More than 40 NGOs presented the human rights situation in 9 countries before the diplomatic community during the UPR pre-session held in Geneva from the 8h to the 10th of April 2014. The meetings were organised in the lead up to the review of these countries under the 19th UPR Working Group session (28 April – 9 May 2014) initiating a new series of pre-sessions hold by UPR Info in 2014.
The April pre-sessions were a success with an average of 32 diplomats over a period of three days. This number shows how the UPR Info pre-sessions are becoming more and more important in the framework of the UPR process. They provide a unique platform for dialogue and interaction. This has been the seventh round of pre-session meetings that UPR Info has been organising since 2012. More than 360 organisations have already taken part in the pre-sessions, 220 of which coming directly from the countries and sharing key information from the ground with the diplomats.
In this regard Ms Astrid Tambwe, from the organization Groupe thématique Droits de la femme et violences sexuelles in the Democratic Republic of Congo, stated: “...The pre-sessions allow us to present the situation in our country to a large and important audience and to reach out to decision makers at the international level that can influence the recommendations and the implementation process...”
The April pre-sessions demonstrated once again that these meetings constitute an important opportunity to bring together, in a unique forum for dialogue, civil society, NHRIs, and diplomatic missions to discuss the human rights situation of States one month prior to their review. This time the focus of the discussion was on the following States: Albania, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Norway, Nicaragua, and Qatar.
The pre-session featured presentations by NGO and NHRI representatives followed by a discussion on the status of implementation of the recommendations made during the first UPR cycle. A number of pressing human rights issues were brought to the attention of the diplomats, such as freedom of expression and shrinking space for civil society in Ethiopia; women rights and indigenous people rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; right to abortion and civil and political rights in Nicaragua; NHRI, torture and impunity in Côte d’Ivoire; freedom of expression and indigenous rights in Equatorial Guinea; right to education, torture and children’s rights in Albania; Roma people, refugees and NHRI in Norway; women’s rights and death penalty in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; torture, migrant workers and children’s rights in Qatar.
The pre-session ensured that key concerns of civil society actors were discussed in preparation of the UPR. Grassroots national organisations and human rights defenders as well as international NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch, Save the Children, and Reporters without Borders, provided diplomats with an assessment of the actual human rights situation in the States under Review, highlighting key developments and remaining challenges faced by those States. Mr HIEN Sansan Claude, working at Action pour la Protection des droits de l’homme in Côte d’Ivoire, commented this opportunity to meet with diplomats: “…We think that the pre-sessions will really help us make a positive change in our country...”
We look forward to pursuing our role of bridging all UPR actors together at the twentieth session of the UPR later this year.