60 minutes to share their reality

Close to 50 NGOs presented the human rights situation in 11 countries before the diplomatic community during the UPR pre-session held in Geneva from the 26th to the 29th November 2013. The meetings were organized in the lead up to the review of these countries under the 18th UPR Working Group session (27 January - 7 February 2014) and concluded the series of pre-sessions organized by UPR Info throughout 2013.

After the initial success of the pre-sessions in 2012, the meetings are now organized 3 times a year with the aim of improving the dialogue and exchanges between different stakeholders in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In this vein, the November pre-session demonstrated once again that the meetings constitute a remarkable opportunity to bring together, in a unique forum for dialogue, civil society, NHRIs, and diplomatic missions to discuss the human rights situation of States prior to their review. This time the focus of the discussion was on the following States: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, New Zealand, Slovakia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uruguay, Viet Nam, and Yemen.

The pre-session featured a new format. The presentations by NGO and NHRI representatives were followed by a discussion on the status of implementation of the recommendations made at the previous cycle. In this regard, the panelists were asked to specifically highlight key developments and remaining challenges allowing diplomats to have a more precise idea of the follow-up to their own recommendations. UPR Info’s database constituted an important tool in identifying the relevant recommendations in order to facilitate the dialogue. The meetings were monitored live through Facebook and Twitter.

A number of pressing human rights issues have emerged from the discussion, such as freedom of expression and LGBT rights in Viet Nam; torture, enforced disappearances and religious persecution in Eritrea; early marriages in Yemen and Afghanistan; land evictions and human rights defenders in Cambodia, the right to nationality of people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic; women and indigenous peoples rights in New Zealand; etc. In this regard, Ms. Natasa Boskova from the Macedonian Coalition for Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities said that “the pre-session was a great opportunity for us to present our concerns regarding the human rights situation in Macedonia.” Sir Owen G. Glenn, speaking on violence against women and children in New Zealand on behalf of the Glenn Inquiry, stated that “these might [have been] the most important eight minutes of [his] life.”

The meetings were found valuable from the States’ perspective, including the State under Review, as noted by Mr. Mohamed Al-Foqumi from the Permanent Mission of Yemen, after the pre-session of Yemen on 29 November. “I found the meeting very valuable and very informative to take note of remarks, comments and recommendations of both national and international NGOs. We transmitted the issues, related to the human rights situation in Yemen, […] to study them and prepare replies to them.”

The seventh round of pre-session will be held from 7 to 10 April 2014 in relation to the countries to be reviewed at the 19th UPR session from 28 April to 9 May.