Pre-sessions Frequently Asked Questions
A Pre-session is a meeting on the human rights situation in a specific UN Member State. A series of Pre-session meetings are organised by UPR Info on the States that will be reviewed at the UPR Working Group. The meetings take place in Geneva, Switzerland, approximately one month prior to the UPR Working Group session.
The Pre-sessions pursue two main objectives:
(i) Supporting bottom-up advocacy at the UPR. The Pre-sessions serve as a unique sounding board for grassroots and national voices to bring their knowledge and expertise to the attention of the international community. These platforms promote greater CSO participation in the UPR, empowering CSOs to take ownership of the process and to continue to engage in the mechanism at the national level, particularly during the implementation phase of the recommendations.
(ii) Providing permanent missions with first-hand sources of information on human rights. The Pre-sessions provide a unique opportunity for representatives of permanent missions to gather information directly from the field through CSO presentations. These platforms also allow permanent missions to save time and vary their sources of information for drafting their recommendations. Rather than having to rely solely on the vast amount of written submissions to the UPR, the Pre-sessions bring the information to life by offering recommending States the opportunity to hear testimonies and engage with rights-holders.
The Pre-sessions are also a way for permanent missions to receive specific and action-oriented recommendations. recommending States can use these recommendations at the UPR, knowing that they will reflect the needs of local civil society.
A series of Pre-sessions takes place approximately one month before the UPR Working Group session and covers the same countries as those that will be reviewed. Although there are usually 14 countries under review at each UPR Working Group, there may be fewer Pre-session meetings. This can be due to a number of reasons, including a lack of applications related to geographical distance and the financial cost related to travel to Geneva.
The Pre-sessions usually take place over 4 days during the morning from Tuesday to Friday. Each Pre-session meeting lasts between 30 minutes and one hour, depending on the number of speakers.
The Pre-sessions are public events and all stakeholders are invited to attend - States, CSOs, NHRIs, academics, media, UN agencies, etc. To request accreditation to access the Pre-sessions, please contact UPR Info at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the permanent missions present in Geneva are invited to attend the Pre-sessions.
If you are a new diplomate in Geneva and you wish to be added to our mailing list, please write a message to: email@example.com.
The permanent missions of the SuR are invited to attend their country's Pre-session.
If you are a new diplomate in Geneva and you wish to be added in our mailing list, please contact UPR Info at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPR Info publishes the call for applications on its website and social media channels approximately 3-4 months before the Pre-sessions will take place. Interested parties should fill in the online application form and are invited to attach their submission to the other stakeholders’ report. To ensure that you do not miss the call for applications, we invite you to visit our website regularly and to subscribe to our social networks - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can also request more information by emailing email@example.com
Since each Pre-session lasts only 30 minutes to one hour, a maximum of six panelists are selected to speak. Therefore, it is not always possible to select all candidate organisations.
The speakers are selected according to an objective set of criteria, where priority is given on the following bases:
- Grassroots and national CSOs because they ensure a bottom-up approach to advocacy, placing local voices at the forefront of international human rights dialogue;
- National coalitions CSOs working in coalitions benefit from the collective knowledge of each of its members, as they often represent a large spectrum of human rights, and their engagement tends to be more sustainable;
- Organisations that have submitted a report to the UPR. CSOs have the opportunity to submit reports to the OHCHR approximately seven months before the review date. In preparing the report for the UPR, CSOs develop specific expertise on human rights issues in the country. On the other hand, CSOs that are already engaged in the UPR are more likely to remain involved in the mechanism in a long-term perspective.
- Organisations representing as many different human rights themes as possible. The issues on which CSOs wish to speak should be diverse enough to reflect the different aspirations of the population;
The final panel composition should ensure a gender perspective and, when possible, gender parity among speakers.
For each State under review, up to six Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are selected to present a particular human rights issue in their country. After presenting the general situation and the main developments since the last review, each representative provides SMART recommendations that they would like Recommending States to raise during the UPR. Following the presentations by the panelists, the moderator opens the floor to questions from the Permanent Missions present in the room. Note that although States under review are invited to attend their own Pre-session, they cannot participate in the question-and-answer period.
Each panelist has 5-7 minutes to deliver his/her presentation. After the presentations, the moderator opens the floor to questions from Permanent Missions.
