On Thursday, 13 March, 2014, at the United Nations office in Geneva, the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) held a panel meeting on the engagement of NHRIs at the Universal Periodic Review. As NHRIs can play a significant role in the second cycle of the UPR, the meeting was a platform for them to share experiences and best practices.
The Chair of the meeting, Dr. Raul Plasencia-Villanueva, from the NHRI of Mexico, emphasised that, resolution 5/1of the Human Rights Council (HRC) provides fora better NHRI participation in the second cycle of the UPR : NHRIs with A status now have their own section in the Summary of stakeholders’ information and can intervene immediately after the state under review, at the adoption of the outcome document, in plenary session of the HRC.
Ms. Shahrzad Tadjbakhsh, Chief of the UPR Branch at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointed out that NHRIs have engaged positively with the UPR process. She shared some figures to illustrate such participation. 17 reports were submitted by NHRIs during the six first sessions of the first cycle while 41 were submitted during the second cycle. In terms of oral statements made during the adoption of reports, 7 NHRIs participated over the six first sessions of the UPR first cycle while 16 did during the second cycle. For NHRIs with problems travelling to Geneva to deliver their oral statements, she shared example of alternative means to deliver their statements such as the Australian NHRI which participated via video statement and the Canadian NHRI which had another organisation read its statement.
Ms. Tadjbakhsh notably insisted on the importance to continue the dialogue with Governments on recommendations that were noted and/or rejected. Notably, NHRIs could provide information on the follow-up of recommendations not accepted. She also encouraged NHRIs to submit mid-term reports. As a way of example, the Malaysian NHRI has submitted one at the HRC under item 6 General debate and Australian and Irish NHRIs will be presenting reports on 21 March 2014.
NHRIs then shared their national experience in engaging with the UPR. NHRIs from India, Ukraine and Cameroon highlighted that their governments consulted them in preparation of the national report. The NHRI from India, pointed out they consulted government when they were preparing their stakeholder report. South African, Nepalese and Sri Lankan NHRIs also pointed out, they consulted civil society when they prepared their stakeholder reports. NHRIs from Cameroon and Rwanda both organised several trainings on the UPR process. The institution from Afghanistan participated in UPR Info’s pre-session in November 2013.
In terms of implementation, the NHRI from India organised meetings with civil society to monitor implementation of the UPR. The NHRI of Cameroon, together with civil society organisations, successfully put pressure on the government to implement some recommendation which they had rejected, for example, on electoral reform. The NHRI from Rwanda translated the recommendations into the national language, Kinyarwanda, and worked with the Government to draft a national action plan for the implementation of recommendations.