Universal Periodic Review
Universal Periodic Review
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In May 2009, the government's overall performance on human rights was examined for the first time through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The UPR is a mechanism established in 2006 whereby the UN Human Rights Council reviews whether or not UN member states are fulfilling their human rights obligations and commitments. This page has information about the UPR process and how NGOs can be involved in it.
About the UPR
The UPR is a mechanism established in 2006 whereby the UN Human Rights Council reviews whether or not UN member states are fulfilling their human rights obligations and commitments. Each state is reviewed once every four years.
Each state's performance is reviewed in relation to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights instruments which the state is a party to, any human rights pledges it has made (such as when campaigning for election to the Human Rights Council), and applicable international humanitarian law.
Although the international human rights instruments are an essential element in assessing each state's performance, there are two big differences between the UPR process and the process of the UN human rights committees which monitor state compliance with their respective international Covenant or Convention - the UPR process is done by states, rather than independent human rights experts; and NGO submissions for the UPR process are submitted before the state report, rather than after as happens with the human rights treaty monitoring bodies.
There are three main stages in the cyclical UPR process: the first is the review of each state, which involves several steps; the second is after the review and comprises implementation of the agreed UPR recommendations and any voluntary commitments made by the state; and the third is reporting on progress in implementing the recommendations and on the current human rights situation in the state at the time of the next review.
The first step of the first stage of the review, advance preparation of the three documents upon which it is based, is where NGOs can have the most input. The three documents are:
2) a compilation of UN information on the state under review prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and
3) a summary of information submitted by other relevant stakeholders - including NGOs, human rights defenders, National Human Rights Institutions, academic institutions and so on - which is put together by the OHCHR.
The three review documents are made available on the OHCHR website 10 weeks before the review takes place.
In advance of the review, a troika, consisting of three states, is selected by drawing lots among the Human Rights Council member states. The role of the troika is to assist the Working Group on the UPR (the Working Group) that comprises the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council - each state under review has a different troika.
The review itself takes place in the Working Group (in Geneva), and comprises a three-hour session during which the state presents its report, followed by an interactive dialogue between the state under review and Human Rights Council member and observer states. NGOs can be present during the review but cannot participate in it.
Following the interactive dialogue, the troika prepares the report of the Working Group with the involvement of the state under review and the assistance of the OHCHR Secretariat. This document is known as the Outcome Report, and it includes a summary of the interactive dialogue, responses by the State, any voluntary commitments made by the State, and the recommendations by other states.
The final step in the first stage of the process is the adoption of the Outcome Report during the next plenary session of the Human Rights Council. This takes place over one hour, with the time divided into three portions: 20 minutes for the state to reply to questions and issues that were not sufficiently addressed during the Working Group and to respond to recommendations that were raised by other states during the interactive dialogue; 20 minutes for Human Rights Council member and observer states to express their opinion on the Outcome Report; and 20 minutes for NGOs and other stakeholders to make general comments. Only NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status can participate in plenary sessions of the Human Rights Council.
Following the adoption of the Outcome Report, the state is required to implement the recommendations contained in it; and at its next review, to report on what progress has been made towards this goal. More information on the UPR process is available here.
NZ and the UPR
The NZ government's UPR is scheduled to take place on Thursday, 7 May, with the adoption of the report on Monday, 11 May. The troika for NZ comprises the Philippines, Italy and Mauritius.
The government's human rights performance will be reviewed in relation to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (English / te reo Maori), and the seven core international human rights instruments it is a party to:
NZ is not a state party to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families or the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The government has not as yet made any voluntary human rights pledges, although it has put itself forward for election to the Human Rights Council next year (update: this was withdrawn on 1 April 2009).
How NGOs can be involved in the UPR
In late February 2009, the government released its draft UPR report for public comment - the deadline for submissions is 5pm, Tuesday, 17 March 2009. Links to the draft report, information on how you can make a submission, and details of four related meetings are below.
The organisations that coordinated the combined NGO reports submitted as part of the UPR process last November (which will be considered alongside the government's report at the UPR hearing in May) are now working together on responses to the government's draft report - if you are interested in working with others on your submission, the contacts are:
If you are making a submission on the draft report, please consider sending a copy of it (or the link to your submission if it is on your web site) to Peace Movement Aotearoa to be uploaded to this web page - this is especially important because the UPR process results in NGO reports being submitted to the Human Rights Council before the government's report. Having NGO responses publicly available is one way to make Council members aware of what NGOs think about what the government is saying.
* Meetings about the government's draft report
* Information about the government's draft report
The government's draft report is available as a pdf file and in sections as html pages. There are three ways you can make a submission on the draft report: i) via the online submissions form; ii) on the printable form which you can fill in and email or post to Richard Kay, United Nations and Commonwealth Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Private Bag 18-901, Wellington 5045, or iii) you can email or post your comments to those addresses. If you wish to make your submission publicly available on the UPR web page, it would be best if you use options ii) or iii) above so it is in a format that can be easily emailed to us.
The deadline for UPR submissions from NGOs in Aotearoa New Zealand is 10 November 2008. Submissions by a single organisation are limited to a maximum of 5 pages, joint submissions made by coalitions of organisations are limited to a maximum of 10 pages (although more detailed and factual reports can be appended).
You are invited to contribute to one or more of the three thematic joint submissions, as well as the overarching joint submission, which are being coordinated by different NGOs. Contacts for the coordinators of the joint submissions are below. Update: the thematic and combined submissions sent to the OHCHR have been added beside the relevant coordinating NGOs:
Timeline for joint submissions: as submissions have to be sent to the OHCHR by 10 November, the timeline is tight. For thematic reports, please contact the coordinating NGO and indicate an interest in contributing by Monday, 13 October; and send any content to them by Thursday, 23 October at the latest. The coordinators will then collate contributions and achieve consensus on a joint document by Friday, 31 October. This will allow time for the overarching joint submission to be finalised.
Where you can get more information about the UPR process
Information and Guidelines for Relevant Stakeholders includes information on how to make a submission to the UPR; and information about how NGOs can be involved in the UPR during and beyond the submission stage is available here.