Technical assistance, role of civil society and precision of recommendations discussed at UPR general debate
The item 6 general debate that took place over the 23rd and the 24th of June in the Human Rights Council (HRC) 26th session, pertained to the UPR process and covered an array of issues. Both States and NGOs took the floor to analyse and give constructive criticism about issues relating to the UPR. Some of the key issues that were raised at the general debate covered technical assistance, the harassment of civil society and the importance of mid-term reporting.
Technical Assistance was an important theme raised, Ethiopia on behalf of the African Group called on the member States of the HRC to provide technical and financial assistance to developing and small island states, which struggle with the implementation of recommendations. Furthermore, Ethiopia requested the board of trusties of the Voluntary Fund for technical assistance to attach more importance to requests for assistance from African countries in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. China urged the council to give financial and technical assistance to small developing nations, as they may not have the significant infrastructure in order to effectively implement UPR recommendations. Egypt on behalf of the Arab group and Greece on behalf of the European Union (EU) have welcomed the technical and capacity building assistance provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and for its contribution to the UPR mechanism.
Civil society and human rights defenders
A reoccurring theme in the general debate was the role and treatment of civil society; Ireland and Armenia raised the importance of civil society in the UPR process and the crucial role they play in the promotion of human rights. In furtherance, Finland highlighted the need for a well functioning civil society to promote the UPR process, to keep States accountable and to aid in the implementation of recommendations. Togo displayed the effectiveness of civil society within its borders, as it was one the key elements in the formation of a national plan of action on human rights issues. The state of Greece on behalf of the EU expressed concern as to the harassment of civil society in certain States and urged the member States to address this issue. CIVICUS highlighted the persecution, harassment and lengthy prison sentences civil society members and human rights defenders have faced in Vietnam. The speaker claimed that some of their members were threatened, harassed and had their passports taken away from them because of their activism and willingness to participate in human rights mechanisms such as the UPR.
Precision and negotiation of recommendations
Certain aspects of UPR recommendations were raised by both States and NGOs. Morocco, on behalf of a group of Francophone States, expressed concerns as to the ambiguous and vague nature of some recommendations. UPR Info echoed this and reminded the HRC of its statement made last March on behalf of 19 organisations. Ireland stated that recommendations should not be changed after being made orally in the working group, in accordance HRC President's letter of the 18th of September 2013.
Importance of mid-term reports
UPR Info stressed the importance of mid-term reporting, as it fills the four year gap between each review and reflects the substantive action taken by states. In this context, the NGO gave praise to Thailand for the submission of its mid-term report, the first by a State from the South East Asian region, with hopes that other states in the region will do the same. Morocco, on behalf of the group of Francophonie States, also affirmed the importance of mid-term reporting as it is an effective indicator as to the status of implementation of recommendations.
Denmark, Finland, and Togo have voluntarily submitted their mid-term reports to the HRC. In the course of Denmark’s implementation, they decided to accept 20 of the 49 recommendations rejected in 2011. Out of 133 recommendations received, Denmark has now accepted 107. The acceptance of the additional 20 recommendations pertained to Denmark becoming a party to the Optional Protocol to the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adjusting the penal code in regards to racism, rape, sexual assault and to establish an independent ombudsman institution for children.
Finally, both Ireland and the organisation Sudwind attached great importance to the submission of addendums on time to assist in the effectiveness of the modalities of the UPR.
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré