[UPR Trax] No 69: 2016 The year at a glance

Hope springs eternal 

2016, for many, has been a difficult year. Taking nothing away from this, UPR Info believes that this year has offered many moments for celebration and hope.

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and concluded the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) second cycle. From the High Commissioner for Human Rights, his Office, the HRC President, and many more that make up the Geneva-based human rights community strong messages were sent out around the world. Reprisals, threats, and violence against Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) will not be tolerated. The UPR will only make positive change if stakeholders focus on both implementation of recommendations and effective reporting. Civil society, civil society organisations (CSOs), and National Human Rights Institutes (NHRIs) have a key role to play in supporting and critiquing Government action for human rights progress.

The universaility of human rights is reflected through the mechanism of the Universal Periodic Review and as we move into 2017, and the third UPR cycle, UPR Info Executive Director Roland Chauville believes that, "in these difficult and uncertain times we must continue to support one another and work together for the protection and advancement of human rights for all."

UPR INFO 2016 Updates

UPR Sessions and the HRC

24th, 25th, and 26th Session of the UPR
The refugee crisis and climate change amongst key human rights concerns raised during the inter-active dialogues

The 24th Session of the UPR Working Group took place on the 18-29 January 2016 at Palais des Nations, Geneva. During the 14 inter-active dialogues, a total of 2662 recommendations were made and 901 statements were delivered by the UN Member States and observers. In addition, the 24th Session provided some food for thought regarding the upcoming Third Cycle. Read more here.

Civil society participation at the heart of the 25th session of the UPR
The 25th Session of the UPR Working Group took place on 2-13 May 2016 at Palais des Nations, Geneva. During the interactive dialogues, a total of 2,553 recommendations were made. Civil society organisations organised side events on the reviews of Thailand, Tanzania, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. During the UPR of Sudan, States expressed their concern at the situation of HRDs in the country. Particular attention was given to the fact that, in the context of UPR Info's Pre-sessions in March, four Sudanese HRDs due to travel to Geneva had their passports confiscated by security agents before boarding their planes. Read more here.

Peace, freedom of expression, and gender equality - recommendations to end the second UPR cycle
The 26th Session of the UPR Working Group took place from 31 October to 9 November 2016. In total, the 11 States received 2106 recommendations and at first count 40.5% recommendations were accepted. We can expect more accepted recommendations as every States left recommendations pending and will provide further information no later than during the 34th Human Rights Council (HRC) in March 2017. Read more here.

The 31st, 32nd, and 33rd Human Rights Council
The 31st Session of the HRC saw the adoption of the reports of the States under Review (SuR) during the 23rd Session of the UPR Working Group. During this session, marking the 10th anniversary of the HRC, reoccurring themes of the upcoming 3rd UPR cycle, technical cooperation and the participation of civil society permeated the statements of the speakers. Read more here.

The “Panel discussion on the contribution of parliaments to the work of the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review ” was held during the 32nd session of the HRC. The panelists exchanged ideas, shared good practices and formulated recommendations for the HRC on different ways of further engaging national parliaments in the UPR. Read more here.

During the General Debate on Agenda Item 6 at the 32nd Session of the HRC, States and CSOs took the floor to take stock of the first two cycles of the UPR and to elaborate on their views to improve the efficiency of the mechanism during the upcoming third cycle. Implementation and follow-up of recommendations, voluntary mid-term reporting, and reprisals where amongst the main topics discussed. UPR Info delivered a statement suggesting measures that could improve the efficiency of the UPR during its third cycle. Read more here.

A range of topics were raised during the General Debate on the UPR at the 33rd HRC Session. Numerous countries and CSOs delivered statements calling for all UPR stakeholders to build on current good practices in light of the third cycle of the UPR beginning in early 2017. Amongst others, Slovakia, on behalf of the European Union, called upon States to strengthen the focus on thorough implementation of recommendations made during previous cycles. They explained that "the power of the UPR is embedded in effective implementation of recommendations". Read more here. UPR Info delivered their statement and it is available here.


UPR Info and CSO engagement

UPR Info Pre-sessions
This year UPR Info hosted two rounds of Pre-sessions in Geneva, for the 25th and 26th UPR Working Group.

