A brief history

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism brought several new developments and opportunities never before seen in any human rights mechanism. It is the first ever human rights mechanism to achieve 100% of participation by UN member States. In addition, due to its very nature, the UPR permits civil society to advocate and to take part in implementation of human rights obligations.

On 15 March 2006, the UN General Assembly resolution 60/251 created the Human Rights Council (HRC) and mandated the HRC to: "undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies."

The UPR was established on 18 June 2007 when the HRC adopted its own “institution building package” in resolution 5/1 (A/HRC/RES/5/1). It is therefore a mechanism of the Human Rights Council. On 27th September 2007 the HRC adopted decision 6/102 as a follow-up to resolution 5/1. The first UPR session was held in April 2008.

Resolution 60/251, which founded the HRC, also decided that the HRC would review its work and functioning five years after its establishment. Therefore, following the process of its review, the HRC adopted resolution 16/21 on the outcome of the review and functioning of the HRC, in March 2011. This resolution contained the new modalities for the functioning of the HRC, but had left several issues pending in relation to the second cycle of the UPR: the order of review, the timetable for each Working Group session, the list of speakers, the general guidelines for the three documents serving as the basis of the review and the revised terms of reference of the Funds. Therefore the HRC followed resolution 16/21 by adopting decision 17/119 on 19 June 2011. This decision contained the new modalities on these issues for the second and subsequent cycles.

In order to clarify existing practice and rules regarding the UPR Working Group reports, the HRC President circulated a letter on 18 September 2013 to all Permanent Missions in Geneva reminding everyone of the UPR rules. The letter notably clarified that all recommendations suggested during the UPR 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. Since then, this important HRC President's stand is regularly recalled by States and the HRC President during Working Group sessions.