This glossary is intended to explain some of the important elements of the UPR mechanism. By clicking on each letter (from A to M or from N to Z) you will find the basic terms used in the context of the UPR.
A to M
The Addendum is a document drafted by the State under Review (SuR) containing their responses to the recommendations received during the Working Group (WG). An Addendum is limited to 2,675 words. The Addendum is a secondary document to the final Report of the Working Group.
Adoption of the Report
A Report, which includes the list of recommendations received during the Review, is distributed online 48 hours after the Review. It is adopted a few days after the Review, but still during the Working Group Session. The final version of the Report of the Working Group is adopted by the Human Rights Council (HRC) approximately three to four months later. During the adoption, other States and stakeholders can make final comments on the report. See also Report of the Working Group.
Advance written questions
Advance questions can be raised by United Nations (UN) Member or Observer States, are directed at the SuR, and are about the human rights situation in the country. These questions are submitted to a SuR through the Troika, in writing, ten working days before the Working Group session. They are expected to be answered by the SuR during its Review.
UPR examinations are based on the content of three reports, designed to outline the progress and challenges of the human rights situation since the previous Review in the State under Review. The documents are submitted by the SuR, UN Agencies, and other stakeholders such as civil society organisations. See also National Report, Compilation of UN Information, and Stakeholder Summary.
Basis of the review
The basis of the review refers to the international human rights norms, obligations, and commitments, as well as tenets of humanitarian law that are taken into account when conducting the UPR. It consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, the treaties to which the State is a party, the voluntary pledges and commitments the State has undertaken, and international humanitarian law (IHL).
Civil Society Organisations
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which can also be non-profit organisations, working on a wide range of issues. CSO can refer to a range of organisations, such as the media, faith-based organisations, trade unions, academic groups, lawyers, human rights defenders, etc. Civil society has many opportunities to engage in the UPR process, notably through submitting information on the human rights situation; lobbying Permanent Missions in Geneva and their in-country counterparts; taking the floor during the adoption of the Working Group report at the HRC; and assisting and monitoring the implementation of recommendations on the ground. More information is available on the Role of CSOs page.
Compilation of UN information
The Compilation of UN information is prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and it is one of the three documents used to conduct the Review. It summarises and compiles all information submitted to the OHCHR on a specific SuR by UN agencies and other UN human rights mechanisms, such as Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures. The compilation also includes potential recommendations. It cannot exceed 5,350 words. See also Background documents.
Consultations are meetings that a State under Review (SuR) should hold with representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs) and the national human rights institution(s) (NHRI) in view of the drafting of their national report to the UPR. Consultations should be held in good time ahead of the submission of the National Report by the SuR.
The cycle is the time from one Review to the next for the same SuR. Following adoption of resolution 16/21 and decision 31/116, the current duration of the UPR cycle is now 5 years. Each cycle comprises of the review of all 193 UN member States and of 3 phases: the preparation, the review (see Review), and the implementation (see Implementation).
Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. To date, it has been translated into over 500 languages
ECOSOC consultative status
ECOSOC status allows civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to access various UN human rights mechanisms, including the UPR. CSOs need ECOSOC status to enter UN premises, attend the Review, make a statement (oral and/or written) during the adoption of the Working Group Report, and organise side events (see also Side event) at both the UPR and the HRC. However, ECOSOC status is not needed for CSOs to submit a report on the human rights situation in the SuR or to monitor and take part in the implementation of recommendations. ECOSOC status is granted by the Committee on NGOs, a standing committee of the UN Economic and Social Council. The Committee is based at the UN in New York, and its membership is comprised of 19 Member States.
The extranet is a website run by the OHCHR, and is only accessible by password. It contains organisational documents such as programmes of work, calendars of meetings, and minutes of the HRC Bureau. Documents related to the HRC and the UPR also found on the extranet include: statements by States and CSOs, draft UPR Working Group reports, list of speakers for each review, and draft resolutions.