During the Pre-sessions on #UPR25 a wide variety of issues were raised over the three days including, but not limited to: land rights, the right to housing, women's rights, limitations to freedom of expression, assembly and association, LGBTI rights, independence of the judiciary and interference with the duties of lawyers, the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees, the rights of the child, and minority rights. Read more here. For the first time in the history of UPR Info's Pre-sessions Programme human rights defenders were banned from participating. Four Sudanese defenders had their passports confiscated at the airport by Sudan’s security agency NISS while en route to Geneva. One of the defenders was due to speak on behalf of a coalition of Sudanese civil society organisations named “Our Rights Group”. This act was a clear and unacceptable limitation on civil society's participation in the UPR process. Read more here. Shortly after the incident, and further to follow-up from UPR Info and its partners, the four HRDs had their passports returned by the authorities. Read more here. This summer the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released his annual report, entitled "Cooperation with the United Nations it’s representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights”. In his report he expressed concerns about reprisals against individuals and CSOs collaborating with the United Nations on human rights issues. Read more here.

The Deputy High Commissioner for Human RIghts, Ms Kate Gilmore, opened the last round of Pre-sessions of the second cycle, in preparation for the 26th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, explaining that, "[there is] no purpose of government without the enhancement of the people it governs". Over the last five years, UPR Info has organised Pre-sessions on 149 countries, where 150 different Permanent Missions have come to hear over 700 human rights defenders and national human rights institutions. As the UPR enters its 3rd cycle, UPR Info will continue to improve the Pre-sessions to ensure the dialogue between States and CSOs deepens, for the benefit of the UPR mechanism and to influence positive human rights changes on the ground. Read more here.

In-country Pre-sessions
In March and August this year UPR Info, with it's Regional Offices, hosted in-country Pre-Sessions on Thailand and Uganda respectively. These events were a great success in engaging local and national NGOs in lobbying and reporting at the UPR, before the Pre-Sessions and Review in Geneva. This project will be developed by UPR Info in 2017.

UPR Info Follow-up
From 7-9 April 2016, UPR Info, together with the Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone (HRDNSL) and the Core UPR Working Group, organised the “CSO strategy workshop on implementation of UPR recommendations” in Bo City, Sierra Leone. Read more here.
Again in Sierra Leone, UPR Info, together with national partner organisations, implemented the Multi-stakeholders Dialogue on Effective Implementation of UPR recommendations in August. Read more here.

Over the last two years UPR Info Asia has been working with the Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum to kick-start the UPR follow-up phase. The Burma/Myanmar UPR Forum is a coalition of independent CSOs with the commitment to engage constructively in the UPR process to improve human rights situations of all people and communities of Burma/Myanmar and border areas. Read more here.
Aside from this, the formation of the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR has enabled local communities from different regions of Thailand, experiencing similar challenges, to meet each other and build solidarity. With a committed coalition, CSOs work together as a strong national movement towards a more representative UPR process to bring about change in their country whilst keeping the Royal Thai Government accountable on its international and development obligations. Read more here.

More than 100 civil society organisation (CSOs) representatives gathered in Kampala, Uganda, 28 November - 02 December, to participate in a five-day workshop aimed at mobilising civil society engagement with Uganda’s UPR implementation process. Organised on the back of the state’s second UPR review in November 2016, HURINET, OHCHR, Defend Defenders, Lutheran World Federation and UPR Info seized the momentum to debrief CSOs on the recommendations Uganda received and how CSOs can monitor and support implementation. Working in thematic clusters, participants developed implementation plans detailing their expectations on the government and action strategies outlining how they can monitor and contribute to implementation. Read more here.

