What happens during the Review?
The Reviews are conducted at the United Nations (UN) in the Palais Des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. Each Review lasts 3.5 hours and takes place within a Working Group. There are three Sessions of the Working Group every year during which time a maximum of 14 States are reviewed.
The Working Group is composed of the 47 members of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) however any of the remaining UN Member and Observer States can take part in the Interactive Dialogue, which the President of the HRC, or Vice-Presidents when necessary, chairs. During each Working Group Session the State under Review presents its National Report and offers its responses to the advance questions. Advance questions must be submitted by Recommending States, in writing, ten days before the review. Following this presentation, an Interactive Dialogue takes place during which States take the floor to make their recommendations on the human rights situation in the SuR. During this interactive dialogue, the SuR can take the floor to respond to comments, recommendations, and to answer any further questions. The Working Group usually closes with the SuR offering its concluding remarks. The 3.5 hour session is divided to allow the SuR a maximum of 70 minutes overall speaking time and other States have a total of 140 minutes.
Other relevant stakeholders, such as CSOs, NHRIs, and UN agencies, can attend the Working Group but they cannot take the floor.
What human rights obligations are addressed?
The Institutional-building text of the HRC, 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 HRC);
- Applicable international humanitarian law
What is the review based on?
Three main documents are used to conduct the review of the State:
- National Report
The SuR explains accomplishments and challenges in implementing recommendations since the previous review (10,700 words). This report should be based on broad consultations at the national level with relevant stakeholders.
- Compilation of UN information
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) compiles information it receives from various UN agencies, special procedures and treaty bodies about developments in the human rights situation in the SuR since the previous cycle (5,350 words).
- Stakeholder Summary
OHCHR summarises reports, submitted by NHRIs and CSOs, on the human rights situation in the SuR (5,350 words).
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 wishing to speak on a specific review is able to do so provided they register for the speakers list. Recommending States (RS) have four days to register for the list of speakers, which opens one week before the Working Group Session. The 140 minutes available to RS during the Interactive Dialogue are then divided by the number of States wanting to take the floor. Each list is then arranged in English alphabetical order and a letter is drawn by lot by the President of the HRC to decide where the list will begin. States are able to swap places on the list and those who wish to withdraw from a list should inform the HRC 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?
Each troika consists of three States, who are members of the HRC, selected by lot from the different regional groups. The troikas for each review taking place that year, are selected at the HRC Organisational Meeting at the beginning of said year. The selected States can send either a delegation members or a nominated expert to sit on the troika. Every State under review has a different troika. The SuR can request that one of the three slots be filed by a State from the same 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.
The specific role of the troika is further detailed in the President's statement of 9 April 2008:
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 are the recommendations?
Recommendations are suggestions made by UN member and observer States to the SuR to improve the human rights situation in the country. They can cover a range of human rights issues and UPR Info implores all States to use S.M.A.R.T recommendations. They are the key element of the review. During the first cycle, approximately 21,000 recommendations were made to 193 States. The second cycle saw approximately 36,000 recommendations.
According to HRC resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1, States can support or note recommendations; they cannot reject them. Responses to each recommendation must be clearly explained in writing in the Addendum, which must be submitted to the HRC in advance of the adoption of the final report at the HRC.
What is the outcome of the Review in the Working Group?
The 3.5 hour review results in a report prepared by the troika with the involvement of the SuR and with the assistance of the HRC Secretariat. The report contains the summary of the interactive dialogue, the initial responses by the SuR to the questions and recommendations and the full list of recommendations made by the Recommending States.
During the Working Group Session this report is distributed and subsequently adopted at the Adoption of the report during the Working Group which lasts 30 minutes and is mainly procedural.
Once the report has been adopted during the Working Group session, the SuR has several months to formulate its responses to all recommendations. The final report of the Working Group and Addendum is then adopted by consensus at a plenary session of the HRC. One hour is given for the Adoption of the report during the Human Rights Council and it is divided as such:
- 20 minutes - The SuR has time to present their position on recommendations and reply to questions or issues that were not sufficiently addressed during the review. If a Status A National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) or Ombudsman from the SuR wishes to take the floor they are allowed at this time.
- 20 minutes - States and other agencies, for example UN departments, are able to take the floor and express their opinion on the outcome of the review.
- 20 minutes – CSOs, Human Rights Defenders, and NHRIs have the floor. They can use this time to make comments on the UPR of their country.
What happens between two reviews?
The period between two reviews is known as the Implementation Phase. It is during the reviews in the Working Group in Geneva that the SuR is supposed to implement the recommendations it 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.
Can civil society and non-state actors participate in the UPR process?
Yes. There are numerous ways in which CSOs, HRDs, NHRIs, and others can engage in the UPR. For example, they can; submit information, which will be used to review the country, take the floor during the adoption of the report at the HRC session, work with the SuR on the implementation of recommendations, and many other activities all of which can be found in the Civil Society Compendium.