Highlights of the 33rd UPR Session: SDGs, Climate Change and LGBTI rights

The 33rd Working Group for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held its sessions from 6-17 May 2019. The human rights situation in the following fourteen states was reviewed: Norway, Albania, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ivory Coast, Portugal, Bhutan, Dominica, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Qatar, and Nicaragua. In total, 1,271 statements and 3,328 recommendations were delivered, with an average of 91 speakers and 238 recommendations per review.

UPR Info welcomes the increasing attention to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during the UPR sessions. States progressively link greater numbers of recommendations to the 2030 Agenda and to pertinent SDGs. For example, Cabo Verde delivered a recommendation to Equatorial Guinea to set up a plan to counter poverty in view of SDGs 3 and 4 and to enact a national mechanism to implement human rights recommendations in line with the SDGs. The Netherlands recommended that Equatorial Guinea establish a legal framework prohibiting violence against women in line with SDG 5 and that Ethiopia strengthen the independence of the National Human Rights Institution as per SDG 16. Switzerland presented recommendations to Costa Rica that, in tune with SDG 5.2, it decrease the frequency of femicides and cases of domestic violence, and that in line with SDG 3.7 and 5.6, it allows for abortion when the health of the woman is at risk.  Qatar has been recommended to implement the right of a child to obtain Qatari nationality from a Qatari woman married to a foreign man, in line with SDGs 5 and 10 as well as to guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association for all inhabitants of Qatar, in line with SDGs 8 and 10.

UPR Info recognizes the linking of UPR recommendations to the SDGs as a good practice for strengthening the synergies between human rights and sustainable development.

Environmental mainstreaming and the integration of climate change considerations with human rights are gaining similar traction. For example, during its review, the delegation of Ethiopia asserted, “Due to environmental degradation as a result of climate change, Ethiopia has been subject to the challenge of frequently occurring droughts. It goes without saying that our global efforts to combat the effects of climate change should be further enhanced if we are to […] implement the Sustainable Development Goals to eradicate poverty and achieve food security.”

Recommending States also addressed climate change related issues. This is the case of Cuba and Vietnam which respectively highlighted in their statements the need to expand the actions of preparation for natural disasters, emergency situations and adaptation to climate change (to Bhutan) and to continue the efforts in addressing the impacts of climate change and promote international cooperation in this regard (to Nicaragua). Acknowledging that climate change disproportionately threatens the security and resilience of the most vulnerable members of the community, small island developing states frequently express concern over climate change mitigation and disaster risk management in their UPR recommendations to member states. In advance of the upcoming Climate Action Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently remarked, “The Pacific has a unique moral authority to speak out. It is time for the world to listen.” During the 33rd UPR session, Fiji can increasingly be recognized as a pioneer in this regard as it reiterated its concern towards climate change. Other States also addressed climate change in connection with the exploitation of natural resources as Haiti recommended to ʺensure that the Norwegian oil and natural gas industry is free of toxic emissions in the near future to help the world combat climate changeʺ (to Norway).

Lastly, as the conclusion of the 33rd UPR Working Group overlaps with International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia, UPR Info takes the opportunity to recognize advancements made in strengthening, through the UPR, human rights action related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics. Relevant recommendations were delivered with increasing frequency as the need is recognized to eliminate all forms of inequalities to meet the pledge to Leave No One Behind in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.