UPR Info Regional Offices
Over the last year UPR Info Asia has worked with CSOs, CSO coalitions, and NHRIs to facilitate effective engagement in the UPR. In February the Regional Office officially launched its cooperation with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). Read more here. UPR Info Asia and Chulanongkorn University organized a two-day CSO Coalition Building Workshop entitled "Working Together to Foster Solidarity", to ensure Thai Civil Society can effectively engage in Thailand's 2nd UPR cycle by following a coordinated approach. Read more here. In March a UPR Inclusive Diplomatic Dialogue between Thai local groups and diplomats on the human rights situation in Thailand took place, organized by UPR Info Asia, the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR and the Embassy of Switzerland, with support from the EU Delegation in Thailand. Read more here. In Nepal in June UPR Info Asia supported a meeting on the Implementation of UPR recommendations in Nepal An agreement letter was adopted setting out the principles upon which future multi-stakeholders collaborations would be based. This agreement includes the key elements for a successful implementation of UPR recommendations. Read more here. The Regional Office has also delivered Regional Advocacy Workshops, read more here, and has facilitated work in Thailand, Laos, Myanmar/Burma, Nepal, Mongolia, and India.

This year the UPR Info Africa Regional Office was formally launched at a conference held in Nairobi. The launch was attended by over 40 guests including diplomats, Government of Kenya officials and civil society representatives. This year the Regional Office has facilitated work in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Niger, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, and Togo. Most recently, to round off the year, UPR Info Africa has hosted a workshop on the UPR for HRDs from Somalia.

Growing civil society space in the UPR
Thanks to our local, national, regional, and international partners, our organisation continues to demonstrate that the UPR mechanism is a powerful tool to help facilitate coordination and discussion among stakeholders and grow civil society space. Our ultimate goal is to enable national space for discussions on implementation of UPR recommendations. Without the work of CSOs and HRDs on the ground the UPR runs the risk of becoming a Geneva based project. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to this work.

Publications

UPR Info published, in June, an article for UN Special, examining the extent to which civil society can formally engage in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The long-anticipated Agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), was adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly in September 2015. UPR Info discusses how the UPR framework - with established modalities for civil society inputs - has proven the transformative potential of multi-stakeholder participation. Read more here.

This September, UPR Info published "Ensuring sustainable UPR Implementation: A call to action for States to strengthen the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review". Launching the paper in Evian, France, early September, at the UN Human Rights Council Retrea, UPR Info emphasised the need for States to prioritise on the implementation of recommendations and State reporting. Read more here.

UPR Info hosted the November event, Ensuring sustainable implementation at the UPR, to launch its publication, “The Butterfly Effect: Spreading Good Practices of UPR implementation” in Room XX of the Palais des Nations. Over sixty Permanent Missions and approximately 150 people attended the event co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Switzerland, Costa Rica, Morocco, and the United Kingdom. Read more here.

This December, UPR Info co-hosted the event, Strengthening Civil Society Advocacy in the UPR, with the Permanent Missions of Ireland and Switzerland, to launch its newest publication UPR Info Pre-sessions: Empowering human rights voices from the ground. Approximately 20 Permanent Missions and 80 people attended the event in Room XXVII of the Palais des Nations. Read more here.


#WePayOurInterns

This year UPR Info launched the, Geneva based, We Pay Our Interns Initiative. Originally 27 international NGOs in Geneva signed the Charter intended to ameliorate the working conditions of interns. The initiative is a commitment by the organisations to pay their interns, and draws attention to the subject of the unpaid internships in international governmental and non-governmental organisations. The Charter enshrines the basic principles of adequate remuneration for interns, which should guide all international governmental and non-governmental organisation. There are 41 NGO members at last count. Read more here.
 

Website and database

The recommendations made during the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th Session of the UPR Working Group are available in our database. Session 25 will be accessible in January and recommendations for Session 26 will be available after the 34th HRC in 2017. Access the database here.

This year we made our website available in Arabic. We also developed the Database and Statistics functions so they are now accessible on smart phones.

If you have any suggestions on how we can continue to improve our website please do let us know.

If you would like to support the work of UPR Info please donate.

Deadlines

  • 2 February 2017: National Report submissions deadline for the 27th UPR session
  • 23 March: NGOs and NHRIs submissions deadline for the 28th UPR session
  • Call for CSO participants for UPR session 27 UPR Info Pre-sessions will be made in January 2017. Keep your eyes open.
  • Deadlines for the entire third cycle (sessions 27 to 40) are available by country and by session.

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