UPR Trust Fund on Implementation: how does it support states?

On 15th September 2015, the Office of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights organised a side event entitled; OHCHR Side-Event on the UPR Trust Fund on Implementation of Recommendations: Follow-up Support Given At the Country Level. The event was designed to draw attention to the experiences states have had with the Trust Fund and to reiterate the need for on-going and increased support, specifically financial, of said Fund. Chairperson H.E. Mr Mothusi Bruce Rabasha Palai (Botswana), the Vice President of the HRC, welcomed all delegates to the “timely event” to discuss how to improve the implementation of the UPR recommendations “on the ground”.  Opening statements came from Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ms. Lin Lim, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the UPR Trust Fund on Implementation followed by statements from; H.E. Ms. Rocio Florentin, Minister of the Secretariat on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Paraguay, H. E. Ms. Aya Thiam Diallo, Ambassador of Mali, Mr. Azizullah Omar, Chargé d’affaires of Afghanistan, H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador of Thailand, and Mr. Cristian Streeter, Deputy Permanent Representative of Chile.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights opened the event by “highlighting how the Trust Fund can and has been used” to implement UPR recommendations. “States face a daunting task”, he went on to say, when attempting to address the recommendations they receive through the UPR, and other Human Rights mechanisms, yet “effective implementation” and the “impact on the ground” remain the true test of the effectiveness of the UPR. He welcomed the topics on which the panel were speaking and initiated the call for increased financial support, from States, in order to improve the services of the Trust Fund.

Following this statement Ms. Lin Lim explained that the OHCHR, with the guidance of the Board, has sought to strengthen the Trust Fund thus strengthening follow-up mechanisms and structures at regional and national levels. These activities vary from state to state however she stressed the importance of the collation and dissemination of best practices. She finally called upon all states to support the Fund as without it many of the critical changes needed in the area of human rights would not be achievable.

H.E. Ms. Florentin explained how the Fund had assisted the development of the virtual platform ‘SIMORE’ as a database to improve the monitoring and tracking of implementations.  ‘SIMORE’ not only increases the transparency and accountability of state actions but has also directly linked UPR recommendations to developments of public policy, particularly in the area of legislation regarding disability. The programme, made possible through the Trust Fund, “enshrines citizens as rights holders and the state is the guarantor of rights by bringing abstract human rights into the realm of public policy”.

The Ambassador of Mali expressed gratitude to the OHCHR for its continued support, considering the security and political challenges the nation has faced recently, and went on to explain how the Fund has strengthened the National Follow-up Structures of Mali. Aside from forming a “single national mechanism” through which to process UPR reporting, recommendations and implementation, Mali believes that the sense of ownership shared across multiple stakeholders will strengthen the action plan and improve the nations human rights compliance.

The Ambassador of Thailand described how the Fund has provided the state with technical cooperation for thematic engagement with the recommendations Thailand received. With particular attention given to the issue of torture and recommendations related to CAT, and its optional protocol, the Justice Ministry has developed a better understanding the conventions and many medical professionals have also received training on issues of torture and inhumane treatment. The state is hoping to roll this out to other professions, such as lawyers, and is still consulting on the topic of establishing an independent ministry for the UPR.

Mr. Omar, representing Afghanistan went on to explain that the Trust Fund had in fact played a crucial role in enabling the state to develop an implementation plan. Despite the challenges faced in Afghanistan he reiterated the governments commitment to democracy and human rights, citing specifically the rights of women and children. Mr. Oman championed the Fund as it has enabled national consultation on adopted recommendations, the founding of a human rights unit and, a timeline and budgeted plan of action.

Finally Mr. Streeter represented a project implemented by the OHCHR’s Regional Office of South America that demonstrates the strengthening of implementations as a result of nation collaboration. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay now all have in country technical UPR Advisors thanks to the cooperation of different UN Offices. The establishment of national coordination bodies has engages states more thoroughly with the UPR, with information on how to improve consultations, submission of Midterm Reports, and follow-up strategies.

The Vice President summarised the panel’s contributions by highlighting the importance of accountability in follow-up programs and the need for the development of inclusive action plans. Current donors to the Fund were thanked for their support of the invaluable work of the OHCHR. The call for increased and new donations was reiterated to ensure the effective implementation of UPR recommendations thus improving the protection and promotion of human rights for citizens of the ground.  

Image courtesy of Marc Limon, URG