The experience to date of the UPR debated at conference in Dublin

A conference on the ten-year anniversary of the Human Rights Council was organised on 19 February in Dublin by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland. UPR Info was invited to speak at a panel on "The Universal Periodic Review: Experience to date". The other panelists to the discussion were: Ruki Fernando, Sri Lankan human rights activist; Anastasia Crickley, Vice Chairperson of the UN Commitee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Suzanne Egan, Director of the UCD Center for Human Rights; Layla de Cogan Chin, Assistant Principal in the Equality Division of the Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland; and Deidre Duffy, Deputy Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

Starting off with the achievements of the process so far, Roland Chauville, Executive director of UPR Info, explained that the UPR had ensured that all countries accounted for their human rights records in front of the international community. Paraphrasing Ban ki-moon's quote, he asserted that the UPR had managed to ligthen up "the darkest corners of the world" by ensuring the review of every UN Member States. The UPR had also made possible to raise a wide range of issues on each country, including some newly discussed at the international level and some held as contentious, such as sexual orientation and gender identity, business and human rights, as well as the right of the elderly.

When measuring the impact of the UPR, Roland insisted that it was important to look at different types of impact. The first measurement was the level of implementation of the UPR recommendations. On this issue, UPR Info had demonstrated in its 2014 publication Beyond promises that 48% of recommendations had triggered action by governments at mid-term. Concrete examples were cited, such as the reduction of crimes punishable by death penaly in China and the registration of 500,000 people through a nation-wide campaign in Colombia.

Other types of impact of the process that should also be considered were:
  • Cooperation between CSOs and governments: the UPR has provided an opportunity to governments and civil society to discuss human rights and envisage them through the cooperation lense;
  • Coordination among CSOs: the UPR has enabled CSOs working on different issues to create coalitions to write reports, and engage in advocacy;
  • Introduction to the international human rights system: After using the UPR, numerous CSOs have felt more confident in using other international human rights mechanisms;
  • Strengthening of other human rights mechanisms: Numerous recommendations at the UPR have included the ratification of conventions, issuing standing invitations, and reporting to treaty bodies.
Roland then went on to speak about the weaknesses of the process. He listed three main remaining gaps. Firstly, there is no official follow-up mechanism in charge of assessing the level of implementation of recommendations by each States. This has resulted in a lack of information on the progress made by governments and a difficulty to ensure that the next review tackled the real issues. Secondly, there is no definition of "non-cooperation" and no tools to address it. This means that States do not face any action when not implementing accepted recommendations. Thirdly, CSOs lack support, including financial, to meaningfully engage in the follow-up.