The follow-up phase of the UPR refers to the period of time after any given review. This includes, but is not limited to, the time between the review and the adoption of the final Working Group Report, during which the SuR must decide on its responses to their recommendations. Follow-up also refers to the 5-year period from one review to the next, during which recommendations should be implemented and monitored. However, this is more regularly known as the Implementation phase. See also Implementation.
The General Debate is a discussion that takes place at the HRC under each agenda item. During the general debate on the UPR under HRC Item 6 States, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), and CSOs take the floor to discuss the UPR and its modalities. It is also the opportunity to provide feedback on the implementation of recommendations in a particular country. States can also present their mid-term Reports during the General Debate or any updates on their progress made to implement their UPR recommendations.
For the start of the third cycle of the UPR, the OHCHR published guidance notes for States and a new set of ‘Technical Guidelines’ for CSOs. These provide very clear instructions on how to successfully engage with the UPR mechanism. The documents offer practical suggestions in regards to appropriate content. The documents are available on our Documents for CSOs and Documents for States pages.
Human Rights Council
The HRC is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe. The HRC is comprised of 47 Member States, elected by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) through direct and secret ballot. The UNGA takes into account the candidate States' contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard. The HRC's membership is based on equitable geographical distribution. Seats are distributed as follows: African States: 13 seats; Asia-Pacific States: 13 seats; Latin American and Caribbean States: 8 seats; Western European and other States: 7 seats; Eastern European States: 6 seats. Members of the HRC serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. The UPR is a mechanism of the HRC.
Human Rights Council (HRC) Bureau
The HRC Bureau consists of the four HRC Vice Presidents, each representing a different UN regional group. The office of the HRC President and their Vice Presidents rotates yearly.
Implementation consists of the steps undertaken by the SuR, and other stakeholders, to implement the recommendations received during the review. Starting immediately after the adoption of the final Working Group Report, the Implementation phase is the period before the next review. The SuR must implement those recommendations it has formally supported; and is encouraged to also take action on the ones it has noted.
UPR Info runs an In-country Programme designed to support UPR stakeholders - primarily, though not exclusively, civil society organisations - throughout the five-year UPR cycle. Through a five step process, the In-country Programme guides participants through each stage of the UPR, from submitting the initial reports, to strategic advocacy around the review itself, to monitoring implementation and submitting mid-term Reports. More information is available on the In-country Programme page.
See ‘Resolution 5/1’.
The interactive dialogue is the discussion which takes place between the SuR and Recommending States (RS) during the 3.5 hour review in the Working Group. States pose questions, make comments, and put forward human rights recommendations to the SuR. The SuR is expected to respond these questions, comments, and recommendations during this dialogue.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) regulates the legally permissible conduct during armed conflicts. It aims to protect persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities, and restricts the means and methods of warfare. The two main legal treaties in IHL are the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions. IHL is one of the five bases of the review of the UPR.
The HRC agenda has 10 items in total and Item 6 of the HRC agenda is dedicated to the UPR. Under Item 6, the Report of the Working Group (final) is adopted for every SuR reviewed at the corresponding UPR. The Addendum, containing the SuR’s responses to recommendations is also adopted at this time. In addition, there is a General Debate on the mechanism, which is a space for States and CSOs to present UPR-related issues and updates to the HRC.
See Special Procedures.
The OHCHR has devised 'Matrices of recommendations of countries' to further emphasise the level of implementation in UPR reporting. Each Matrix allows States and CSOs to report on both the supported and noted recommendations. The purpose of the matrices is to collect precise and specific information on the level of implementation in the SuR.
There are 193 UN Member States. Every UN Member State goes through the UPR process as a State under Review, and has the option to also engage as a Recommending State during other reviews. See also Observer State.
A mid-term report is a report submitted halfway between the five-year cycle, by a State or any other UPR stakeholder, that provides the HRC with information on the process of implementation of the recommendations. A voluntary update on the process of implementation is encouraged in paragraph 18 of Resolution 16/21. The report should be submitted, two and a half years after the review. States are encouraged to conduct broad consultations with all relevant stakeholders, and to reflect their perspectives in the report. Other stakeholders may also publish mid-term reports about the human rights on the ground and the status of implementation of the recommendations by their government. Mid-term reports can be submitted to OHCHR, presented under Item 6 of the HRC General Debate, and sent to UPR Info to publish on its website.
