The Pre-sessions of the 27th session provided the first interactive dialogue of the UPR's third cycle, offering a crucial platform for States to gather first-hand information on the level of implementation of recommedations made in the previous two cycles.
The four-day event saw the voices of civil society reach new levels of impact. In total, over 70 NGOs and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) spoke at the Pre-sessions, 92% of which were local voices. Whereas the last round of Pre-sessions had an average attendance of 25 Permanent Missions, this series saw an increase of 11 percentage points to 36 States per Pre-session.
While the previous record of State attendance had been 50 Permanent Missions (for the Pre-session of USA in April 2015), the Pre-session of the Philippines
received the highest attendance to date, with 52
Permanent Missions joining the discussion, including the Permanent Mission of the Philippines. The vast majority of the States under Review (SuR) also engaged with their own Pre-sessions, offering an important opprtunity to foster discussion with their national civil society. All but one - 93%
- of the SuR participated at their own Pre-session. Indeed the Permanent Mission of Ecuador praised the information provided by his civil society compatriotes, emphasising the need to continue the dialogue back in capital.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in partnership with the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, - the State's NHRI - embraced the occasion of its own Pre-session by also hosting an advocacy side-event. The "speed dating" session brought together members of Dutch civil society, the NHRI and the Permanent Missions to discuss in further depth key human rights issues facing the State.
Human rights themes
While the discussion on each of the 14 States presented specific human rights challenges, numerous themes emerged across all regions. In Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Morocco, the rights of indigenous peoples featured prominently, while in the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom human rights issues surrounding shifting political attitudes were addressed. In the Netherlands, Finland, South Africa, and Tunisia, the rights of lebian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex (LGBTI) persons were discussed in detail, whereas sexual reproductive health and rights were also raised in the context of several countries including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Poland, and South Africa. Freedom of religion or belief was a matter of concern by the speakers from Algeria, Bahrain, India, and the Netherlands, while gender equality and women's rights featured across all 14 States. The reprisals faced by human rights defenders were especially emphasised in the context of Algeria, Bahrain, India, and the Philippines, where restrictions were witnessed first-hand in the context of the Pre-session of Bahrain (see below).
Overall, a vast array of human rights issues were raised by civil society encopassing a broad spectrum civil and political rights, to economic, social and cultural rights, including group rights and emerging issues, such as business and human rights.
Incident of reprisals: Bahrain
The sense of enthusiasm and broad engagement from States and civil society alike was greatly marred by a deeply concerning incident surrounding the Pre-session of Bahrain. A prominent Bahraini human rights and civil rights defender who was due to speak at the Pre-session on 6 April, was prohibited from travelling when trying to board the plane in Manama. By preventing the human rights defender from travelling to Geneva, the Bahraini authorities infringed upon the fundamental rights of freedom of movement and freedom of expression. The defender's statement was presented by an international partner who ensured that the first-hand information of the human rights situation in Bahrain still reached the international community. Upon learning of the incident during the Pre-session, several States took the floor to voice serious concern, and expressed their intention to follow up.
UPR Info recalls that civil society is an officially recognised partner of the UPR and must be supported to engage in the process without fear of retaliation. By deliberately stifling the voice of civil society, the actions of the Bahraini authorities undermine the very integrity of the UPR process itself. The Pre-sessions must remain an open and accessible platform for human rights advocates from all corners of the world to raise their concerns at the highest international level.
Next round of Pre-sessions
The next round of Pre-sessions is due to take place on 10-13 October 2017
at Palais des Nations
. The exact timetable and room location will follow in early autumn 2017. More information is available on our Pre-sessions page
UPR Info wishes to express its gratitude to all the civil society organisations, national human rights insitutions, Recommending States, and States under Review for their strong engagement throughout the Pre-sessions. UPR Info also thanks the United Nations for assisting participants to access the venue, as well as special thanks the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for facilitating the reservation.