Working Group on the Review of the HRC adopts outcome by consensus

On Thursday, February 24, the Open-ended Working Group on the Review of the Human Rights Council (HRC) concluded its second session with the adoption of an Outcome of the Review of the Work and Functioning of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This outcome contains modifications to Resolution 5/1 as well as new modalities for the work and functioning of the HRC.

The outcome was adopted by consensus in the late hours of Thursday, February 24, the last day of the Working Group after several months of negotiations and meetings. However, many States, such the United States, Argentina, Israel, France, Mexico, Australia, Canada and Japan, the European Union, as well as NGOs such as the International Service for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch expressed their disappointment in regards to the content of the document. Their main critique was the failure of the Working Group to create trigger mechanisms that enable the HRC to react to urgent country situations and allowing for other stakeholders such as the United Nations Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the HRC President to bring particular country situations to the HRC's attention.

This outcome will be adopted by the HRC at its 16th session, which will be held until March 25 and then sent to the General Assembly in New York.

The changes brought by this outcome on the UPR modalities are limited. Here are the main ones:

1. The length of the cycle will be 4,5 years instead of 4 (§3).

2. The first session of the second cycle will start in June 2012 (§2).

3. The list of speakers will now open on the Monday of the week preceding the beginning of the Working Group session. Delegations inscribed on the list of speakers will be arranged in alphabetical order of the county names in English. On the Friday morning preceding the beginning of the session, the President will draw by lot the first speaker on the list. The list of speakers will continue from the State drawn onward. States will be able to swap place on the speakers list with other States (§11).

4. The general guidelines (HRC Decision 6/102) for the drafting of the three reports that form the basis of the review (National report, compilation of UN information and summary of stakeholders' information) will be modified for the second cycle before the HRC 18th session to be held in September 2011 (§7).

5. National Human Rights Institutions with A status will have a dedicated section in the summary of other stakeholders' information prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner. They will also now be given the floor directly after the State under Review during the adoption of the Report of the Working Group at the HRC plenary session (§9 and 13).

6. States should submit its responses in a written format to all recommendations received during their review (§16).

7. States are encouraged to conduct national consultations on the follow-up with civil society (§17).

8. States are encouraged to provide mid-term updates on the implementation of their recommendations between two reviews (§18).