Pre-sessions for 33rd UPR Concluded

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Geneva, Switzerland, 11 April 2019 – From 2-5 April 2019, over 50 human rights defenders travelled to the United Nations in Geneva to share their first-hand accounts of the human rights situations in Albania, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Costa Rica, the Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Norway, Portugal, and Qatar. The international human rights conference, known as the UPR Pre-sessions, was organised by UPR Info ahead of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2019 – an international human rights assessment that each UN Member State undergoes every four and a half years.

The UPR is a universal, peer-review mechanism boasting the voluntary engagement of all 193 Member States since its inception in 2008. Throughout its 11 years of existence, the UPR has shown its ability to encourage significant human rights improvements, including an initiative to ensure better access to justice for child victims of abuse in Argentina through modifications of the country’s penal code, the removal of references to the death penalty from the military code in Fiji, and improved access to justice for victims of rape in Nepal. The role of civil society and national human rights institutions in this process must not be underestimated, and the Pre-sessions aim to give these important stakeholders space to advocate for change.

The Pre-sessions allow civil society to offer key insights to State delegations on the human rights situation in the countries under review to inform their official recommendations at the UPR Working Group. The objective of the Pre-sessions is to build a constructive dialogue between civil society, national human rights institutions and states. In this spirit, States under Review are given the opportunity to deliver a two-minute statement at the beginning of each session to present the progress achieved on the human rights situation in-country since the last cycle.

A broad range of human rights issues were raised throughout the April Pre-sessions, addressing both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Women’s and children’s rights were mentioned in every Pre-session, with a focus on child exploitation during the meetings on Albania, Bhutan, and Portugal. As part of UPR Info’s commitment to promoting the voice of children, one child speaker took the floor to speak to the rights of the child in Albania. Violence against women was discussed in all but two of the panels, with a survivor of sexual violence taking the floor during the Pre-session on the DRC to present the human rights situation in the Eastern region of the country. Panelists from Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, and Albania highlighted human rights issues faced by the LGBTI community, and the rights of indigenous peoples were examined during meetings on Nicaragua, the DRC, Portugal, and Norway.

Participation in political processes and fair elections were predominant themes in the Pre-sessions on Nicaragua, Ethiopia, and the DRC, and reconciliation, reparations, and impunity were discussed during meetings on the Ivory Coast. At the Pre-sessions of Equatorial Guinea and Nicaragua, CSOs raised concerns for the protection of human rights defenders and the right to freedom of expression. Panelists at the meeting on Brunei dealt with issues surrounding statelessness, including nationality laws based on gender and birth registration, and provided a joint statement on recent developments regarding LGBTI rights. Representatives from international NGOs expressed concerns about enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and access to justice in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

UPR Info wishes to express its gratitude to all of the civil society organisations, national human rights institutions, Recommending States, and States under Review who participated in the Pre-sessions for their strong engagement throughout the week, and further thanks M. Gianni Magazzeni for his opening remarks on Tuesday, 2 April. The Pre-sessions programme has been made possible thanks to the support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, the Canton of Geneva, the City of Geneva, Irish Aid, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, and the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Statements made by panelists at the Pre-sessions are available on our website at here.