The Observatorio Ciudadano: how Chilean NGOs take advantage of the UPR

The Universal Periodic Review is an exceptional opportunity for NGOs to have their voice heard and to provide a more authoritative basis to their claims: it is therefore extremely important for them to take full advantage of the UPR, by exploiting its outcomes and sharing their best practices. The Observatorio Ciudadano (Citizens' Watch) is a Chilean NGO founded in 2004. It is very active in the field of human and indigenous peoples' rights and it provides an extremely good example of how to utilize the outcomes of the review to enhance its advocacy campaigns and to raise awareness about the process. José Aylwin, co-Director of the Observatorio, accepted to answer the questions of UPR Info about the activities of his organizations and its involvement in the UPR.

"We believe the process is helpful", says Aylwin. "It identifies the shortcoming that Chile has on human rights. The information emerging from Chile's UPR can be remarked when making specific claims concerning the non fulfilment of international human rights obligations. [The UPR] supports the perspective of human rights NGOs on many issues, providing more strength to our claims".

After the review, the Observatorio - which is also part of a larger coalition of Chilean NGOs, meeting once a month - made a large use of the recommendations emerged from the UPR in order to raise awareness and sensitize Chilean institutions. "We published a book and a popular education leaflet including information from the UPR. We launched [in June of 2010] a website, Monitoreando Derechos, including the same information and organised several workshops throughout the country. We met the Chilean government and the legislators to disseminate this information".

But how is the government responding to the activities of the Observatorio? "We contacted the government when presenting our publication on Chile", continues Aylwin, "but the Human Rights Commission of the Senate and the Deputy Chamber have been more receptive of the need to engage in human rights transformations recommended in the UPR. The government, however, identified some reforms (15 in total) and included them as part of its human rights agenda. Many of the reforms recommended by the HRC on Chile's UPR have not been implemented [...]." However, Aylwin remains positive: "We [nonetheless] believe we have had success in generating awareness within the Chilean state on the need to comply with international human rights. For example, the President of the Republic recently announced the creation of a Human Rights Under-Secretariat within the Ministry of Justice".

Aylwin is very confident about the potentiality of the UPR, which he also believes to be a very useful tool to provide inputs for the treaty bodies. However, he also underlines one of the major flaws of the process, the limited space allowed for the contribution of NGOs: "I attended the UPR in May of 2009, when Chile was examined. The space for civil society participation was minimal on that session. In this procedure NGO representatives should be allowed to speak, and be heard by state members of the HRC. Civil society reports should also be analyzed by all states".

Countries: Chile