September proved to be a busy month for human rights activity in Geneva. The UPR was the subject of several important discussions and resolutions at the Human Rights Council, which included grave accounts of reprisals against those working with the mechanism. At the beginning of October, UPR Info held three days of Pre-sessions, providing a platform for defenders to share first-hand information from the ground. The international human rights conference saw strong engagement from civil society and Permanent Missions alike. Diplomats from all regions were present at the event, taking note of issues they can raise in their recommendations to States being reviewed at the 23rd UPR Working Group (UPR23) in November 2015. UPR Info will follow up on the impetus of the Pre-sessions to host a seminar for recommending States on 20 October 2015 to help guide States in the formulation of recommendations in advance of UPR23.
Civil Society leads the human rights dialogue at UPR Info Pre-sessions
On 7-9 October 2015, UPR Info successfully hosted its eleventh round of Pre-sessions, bringing together national and international civil society organisations (CSOs) to discuss the human rights situation on the ground. A wide variety of issues were raised throughout the three days of conference including the refugee crisis, women’s rights, the rights of indigenous people, freedom of expression, and LGBTI rights. Concerns were raised over the lack of implementation of the commitments made in the first cycle, and there were numerous calls for more specific action-orientated recommendations at the forthcoming UPR. Read more about the event here. The 23rd UPR Working Group session (2-13 November 2015) will review: Australia; Austria; Georgia; Lebanon; Mauritania; Micronesia; Myanmar; Nauru; Nepal; Oman; Rwanda; Sao Tome & Principe; St Kitts & Nevis; and St Lucia. You can find out more about every state under review by following out daily infographic countdown.
Preparations are underway for the Pre-sessions of States to be reviewed at the 24th UPR Working Group(January/February2016): Belgium; Denmark; Estonia; Latvia; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Palau; Paraguay; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Somalia; and Solomon Islands. The Pre-sessions will take place from 15-17 December 2015, with further information to follow soon.
Reprisals against civil society cause for serious concern at HRC30
The 30th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC30) took place from 14 September to 3 October 2015, seeing interesting development for the UPR. During the General Debate on the UPR (Item 6), topics included; the role of recommending states, midterm UPR reporting and the third cycle of the UPR. States and CSOs alike commented on the need for recommending states to maintain their interest, pressure and support, for the follow up of their accepted recommendations. Those who had submitted voluntary midterm UPR reports called on others to also do so, in order to strengthen the monitoring of implementation. Finally, looking towards the third cycle of the UPR all actors commented on the need to focus on sustainable UPR follow-up and implementation mechanisms. Read more here.
During its oral statement, UPR Info brought the Council’s attention to the concerning reality of reprisals that CSOs and individuals are now facing as a result of their involvement with the UPR. UPR Info’s Executive Director, Roland Chauville, reiterated the need for “all States to uphold their promises and facilitate and support NGO engagement in the UPR process”. UPR Info emphasised that NGOs “should be able to speak publically about human rights, free from reprisals”. This sentiment was echoed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who recently released his annual report entitled "Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights", highlighting various cases of reprisals against “individuals or groups seeking to cooperate, cooperating or having cooperated with the United Nations in the field of human rights”, including the UPR. Read more here.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) held an insightful side event on the UPR Trust Fund for the implementation of recommendations. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, opened the event by highlighting how “States face a daunting task” when attempting to address the recommendations they receive through the UPR, and other Human Rights mechanisms. The call for increased and new donations was reiterated to ensure the effective implementation of UPR recommendations thus improving the protection and promotion of human rights for citizens of the ground. Read more here. A resolution was subsequently adopted for Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building, which focuses on the establishment and strengthening of national follow-up systems and on an increase of voluntary contributions to trust funds supporting UN human rights mechanisms, such as the UPR. Co-sponsored by 29 States, the resolution was adopted by consensus during HRC30 and reiterated the discussions held at the OHCHR side-event. The text invites States to progressively increase their voluntary contributions to these funds in order to provide States with the capacity “to establish or strengthen their respective human rights follow-up systems and processes”. You can read more here and find the draft resolution here.
A seminar for Recommending States ahead of the 23rd Session of the UPR Working Group in November
UPR Info, with the support of the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands, and with the participation of the OHCHR, is organising its second seminar on the role of Recommending States at the UPR on Tuesday, 20 October 15, in Room IX, Palais des Nations. The aim of this seminar is to equip human rights experts of the Permanent Missions with tools and knowledge on how to successfully engage in the Working Group session. The program for the event can be found here and we ask that human rights experts kindly confirm their attendance to firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPR Info Africa shares best practices and encourages CSO coalitions engagement with the UPR in Tanzania
UPR Info Africa Regional Representative, Mr. Gilbert Onyango was invited by the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition, which coordinates over 80 Tanzanian CSOs in the UPR process, to participate in a meeting with 45 civil society organisations ahead of Tanzania’s UPR in 2016. The meeting was also attended by OHCHR Senior Human Rights Advisor, Tanzania, Ms. Chitralekha Marie Massey, who underscored the importance of CSOs working together to develop the Stakeholders’ reports, and work with the Government of Tanzania in the development of the national report. Mr Onyango shared with the participant’s success stories from the UPR in improving the human rights situation in Africa, and indeed, the world. He also reminded the participants that the UPR should move to becoming more of a process rather than an isolated event that occurs once every 4,5 years. Read more here.
UPR Info Asia convenes in country Pre-sessions to ensure the UPR listens to local voices in Myanmar and Thailand
On 6 November 2015, two days before the national elections, Myanmar will be reviewed on all its human rights records by UN Member States at the UN Human Rights Council. In early September 2015, UPR Info Asia, in partnership with the Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum, organised its first ever “In-Country UPR Pre-Sessions”, in Yangon and Bangkok. These events offered a unique opportunity for local civil society to voice its concerns, provide first-hand reliable information and data from the ground, as well as evidence-based solutions through precise and concrete UPR recommendations. The goals of the UPR Pre-Sessions held at the country level were to brief the local media and engage in dialogue with diplomats on pressing human rights issues. For that purpose, the Burma-Myanmar UPR Forum gathered credible evidence and developed the “Information on the Status of the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar” consisting of 16 UPR Advocacy Factsheets, covering the most challenging human rights issues in the country. By having the regional offices also facilitate UPR Info Pre-sessions, this will ensure that more grassroots CSOs can take the floor and share their recommendations with diplomats in advance of the UPR. Read more