The UPR undergoes scrutiny as eyes turn to the third cycle

Friday 25 and Monday 28 of September saw the 30th Session of the Human Rights Council (the Council), hold its General Debate on Item 6; the UPR. States and CSOs were given the floor, after the adoption of the final reports for the UPR Session 22, to highlight the successes and outstanding areas of concern within this the second cycle of the UPR. The General Debate covered topics such as; the role of recommending states, the issue of reprisals, mid term UPR reporting, and the third cycle of the UPR.

Role of recommending states

State and CSO actors took to the floor at the Council to discuss the role of the recommending state. Iran reiterated the need for “implementable and practical recommendations” and Morocco highlighted need for recommendations to be more realistic and operational and avoid politicisation. Morocco also put forward the notion that recommending states be limited to two recommendations per state under review so to avoid repetition of recommendations and to enhance “constructive dialogue”. Aside from the specificity of recommendations the role states play in the entire UPR process was also discussed. Amnesty International and Africa Speaks commented on the role recommending states could play in the implementation stage of the UPR ‘in order to turn words into action on the ground’. It was suggested, by many of the CSOs present, that recommending states play a greater role in the monitoring of recommendation implementations by continuing the dialogue surrounding the UPR throughout the four-year cycle and by reiterating unmet recommendations. 
 
Reprisals

Thus far the Council has highlighted the issue of reprisals, through side-events and an annual report from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General, and the Item 6 General Debate also saw the topic raised. UPR Info made an oral statement drawing attention to the ‘intimidations and threats’ CSOs and human rights defenders are facing due to their engagement in the UPR process, and notably the reprisals some actors have faced since participating in the UPR Info Pre-sessions in April 2015. The Human Rights Law Centre, from Australia, informed the Council of the ‘attacks on NGO activism’ taking place in Australia due to new “penalties for whistle-blowers” as a result of new security legislation. The EU delegation also raised their “serious concerns” with harassment and reprisals civil society actors are facing arguing that for human rights to be realised effectively the space for civil society must be ‘ample’, whilst Ghana called for third cycle of the UPR to engage civil society even further and become truly inclusive as ‘human rights should be the concern of everyone everywhere’.  
 
Mid term reporting

Mid term reporting during the first and second cycle of the UPR has been a voluntary process yet during the debate Luxembourg, Macedonia and Morocco all highlighted the benefits of submitting mid term reports as an effective tool to monitor the implementation of UPR recommendations. Luxembourg’s statement also supported the consolidation of the practice of mid term reporting whilst Grenada committed to submitting their mid term report in 2017. In the joint statement of the EU consideration was given to the mid term assessments forming a key part of every states UPR engagement.
 
Third cycle of the UPR

As the second UPR cycle comes to a close next year many of those who contributed to the General Debate were also looking ahead at how the UPR mechanism can be improved, thus strengthen global human rights. States and CSOs alike heralded the universality of the UPR and called for this equal, non-politicised assessment of every state’s human rights compliance to continue. India and Venezuela highlighted the need to focus on how different states can enact different recommendations into law and society with Namibia suggesting the development of a best practice guide to implementations. All CSOs present drew attention to the issue that without implementation the UPR will be rendered a hollow mechanism that is unable to protect of promote human rights and Ghana called for ‘UPR follow-up’ to be a specific item on the agenda when discussing potential changes to the UPR mechanism for its third cycle. 

Image courtesy of Jamil Dakwar