Modalities are rules or guidelines governing the UPR. The main modalities of the UPR are contained in UNGA Resolution 60/251 and HRC Resolutions 5/1 and 16/21.
Measuring and reporting on the level of implementation of UPR recommendations, by all stakeholders, including CSOs, the NHRI, and UN agencies, is the only effective method to monitor the human rights progress made by the SuR from one review to the next.
N to Z
National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)
The NHRI is a State body with a constitutional and/or legislative mandate to protect and promote human rights. NHRIs are ranked according to their independence (from ‘A’ to ‘C’). The NHRIs with an ‘A’ status (in compliance with the Paris Principles) enjoy greater access to the UN human rights bodies. NHRIs must apply for accreditation to the International Coordinating Committee. An ombudsman can be considered as an NHRI.
National Report (or State Report)
The National Report is prepared by the Government of the SuR to present an up-to-date record of the human rights situation in the country. It should also include information regarding the implementation of previous recommendations. The report cannot be longer than 10,700 words and should be submitted 12 weeks before the review. The National Report is one of three documents used to conduct the review of a State. See also Background documents.
Noted: See also Response to Recommendations.
Observer State: There are two UN Observer States, namely the Holy See, and the State of Palestine. These Observer States can make recommendations at the UPR but do not go through the review process as SuRs. See also Member State.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): The OHCHR is the human rights branch of the UN and is part of the UN Secretariat. The OHCHR has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as having country and regional offices around the world. It works to ensure that international human rights standards are effectively upheld and implemented on the ground. It supports the work of the UN treaty bodies and the HRC. The High Commissioner for Human Rights is the head of the Office, and leads the human rights work of the UN.
Ombudsman: An Ombudsman, often a term used interchangeably with NHRI, is an organ or person responsible of ensuring that citizens’ rights are respected by the State. Its mission is to guarantee the respect of each individual’s rights within the framework of any political, administrative, bureaucratic or other State action. At the UPR, an ombudsman can often take the same role as the NHRI.
Other Stakeholders: The OHCHR recognises “civil society actors, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions, ombudspersons and regional organisations” as ‘Other Stakeholders’ at the UPR. See also Stakeholder Summary.
Outcome: The outcome of the UPR consists of a set of documents published in the framework of the review of a country, which includes the Working Group report, the addendum, and the statement delivered by the SuR during the adoption of the Working Group report at the HRC.
The Paris Principles are a set of international standards that frame and guide the work of NHRIs. The internationally agreed upon Paris Principles define the role, composition, status and functions of NHRIs. The Principles outline the necessity for NHRIs to have a broad human rights mandate, adequate funding, and an inclusive and transparent selection and appointment process. The Principles are broadly accepted as the test of an institution’s legitimacy and credibility.
UPR Info Pre-sessions are meetings organised to bring together Permanent Missions, NHRIs, CSOs, and States to discuss the human rights situation in the States coming up for review at the UPR. The Pre-sessions take place approximately one month prior to a State’s review and provide a valuable platform for civil society to engage with UN member States and make their voice heard at the UPR.
Recommendations are suggestions made to the State under Review by Recommending States on how to improve the human rights situations in their countries. Recommendations can be very diverse in terms of desired actions, issues addressed, and timeline for action. UPR Info provides a Database of Recommendations, which includes every UPR recommendation ever made. The SuR must respond to all recommendations, in writing prior to the adoption of the Working Group report at the Human Rights Council (HRC), approximately three months after the review. See also Response to recommendations.
A Recommending State is either a United Nations Member or Observer State that takes the floor during a review of a specific State to ask questions, make comments, and most importantly make recommendations for the improvement of human rights standards in the SuR. More information is available on the Role of Recommending States section.
