What is the UPR ?

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 United Nations (UN) Member States.

Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is reviewed every 5 years. 42 States are reviewed each year during three Working Group sessions dedicated to 14 States each. These three sessions are usually held in January/February, May/June and October/November.

The result of each review is reflected in an “outcome report” listing the recommendations the State under review (SuR) will have to implement before the next review.

—> The UPR is a full-circle process comprised of 3 key stages:

1) Review of the human rights situation of the SuR;

2) Implementation between two reviews (5 years) by the SuR of the recommendations received and the voluntary pledges made;

3) Reporting at the next review on the implementation of those recommendations and pledges and on the human rights situation in the country since the previous review.


Q&A on the modalities of the UPR process:

What does the review consist of?

The review takes place in a Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland, and lasts 3.5 hours.

Composition of the Working Group

The Working Group is composed of all UN member-States and chaired by the President of the Human Rights Council. Other relevant stakeholders, such as NGOs, national institutions and UN agencies, can attend the Working Group but they cannot take the floor.

Proceeding of the review

Each review starts with the presentation by the State under Review of its National Report and of its responses to the advance questions. Advance questions are questions submitted by States in writing ten days before the review.

Following this presentation, an interactive dialogue takes place during which States take the floor to ask questions and make recommendations on the human rights situation in the country under review. During this interactive dialogue, the State under Review takes the floor regularly to answer the questions and to comment on the recommendations.

At the end, the State under Review presents its concluding remarks.  

The State under Review's overall speaking time throughout the review is 70 minutes. Other States have a total of 140 minutes.

What human rights obligations are addressed?

The Institutional-building text of the Human Rights Council, as set out in resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1 of 18 June 2007, indicates that the review shall assess to what extent States respect their human rights obligations contained in:

  • The Charter of the United Nations;
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • Human Rights instruments to which the State is party (human rights treaties ratified by the State concerned);
  • Voluntary pledges and commitments made by the State (including those undertaken when presenting the candidature for election to the Human Rights Council);
  • Applicable international humanitarian law

What is the review based on?

Three main documents are used to conduct the review of the State:

  • A National Report of 20 pages prepared by the State concerned on the human rights situation in the country;
  • A compilation of ten pages prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) containing information from treaty bodies, special procedures and UN agencies such as UNDP and UNICEF;
  • A summary of ten pages prepared by the OHCHR containing information from the civil society.

These three documents are usually available on the OHCHR website six weeks before the start of the UPR working group.

How is the list of speakers established?

Every State willing to speak on a specific review is able to do so. The 140 minutes at hand for "reviewing States" are divided by the number of States interested in taking the floor. The lists of speakers for the 14 reviews of a given Working Group session open the week before the beginning of the session and States have four days to register. Then, each list is arranged in English alphabetical order and a letter is drawn by lot by the President of the Human Rights Council to decide where the list will begin.

States are able to swap places on the list. Those wishing to withdraw from a list have to inform the Secretariat at least 30 minutes before the beginning of the review to allow the latter to recalculate the speaking time provided to each delegation.

What is the troika and what does it do?

The troika consists of three countries' delegates assisting the review.

Composition of the troika

The troika members are selected by the drawing of lots among members of the Human Rights Council and from different regional groups. They can be delegation members or experts nominated by the selected State. Every State under review has a different troika. The State under Review can request that one of the three members be from its Regional Group and/or that one of the troika members be substituted, although only on one occasion. Finally, a troika member may ask to be excluded from participation in a specific review.

Role of the troika

According to a President's statement of 9 April 2008, the role of the troika is the following:

Before the review
The troika receives the written questions raised by States and relays them to the State under Review.

During the interactive dialogue
Troika members do not have a specific role during the interactive dialogue. However, they can take the floor as any delegation and make questions and recommendations.

Preparing the report of the Working Group
The troika prepares the report of the Working Group, which contains a full account of the proceedings, with the involvement of the State under Review and with the assistance of the Secretariat. One of the troika members is then in charge of introducing the report before its adoption at the Working Group.

What is the "outcome" of the Working Group review and how is it adopted?

The 3.5 hour review results in a report prepared by the troika with the involvement of the State under Review (SuR) and the assistance of the Secretariat. The report contains the summary of the interactive dialogue, the responses by the SuR to the questions and recommendations and the full list of recommendations made by States.

Adoption of the report during the Working Group

The report is adopted a first time during the Working Group session a few days after the review. The adoption lasts for 30 minutes and is mainly procedural.

Adoption of the report during the Human Rights Council

Once the report has been adopted during the Working Group session, it is then adopted by consensus a few months later at a plenary session of the Human Rights Council. One hour of the plenary is allocated to the adoption divided as such:

  • 20 minutes to the SuR to reply to questions and issues that were not sufficiently addressed during the review and respond to recommendations that were raised by States during the interactive dialogue.
  • 20 minutes to States to take the floor and express their opinion on the outcome of the review.
  • 20 minutes to civil society, NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), to make general comments.

What are the recommendations?

Recommendations are suggestions made to the State under Review to improve the human rights situation in the country. They can be of different nature and cover many issues. They are the key element of the review. During the first cycle, approximately 21'000 recommendations were made to 193 States.

According to HRC resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1, States can accept or note recommendations but they cannot reject them. Responses to each recommendation must be clearly explained in writing in a specific document called "addendum". This addendum should be submitted to the Human Rights Council in advance of the adoption of the report at the Human Rights Council.

Who decides which State will be reviewed and when?

During the selection phase of the first UPR cycle, States were split per regional group. Subsequently, the list of each group was organised so that States selected first were those whose terms of membership were ending in June 2007, second those whose terms of membership were ending in June 2008 and third those who volunteered for the UPR. Then, the list of countries was re-organised in alphabetical order starting with the country drawn by lot by the President.

The order of review at the second cycle is exactly the same as during the first cycle. However, as there is now only 14 States reviewed per session, the composition of each Working Group session has changed. See below for the 2012-2016 calendar.

What happens between two reviews?

The period between two reviews is called the "follow-up". It is the moment during which the State under Review implements the recommendations received.

The follow-up is the most critical and important phase of the whole UPR process as it is the one leading to the concrete realisation of the UPR goal, that is, the "improvement of the human rights situation on the ground". The success of this phase will also determine the efficiency and credibility of the mechanism and demonstrate States’ engagement in the promotion and strengthening of human rights.

What is the focus of the second and subsequent cycles?

The reviews at the second and subsequent cycles look into the human rights situation in the country since the previous review and assess the level of implementation of the recommendations the State had previously received.

Can NGOs and NHRIs participate in the UPR process?

Yes. They can, inter alia, submit information which will be used to review the country and take the floor during the adoption of the report at the HRC session. However, they cannot take the floor during the review.

Click here to see in detail how NGOs can take part in the UPR process.

Where does the review take place?

The Universal Periodic Review process is held in Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

Calendar of the Third Cycle of the UPR (2017-2021) here

Calendar of the Second Cycle of the UPR (2012-2016) here

Calendar of the First Cycle of the UPR (2008-2011) here