Towards a 3.5 hour Working Group Review?

On Friday 27 May, the President of the Human Rights Council (HRC) held an informal consultation on follow-up to the HRC Review on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The aim of this consultation was to discuss the different issues pending from the HRC Review in relation to the second cycle of the UPR: order of review, duration of the Working Group review, list of speakers, adjustment of general guidelines 6/102 and revision of the Terms of References for the Funds for participation and the technical and financial assistance. Read more about those issues here.

In preparation for this meeting, the following documents were circulated:

- Draft decision on those pending issues to be adopted by the HRC in June;
- Three options of timetables for the Working Group sessions (option A, B and C);
- The list of all States in order of review of the first cycle.

A total of eleven States took the floor to express their views on the different issues. A majority supported a 3.5 hour Working Group review and option B for the timetable.

India questioned the usefulness, through this meeting, to re-discus ideas shared during the HRC Review and to isolate the UPR from the other clusters.

In conclusion, the President announced that he will hold another consultation soon to continue the discussion.

1. Order of review

Argentina expressed its support of maintaining the same order as during the first cycle.

2. General guidelines

The draft decision sent to delegations before the meeting contains proposals to adjust the General Guidelines 6/102.

Egypt, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), suggested removing the word "new" at the beginning of paragraph B. This was also supported by Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, the United States, Canada and Morocco.

Switzerland expressed its satisfaction with the modification brought in the draft decision.

Hungary, on behalf of the European Union (EU), suggested making reference to publication of an implementation plan in relation to the reception of technical assistance. In reaction to this proposal, Nigeria stated that this informal consultation was not the occasion to reopen the Outcome of the Review and add new wordings in the text. Similarly, Morocco firmly opposed to include this reference.

Canada, supported by Argentina, suggested adding the words "specifically on accepted recommendations" at the end of paragraph C.bis.

3. Duration of each Working Group review

The President explained that option A was similar to the first cycle with fourteen States per session whereas Options B and C were increasing the review to 3.5 hours. Option B was offering 3.5 hours for every country while option C was providing flexibility among reviews. If the time was extended, States would need to decide how to divide the additional thirty minutes between the State under Review (SuR) and the participating States. Another issue with the extension was that conferences services function by blocks of three hours and therefore could not work 3.5 hours in a row within the same resources.

Egypt, on behalf of the NAM, expressed its support for option A.

Option B enjoyed the support of Hungary on behalf of the EU, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, India, Japan and Argentina.

Option C triggered numerous questions from delegates. The question of the predictability was mentioned as a SuR could be moved from one day to another depending on the length of the speakers' list. Also concerns over potential cost implications of having a review over two days and a session longer than two weeks were shared.

The United States stated that they had been hoping for a four hour review. Canada suggested modifying option B in that sense. Reviews would be held from 9am to 1pm and then 2pm to 6pm. Working Group adoptions would be held during lunch breaks. To this proposal, the Secretariat answered that a four hour review was not possible within existing resources.

On the issue of how to divide the additional thirty minutes, Egypt, on behalf of the NAM, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group and India wanted to keep the proportionality giving ten minutes to the SuR whereas the United States were of the views to give the entire thirty minutes to participating States.

4. Modalities for the list of speakers

The President explained that the proposal contained in Resolution A/HRC/RES/16/21 on the Outcome of the HRC Review intended to answer two problems: to allow all States willing to speak to do so and to avoid long queues.

Hungary, on behalf of the EU, the United States and Japan expressed their support to the proposal. Morocco stated that the shortness of the statement should not be a problem as the Interactive dialogue should not be used to praise the SuR but to make questions and recommendations.

5. Funds for participation and financial and technical assistance

Morocco expressed its confidence in the work of the Secretariat to present revised Terms of Reference.