The power of the UPR is embedded in effective implementation
On Friday 23 September 2016, the 33rd Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) concluded the adoptions of the 25th Universal Period Review (UPR) Working Group Reports with the Agenda Item 6 General Debate.
The debate is an opportunity for States, and other stakeholders alike, to take the floor and discuss all aspects of the UPR, be that worrying trends that have emerged, proposals for improving the mechanism , or updates on implementation or human rights issues. This September a range of topics were raised with numerous States looking to build on current practices in light of the third cycle of the UPR beginning in early 2017.
Implementation and consultation
Slovakia, on behalf of the EU, called upon States to strengthen the focus on thorough implementation of recommendations made during previous cycles. They explained that "the power of the UPR is embedded in effective implementation of recommendations". UPR Info made suggestions to the State on how to improve implementation, namely by providing clarity on their responses to recommendations (supported or noted), establishing a national mechanism for reporting and follow-up, consulting and working with civil society, and developing a human rights action plan. Brazil also mentioned their nationwide consultations for UPR implementation and called on others, primarily those in their region who underwent the 25th UPR, to commit to similar strategies when considering how best to domesticate UPR recommendations.
Morocco, who submitted their mid-term report, and UPR Info reiterated the need for effective reporting at the UPR in order for the mechanism to remain robust and universal, reiterating the need for States to submit a report at mid-term, 2,5 years later, and make sure to report on all recommendations in their next national report. UPR Info's statement also called upon States to commit to reporting on five recommendations of their choice within one year after the review. This practice will improve both the accountability and transparency of the State under Review and whilst it is voluntary reporting it could be made under item 6 or at a specific side event. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also took the floor to address the global phenomenon for migration, focusing specifically on the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, in light of the UPR recommendations the State has previously received.
Third UPR Cycle
As to be expected many statements addressed the upcoming third UPR cycle, with States and CSOs commenting on their preferences with regards to changed to the UPR and its modalities. Namibia took the floor to emphasise "the quality and focus of the dialogue need some enhancement, but the substantive elements of the mechanism should not be tempered with". India, in a similar vein, reiterated "that the UPR mechanism should not be tinkered with as any such attempt carries the potential of diluting the universal support that it currently enjoys". Others, like UPR Info agree that the modalities of the mechanism need not be changed but States must take greater action and lead with greater political will to implement UPR recommendations. As mentioned, the EU called for a greater focus on implementation in the third cycle. They also highlighted the need for States to ensure that civil society is able to function freely and without fear of reprisals, not just for the benefit of the UPR mechanism but for the general status of human rights in every UN Member and Observer State. Cuba called for the mechanism to be strengthened so all States can participate on an "equal footing" whilst Rencontre Africaine Pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO) suggested a high level consultation between all UPR Stakeholders be scheduled before the third cycle so to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the mechanism before moving forward in a manner that will address them.