UPR Info's article in UN magazine

UPR Info published an article in the March issue of UNSpecial, the United Nations magazine. The article provides an analysis of UPR recommendations and details the different activities of UPR Info on this issue.



The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a new and unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council which reviews the human rights records of all United Nations member States once every four years. Started in April 2008, it is now half-way through its first cycle and has looked, in less than two years and six sessions, into the human rights' practices of ninety-six states. By December 2011, all States will have undergone the process.

It is too early to make conclusions about the efficiency of the UPR and views on this might differ but there is one observation that already reaches consensus: the growing importance of recommendations. They have become in twenty-four months the cornerstone of the process. States concentrate their statements on them, States under review negotiate their wording and NGOs engage into intensive lobbying for them.

The importance of recommendations in the UPR process is underlined by their number and diversity. To date, 6,000 recommendations have been made varying drastically in terms of action, measure and issue. They can first be very broad such as "to continue its achievements in the field of human rights" and very specific such as "to amend the new law of the press code". They also can be requesting one measure, "abolishing death penalty" and its contrary, "continuing exercising [...] the application of the death penalty". Finally, they concern all type of issues, from civil and political rights, for example "adopting legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation", to economic, social and cultural rights, such as "continuing and intensifying efforts to reduce poverty and social inequality".

With the 2011 review in sight and the assessment of this mechanism coming up, States, NGOs, media, academics and political deciders need to know how recommendations are used and to what purpose in order to better assess how the UPR is functioning.

To this end, UPR Info has engaged since 2008 in several analyses. We first started to look into the responses provided by each State under Review (SuR) to recommendations, identifying the ones accepted and rejected. Many times, recommendations do not receive a clear response, if any, which makes it difficult for UPR actors to monitor the follow-up and know which recommendations the SuR will implement. We also list the rejected recommendations in order to compare with the number of accepted ones.

Our second step was to study the content of those recommendations. Together with Professor Edward McMahon from the University of Vermont, we looked for a way of differentiating them from each other. We focused on the action contained in each recommendation and developed an innovative scale ranging from 1 (minimum action) to 5 (specific action). Recommendations in category 1 are those that request limited action (most of the time to share experience or require the help of the international community); those in category 2 are requesting to continue an action; those in category 3 to consider taking an action; those in category 4 to take a general action (improve women's rights) and those in category 5 to take a specific action (amend a law, set up a mechanism). This classification allows one to analyse the average hundred recommendations received by a SuR and determine for example whether it only accepts recommendations requesting to continue what it is already doing. Or whether a State never recommends States under Review to take real actions.

The third and latest work we have started is to facilitate the access of the different UPR actors, States, NGOs, academics, media and others, to those recommendations. They are a goldmine of information to anyone working in the process. In order for those actors to be able to use them to their full extent, we will be launching mid-March an online database. This software available for free on our website will allow to search recommendations through the SuR, the State making the recommendation, the region and organisations to which they belong, the issues contained, the response brought by the SuR and the action category. This unique database will help States and NGOs to better participate in the process and make it an effective mechanism for the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground.
See the article online