[UPR Trax] No42: HRC President listens to NGOs

From 18 to 20 September 2013, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted the Working Group Reports of States reviewed during the 16th session of the UPR (April/May 2013), notably: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, and Uzbekistan.  All the above-mentioned States, except for Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, and Djibouti, had submitted an addendum containing their responses to the recommendations received.

UPR strengthening - Modalities clarified by President
Following concerns expressed by 77 NGOs lead by UPR Info on the 10 June 2013, the HRC  President issued a letter clarifying the format of UPR Working Group reports, thus partially closing the Pandora’s box opened during Russia’s UPR. The letter came after much controversy surrounding the adoption of footnotes in the Working Group report of Russia. The HRC President took note of the concerns raised by the NGOs and the possibility of a dangerous precedent being set with the Russian report. On September 18th, 2013, the HRC President circulated a letter to all Permanent Missions in Geneva reminding everyone of the UPR’s existing practices and rules for Working Group reports. The letter notably clarified that all recommendations suggested during a review have to be included in the body of the Working Group report and that all recommendations included in the Report are part of the outcome that States under Review must address.

Israel’s UPR and other General debate discussions
After the UPR adoptions, the HRC proceeded its work with the General Debate under Agenda Item 6 on Monday, 23 September 2013. The main topic of discussion was the HRC President’s letter from September 18th, 2013 providing clarity to the format of Working Group reports. Many speaking Member States supported the President’s clarification letter and reaffirmed their commitment to the UPR modalities and the established practices and procedures. UPR Info also seized the occasion during the General Debate to deliver a statement supporting and thanking the President for these clarifications which reflected at a large extent the NGO concerns. On another issue, States and NGOs strongly called for the cooperation and compliance of Israel in the UPR process. All noted their concern that Israel’s choice to not to participate in its Country review scheduled for January of 2013 undermines and is detrimental to the universality of the UPR mechanism. The second review of Israel has been postponed to Tuesday, 29 October 2013 during the 17th session of the UPR Working Group. Another highlight of the General Debate was the controversy which arose when an NGO mentioned a specific country in its statement. UN Watch wanted to speak about the modalities of the UPR process and wondered how Cuba received over 400 NGO submissions when the second highest number of submissions on a country was Canada with 48. Cuba raised a point of order requesting the HRC President to make a ruling limiting NGO statements to only those that were “on topic.” Venezuela, China, Egypt, and Iran all took to the floor to support the request of Cuba, while the U.S. and the U.K. both objected to this limitation on NGO speakers. The HRC President ruled against UN Watch, stating that NGOs must follow the established procedures and that all statements should be limited to the UPR process.

Time to get recommendations ready! - Next UPR session coming soon
From 21 October to 1 November 2013, the UPR Working Group will hold its 17th session examining the human rights situation in the following countries: Belize, China, Central African Republic, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Mauritius, Malta, Malaysia, Monaco, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal. The review of Israel will be of particular interest as they have not confirmed their participation. Israel has suspended its relations with the HRC since May 2012 and failed to appear to its UPR last January. The HRC had then decided to postpone its review to 29 October.

Do NGO recommendations matter?
We co-organised a parallel event during the 24th HRC session in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, on the occasion of the launch of a new publication by Prof. McMahon from Vermont University regarding the NGO involvement in the UPR process.  The main findings of the paper reaffirmed that NGO recommendations significantly matter and constitute an integral part of the UPR.  The paper concluded that NGO recommendations are extremely necessary in the UPR process and are reflected in State recommendations. This is an encouragement to the continued participation of NGOs in this State-driven process.

Several dozen grassroots NGOs to meet diplomats
The series of UPR Pre-sessions for 2013 will conclude with the organization of meetings on States coming up for review at the 18th UPR Working Group session (January-February 2014). The pre-session 18 will take place from 26 to 29 November 2013 at the Centre International de Conferences Genève (CICG). The meetings will bring together in a unique platform of dialogue representatives from Permanent Missions, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to discuss the status of implementation of UPR recommendations in the States under Review: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chile, Comoros, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, New Zealand, Slovakia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vietnam, and Yemen. UPR Info is currently responding to all applications received by several national and international NGOs. In this regard, we encourage all civil society organisations interested in participating to immediately contact us, especially those working on Slovakia, Vanuatu, and Yemen. More information about the pre-sessions can be found here.

Are States implementing UPR recommendations?
In the framework of its Follow-up Programme, UPR Info is currently assessing the status of implementation of UPR recommendations in the States coming up for review under the 23rd session of the UPR Working Group (October/November 2015), namely Micronesia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nauru, Rwanda, Nepal, Saint Lucia, Oman, Austria, Myanmar, Australia, Georgia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Sao Tome and Principe.

Quote of the Month:

When we are not at the table, it means we are on the menu

Ms. Joy Onyesoh, WILPF Nigeria, at UPR Info's pre-session

UPR Info:

UPR mechanism:

Upcoming Deadlines:

  • 28 October 2013: Deadline for submission of national report by States under Review at session 18 (January 2014).
  • 1st February 2014: Civil society deadline for Angola, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, San Marino and Slovenia.

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