Report of the Working Group
Each review results in the publication of the Report of the Working Group of the UPR. This report documents in full what was said during a review, including a summary of questions and comments made by RS, as well as a complete list of all recommendations made to the SuR. The troika and the SuR assist the HRC Secretariat in drafting this report. The list of recommendations is distributed online 48 hours after the review and adopted a few days later. The full draft report is available one week after the end of the Working Group session. The Report of the Working Group (final) is adopted, with the Addendum containing the SuR’s responses to recommendations, by the HRC several months later at a plenary session.
This resolution by the Human Rights Council was adopted in March 2011 following the Review of the HRC, which took place in 2010-2011. As a result of the HRC Review, some modalities of the UPR were changed for the second cycle. Resolution 16/21 describes these changes and decisions. In addition, it explains that only 42 member states should be reviewed across the three sessions of the Working Group per year. The resolution highlights that the second and subsequent cycles should focus on the implementation of the recommendations and the developments of the human rights situation in the State under Review (SuR).
This resolution by the Human Rights Council outlines the practices and guidelines to be followed during the UPR. It was adopted on 18 June 2007, following one year of negotiations within the HRC. It is also called the Institution-building package.
Resolution 60/251 is the UN General Assembly resolution establishing the HRC and the UPR. It was adopted on 15 March 2006, and was part of the UN reforms that replaced the Commission on Human Rights with the Human Rights Council.
Response to recommendation
The SuR has approximately four months – between the review and the adoption of the final Report of the Working Group and Addendum at HRC – during which it must decide to either support or note the received recommendations. Resolution 5/1 explains that UPR recommendations can be "supported" or "noted" by the SuR. Supported recommendations indicate that the SuR is committed to implementing said recommendations before its next review. Noted recommendations mean the SuR has made no such commitment; however, these recommendations can still be implemented and monitored.
The Review itself takes place at the UPR Working Group Session. It examines UN member States vis-à-vis its commitments to human rights under international law. In particular, States are reviewed on their human rights obligations deriving from the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Human rights treaties ratified by the State concerned, international humanitarian law, and any voluntary pledges and commitments made by the State. The WG will use the National Report, the Compilation of UN Information, and the Summary of Other Stakeholders’ Information to conduct the review. During the process, an interactive dialogue takes place between the SuR and the RS. Here, questions concerning the SuR’s human rights record are addressed, and recommendations on how to improve the human rights situation in the country are submitted. During the 3.5 hour review, the SuR has 70 minutes to speak, while all RS wishing to speak have a total of 140 minutes.
The Secretariat assists the HRC with the organisation of the UPR sessions. The HRC Secretariat is composed of staff from the OHCHR.
Session (Working Group)
See ‘Working Group’.
A side event is an unofficial meeting organised in the Palais des Nations in Geneva, in parallel to a HRC or UPR session. A side event can be organised by a State, the OHCHR, NHRIs, or CSOs with ECOSOC status. The event usually discusses a specific human rights issue or the human rights situation in a specific country. It can also be used to launch a publication or present research findings in the domain of human rights.
The SMART method adds helpful criteria for writing precise and action-oriented recommendations. It was a method used in the context of management tools and setting goals criteria, and later it was adopted in the Human Rights world.
UPR Info strongly recommends working on this methodology: what we call SMART recs are recommendations that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
The SMART formula allows us to act two-fold:
- By providing guidelines to improve the current human rights and humanitarian situation
- By providing a baseline for the monitoring of the improvement
In developing SMART recommendations, one should consider them as clear guidelines to resolve the human rights issue in question. Moreover, SMART recs facilitate implementation and monitoring by providing:
- Clear information to evaluate whether the recommendation has been implemented.
- Concise actions are required from the State to improve the human rights situation.
