Human Rights Council, Ms. Restifo concluded that "only if there is a move from peer review to peer engagement will the success of the UPR mechanism become sustained".