The fifth year of work of UPR Info was marked by a significant development of the organisation: we moved into a new office closer to the United Nations; we hired a Programme Manager, bringing the team to three permanent staff; and we strengthened our position in Geneva as a major player of the Universal Periodic Review process. This expansion in size and activities was deeply correlated to the expansion of the UPR process as 2013 marked the entrance of the UPR into the second cycle.
In 2013, institutionally speaking, the UPR process in Geneva faced two major threats that could have potentially been detrimental to the process, namely the absence of Israel to its own review and the creation of sub-category of recommendations. UPR Info closely followed these two issues and engaged in both with proposals and remedies. We took a strong stance on the non-participation of Israel and called on the Human Rights Council to take action and define “persistent non-cooperation”. We also warned actors of the potential danger that a sub-category of recommendations in Working Group reports could bring to the UPR process, and actively pushed the Human Rights Council to act upon this issue. This resulted in a letter by the Human Rights Council President that is now recalled at each UPR session and has been used during troika meetings to prevent States from modifying recommendations. UPR Info took a prominent role in both instances and profiled itself as the guardian of the UPR. We managed to mobilise actors, notably States and civil society, around crucial points and delivered results that impacted the process.
The UPR also faced in 2013 an increased participation of stakeholders. The number of submissions by civil society organisations per State under Review has grown from 16 during the first cycle to 19 during the second cycle. The growth called for a better support in terms of impact on the recommendations made during review. Our Programme “Pre-sessions” responded to that need: 156 organisations took part in 2013, reaching since 2012 over 300 organisations and the participation of 99 Permanent Missions. Organisations are progressively including this activity in their planning and are de facto engaging earlier in the UPR process - when statements are not finalised yet - that results in an increased impact on the process. By connecting Permanent Missions from the five regions to grass roots activists, we have built confidence among actors, ensured that discussions on human rights can take place in a transparent and open manner and that the work of civil society is perceived as legitimate and useful to the UPR.
The increase in the participation of other stakeholders was also manifested by an increase in visits to our website. They reached a symbolic mark of 250,000 in one year. We therefore had to start working on a new website to respond to this increased demand which will be launched in 2014.
The increase in the number of recommendations made, with an average of 196 recommendations received by each State reviewed during the 16th session, also led us to take action. We entirely reworked our database to make it better equipped to face the new cap of 30,000 recommendations made since the beginning of the process, enabling a faster and more comprehensive search.
Since the publication of "On the road to implementation" in 2012, our study on the implementation of UPR recommendations, we released 70 further reports, and stakeholders commented upon 5,405 recommendations. Compared with 2012, the Follow-up Programme has evolved in many directions. The period assessed hereby has been the occasion to contact more diverse types of actors (notably UN Agencies), and adapt the programme to the needs expressed by stakeholders. We explored new areas in order to strengthen the UPR process, increased its credibility, and improved the understanding of all actors. So far, the Follow-up Programme offers unique data on what is happening on the ground. Since no UN monitoring process has been set up, this programme is the only tool to enhance States accountability at the UPR.
While the UPR was developing in 2013, UPR Info had to follow in order to continue providing quality support to all stakeholders. As the second cycle unfolds, the destiny of UPR Info becomes ever more interconnected with the fate of the UPR process.