On 12-13 March 2018, some 70 participants joined the Civil society submission workshop, co-organised by Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Office in Cambodia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UPR Info in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The event brought together urban and rural human rights defenders working on a broad scope of human rights issues. CCHR and OHCHR staff contributed with their expertise to agenda sessions, as did representatives from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). The objective of the two-day workshop was to equip national CSOs to submit joint CSO submissions containing action-oriented, specific and relevant recommendations prior to Cambodia’s 3rd UPR (January 2019). The workshop stressed the need to base submissions on credible first-hand evidence, and encouraged coalition-building and information-sharing amongst national civil society to increase their impact prior to the review.
The first segment of the Day 1 was devoted to a comprehensive introduction to the Universal Periodic Review. The presentation situated the UPR within the broader framework of the UN human rights system, described the phases of each cycle and outlined the roles of different stakeholders. Achievements resulting from UPR implementation were shared and the complementarity between the UPR, other human rights bodies and the SDGs was highlighted. The majority of participants had not previously engaged with the mechanism, which resulted in an interactive discussion around how to best utilise its entry points in Cambodia. It was followed by a panel session with CCHR and OHCHR to discuss the involvement of national stakeholders in the UPR since the last review in 2014, and priorities for civil society in the preparation phase of Cambodia’s third review. Questions from the floor prompted a conversation on the potential impact on the UPR process of the elections in July 2018, and how to most effectively share responsibilities when drafting joint submissions. In the next session, Mr Kingsley Abbott, Senior International Legal Advisor at ICJ, provided a compelling presentation based on his experience from supporting Thai CSOs in the submission stage. His timely presentation was packed with good practices on national and international advocacy strategies to influence recommendations and the implementation process. Mr Abbott reminded participants that the successful UPR engagement by Thai CSOs can be replicated in Cambodia, thus boosting the confidence in the room.
On the request of participants, Day 2 started with a presentation of UPR Info’s database. The multiple search functions available and ways to disaggregate data was introduced, illustrating its usefulness in the process of developing CSO submissions and advocacy strategies. The next sessions were devoted to practical group work. Based on their own experiences and preferences, participants from different CSOs divided themselves into 8 thematic clusters: 1) Gender/women/SOGIE/LGBTIQ; 2) Minorities and Indigenous Peoples; 3) Access to Justice; 4) Elections; 5) Land and Natural Resources; 6) Labour rights; 7) Public health; 8) Rights of the child. During the plenary feedback session, each Group Rapporteur presented four draft recommendations. A wide range of issues were addressed, including: freedom of assembly; abolishment of mandatory registration for trade unions and CSOs; compensation to landless persons; illegal logging.
During the workshop, UPR Info provided three main technical sessions to improve UPR knowledge amongst civil society stakeholders:
- Effective engagement at the UPR; creating long-term UPR strategies and a timeline of engagement for Cambodia;
- Technical training on the content, format and process of writing UPR submissions; and
- Advocacy strategies: preparing advocacy factsheets; encouraging States to make SMART recommendations.
CCHR, OHCHR and UPR Info will continue to discuss the potential of conducting additional activities to finalise the submissions ahead of the deadline on 12 July. In November 2018, an In-country Pre-session will enable national CSOs to discuss the human rights situation in Cambodia, and share their suggested recommendations with resident diplomats two months before its third review in January 2019.
The full activity report is available here.