- A specific baseline for the assessment of the improvement of the human rights situation for the next cycle
Special Procedures is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) that aims to address the human rights situation in a specific country or a thematic human rights issue in all parts of the world. The OHCHR supports the mandate of the Special Procedures. Special Procedures can be an individual, namely a “special rapporteur”, “independent expert”, or “special representative”, or a working group composed of five members. They are created by HRC resolutions and for a limited time. This position is fully independent in the sense that the expert is not employed as UN staff, nor do they receive financial remuneration for their work. Generally, Special Rapporteurs examine, monitor, advise, and publicly report on human rights issues falling under their mandate. They publish a yearly report to the Human Rights Council (HRC). The activities undertaken by Rapporteurs include, inter alia, responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, raising awareness and providing advice on technical cooperation at the country level. They can also conduct country missions after the Government concerned has extended a formal invitation. Rapporteurs may not hold their positions for longer than six (6) years.
Stakeholders are actors who take part in the UPR process. They include the UN Member and Observer States, NHRIs, Civil Society CSOs, UN Agencies, academics, parliamentarians, the media etc.
The Summary of Other Stakeholders’ Information is one of the three documents used to conduct the review of a State. Compiled by the OHCHR, it summarises the information and recommendations contained in the submissions made by “Other Stakeholders”. The compilation cannot exceed 5,350 words. See also Background Documents.
See National Report.
State under Review (SuR)
A SuR is a UN member State that is having its human rights record reviewed at the UPR Working Group Session.
Submissions are reports submitted by other stakeholders, including CSOs, to the OHCHR to be part of the Summary of Other Stakeholders’ Information. Any CSO, with or without ECOSOC status, can submit a report. CSOs can join together and submit joint reports. Individual reports are limited to 2,815 words, while joint reports are limited to 5,630 words. Submissions are usually due 7 to 8 months before the review.
See also Response to Recommendations.
Technical assistance is a request for help sought by a State from the United Nations (UN) or from other States. Technical assistance requests may include, but are not limited to, requests for staff, training programs in certain areas, help in drafting reports, and requests to work together to develop programs. The UN has two voluntary funds to answer requests for technical assistance. See Voluntary funds.
Treaty bodies are committees of human rights experts that monitor the implementation by State parties of core international human rights treaties and their optional protocols. States must have ratified a specific treaty in order to be reviewed by its relevant body. One example of a treaty body is the Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The troika assists the UPR Working Group (WG) with the human rights review of the SuR. It is a group of three delegates from HRC Member States that are selected by the drawing of lots. A troika member may take the floor as any other delegation, ask questions, and make recommendations during the interactive dialogue. The troika representatives have two main roles: (i) receive all written questions and/or issues raised by the WG and relay them to the SuR; and (ii) help to prepare the report of the WG with the assistance of the UN Secretariat and the SuR. One Troika member is in charge of introducing the list of recommendations before its adoption at the WG.
Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The UPR is a United Nations human rights mechanism established by resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly to review the human rights records of all UN member States. Each member state is reviewed every 4 ½ years by the UPR Working Group. During the review process each State under Review is asked questions by their peers regarding their human rights record and also given recommendations on how to improve the human rights situation in their home country.
Voluntary pledges are commitments made by a State under Review in the course of the UPR to do a specific action. Voluntary pledges can be made at different stages: during the drafting of the national report, during the review, and during the adoption of the Working Group report. For example, many States have made a voluntary pledge to submit a mid-term report on the implementation of recommendations received during their UPR review.
Voluntary Trust Fund for participation
The Fund for participation, or Fund 1, is a fund established by Human rights Council Resolution 6/17 to assist developing countries, particularly least developing countries, in their participation in the UPR process in Geneva. The Fund can cover the expenses of traveling costs to Geneva for delegation members and support training prior to the UPR.
Voluntary Trust Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance
The Voluntary Trust Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance, or Fund 2, is a fund established by Human Rights Council Resolution 6/17 to assist States in their implementation of UPR recommendations.
The webcast is a live video streaming of a Human Rights Council or UPR session. The webcasts are then posted both on the OHCHR and UPR Info websites and are accessible by anyone.
The UPR Working Group (WG) is the body that conducts the human rights review of States. In practice, all 193 UN member States, as well as the Holy See and the State of Palestine, are part of the group. The WG meets in Geneva, Switzerland three times per year with a total of fourteen (14) countries for each session to be reviewed. WG sessions usually take place in January, April, and October.