CSOs play a key role in the UPR: An overview of the Second Cycle

After the adoption of the reports of the 26th Working Group session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Human Rights Council (HRC) held its usual general debate on the UPR. On 17 March 2017 HRC Member States, Observer States, and civil society organisations (CSOs), discussed several issues regarding the UPR mechanism, including: general outcomes of the seond cycle, follow-up and reporting under Item 6, as well as the expectations for the third cycle.

Second cycle
The second UPR cycle ended with 100% of participation, therefore Cuba, Tunisia and Iraq stressed the importance the UPR mechanism as a way to monitor and promote human rights standards within the UN system without politicising the issues. The Permanent Mission of Cuba stated that; “the UPR is a unique mechanism that sets the HRC apart from its predecessor”. Nevertheless others States, such as China and Venezuela, regretted the lack of support for developing countries during the second cycle and hoped this would change in the third cycle. Likewise, Sierra Leone asked for an increase in technical assistance made available to countries that lack the means to implement recommendations, despite having the political will. Moreover, Malta added to the notion of the UPR being a successful mechanism for human rights – citing UPR Info’s database – highlighting that 50% of the recommendations made during the first cycle had been implemented during the second cycle.

Follow-up and reporting under Item 6
Israel took the floor to explain the national consultation process, involving round table gatherings between CSOs, Government, Academia, and grassroots organisations, which is taking place in preparation for Israel’s review in 2018. Morocco and Haiti also spoke on their preparatory processes. Tunisia, a member of the group of friends on national reporting institutions, took the floor to briefly explain the importance of the National Coalition for Reporting to UN and Regional Bodies. 
The main topic of discussion, of this General Debate, was that of enhancing the commitment of States to follow-up on implementation on UPR recommendations. Many welcomed the practice of submitting mid-term reports and implementation plans. The need for technical assistance featured heavily, with Sierra Leone and Malaysia thanking the OHCHR for providing States with access to funds and guidelines. Switzerland, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), and the Russian Federation congratulated States that had introduced monitoring and implementation systems. They encouraged their peers to improve follow-up processes through sharing good practices, such as: making clear and precise recommendations; using the Item 6 debate to follow-up on recommendations; and establishing a National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-up (NMRF) for the UPR. Additionally, these States called for S.M.A.R.T recommendations to be made during the Working Group as to assist the monitoring of implementation. 

Third cycle
The UK and Switzerland both celebrated the high rate of participation and involvement of all Stakeholders at all stages of the UPR process. Switzerland reiterated the fact that it is States who are ultimately responsible for the success of this mechanism, during the 3rd cycle”, suggesting further links to the Sustainable Development Goals and Peace and Security within the UPR. The UK delivered a Joint Statement on behalf of Brazil, Morocco, Paraguay, and 60 other UN Member States to commit to 5 core UPR principles for the third cycle, incluing the need for a sustainable approach to implementation and the need for recommendations to be either noted or supported (which it the agreed upon UN terminology). Finally, Belgium regretted that 'Addendum' documents are often published late thus making it difficult for States wanting to intervene during the Item 6 General debate, and hoped for a change in this behaviour for this upcoming cycle. 

National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-up (NMRF)
Morocco, Tunisia (in its position as a member of the group of friends on national reporting institutions), Malaysia, and Georgia reiterated the significance of NMRFs as a focal point for developing a national approach to ensuring human rights. 

Role of CSOs
The role CSOs play throughout the UPR was also highlighted by several States. Malta, in behalf of the European Union, stressed that CSO contributions cannot be overstated and called on all states to encourage their legitimate participation in the UPR process. Switzerland also emphasised the indispensable part CSOs play in drafting and monitoring recommendations following the State’s review in the UPR. Many CSOs also took the floor to reiterate their position within the mechanism and their relevance throughout the UPR process. 

UPR Info
UPR Info delivered a statement on the importance of midterm reports and reporting procedures as well as the importance of recommendations made during the UPR actually improving human rights on the ground. Read more here.