Each speaker will receive a statement template from UPR Info that can serve as a good starting point to structure the intervention. In general, the following elements should be included:
- Presentation of the organisation;
- Succinct explanation as to whether national consultations took place for the drafting of the national report;
- Brief presentation of the plan of the statement and the issues that will be addressed;
- Development of the presentation: the speaker is encouraged to present the situation of the chosen human rights theme in the State under review, including progress since the last review. Given the limited time available, it is impossible to address a large number of issues. It is therefore essential to focus your presentation on the most important issues in the chosen thematic area;
- Before concluding, it is crucial to propose 2-3 recommendations to the representatives from Permanent Missions. These recommendations should contain specific actions to improve the human rights situation in the country.
For more details, please consult our Pre-session guide (Chapter 8).
The main languages used during the Pre-sessions are English, French and Spanish. During the Pre-sessions, UPR Info usually provides interpretation from French and Spanish into English. In case a majority of CSOs from a particular country are not able to speak these languages, UPR Info will provide simultaneous interpretation when possible.
The number of questions asked by representatives from the permanent missions depends on different factors and is difficult to anticipate. For example, each recommending State has priority regions, countries, and subjects to which it pays particular attention. In addition, some questions may be sensitive, and a recommending State may prefer to ask them during bilateral meetings with the organisation concerned.
If you are not selected as a speaker, you can always ask UPR Info for accreditation to attend the Pre-sessions as an observer. This will allow you to benefit from an opportunity to meet with representatives of the Permanent Missions present at the event. You will also be able to bring advocacy documents that UPR Info will make available to the Permanent Missions during the Pre-session. Moreover, you can participate in our training sessions before the event. For more information, please contact us at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pre-sessions are a transparent, constructive, and inclusive platform. As such, all States, including the State under Review, are invited to participate and to listen to the concerns expressed by CSOs. Although cases of intimidation have been rare in the past, there have been instances where CSOs have been prevented by their state authorities from traveling to Geneva to participate in the Pre-sessions. It is essential that each participant assess the potential risks and repercussions of participating in the Pre-sessions. If you have any questions or fear reprisals related to your participation in the Pre-sessions, please contact UPR Info and the OHCHR Secretariat. For more information, please refer to UPR Info’s guidelines on reprisals.
After each series of Pre-sessions, UPR Info publishes the statements and advocacy materials of the panelists on its website. This allows Permanent Missions and all interested persons to access the information that was presented, including the recommendations that were made. Please note that UPR Info publishes only the material that the speaker has consented to share.
Yes, UPR Info organises two other events in parallel with the Pre-sessions:
- UPR trainings:
UPR Info organises a series of online training sessions the month before the Pre-sessions. They introduce basic concepts of the UPR and propose advocacy strategies that CSOs can use at different stages of the process. A one-day training is also organised in Geneva during the week of the Pre-sessions. The training are open to all, including CSOs that were not invited to speak at the Pre-sessions.
- Networking events:
At each Pre-session series, UPR Info organises a networking event to which permanent missions, NHRIs, national and international CSOs are invited. The event allows participants to meet each other in an informal environment to continue discussions on the human rights issues raised at the Pre-sessions.
Financial and logistical support to attend the Pre-sessions
UPR Info has limited funds to support a small number of CSOs from select countries. For more information on the availability of funds, please contact UPR Info directly.
Organisations in need of financial support should consider reaching out to the embassies and overseas development programmes of the countries that have made recommendations to the State under review on their thematic. To help identify what States made recommendations to your State under review, please consult UPR Info's database.
Based on the feedback of former participants, CSOs and NHRIs should plan to stay in Geneva for approximately three to four nights, if their financial resources permit. The exact length of the stay should depend on the date of the country's Pre-session, and whether the organisation plans to participate in the UPR Info training and the networking event.
UPR Info is unable to make hotel bookings nor arrange other travel-related logistics for Pre-session participants. Should they require assistance with securing accommodation for the Pre-sessions, participants are encouraged to contact the Geneva Welcome Centre (Le Centre d'Accueil - Genève Internationale, "CAGI"). CAGI’s Delegates Welcome Service may be able to support CSO and NHRI delegates with many practical aspects of their stay in Geneva, including logistical support for planning accommodation, and may grant financial aid to reduce the cost. Requests for financial aid are examined on a case-by-case basis.
Yes, interested media outlets can contact the Policy and Advocacy Programme team to arrange their participation as an observer. It is important to note that recording and photography are not permitted during the Pre-sessions.
For a detailed guide on participation at the Pre-sessions, including best practices and how to prepare, see UPR Info Pre-sessions: Empowering human rights voices from the ground. Additional information is also available on our webpage.