Indigenous peoples' rights   |   Human rights   |   NZ Universal Periodic Review index page

Second Universal Periodic Review
of the government's human rights record, 2013 - 2014

In January 2014, the government's overall performance on human rights will be examined for the second time through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. This page has information about the UPR process and how NGOs can be involved in it. NGO UPR submissions and analysis of the government's draft UPR report are available on this page. Updates on the second UPR (January / February 2014) are on this page.

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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 and a half 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), applicable international humanitarian law, and - for the second UPR cycle - on the recommendations made during the first cycle.

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 on which it is based, is where NGOs can have the most input. The three documents are:

    1) information prepared by the state under review;
    2) a ten page compilation of UN information on the state under review prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and
    3) a ten page compilation 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 and a half 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 Outcome Report is first adopted during the Working Group session a few days after the review in a half hour process mainly comprising procedural points.

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.

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New Zealand and the UPR

The New Zealand government's first UPR took place in May 2009, with the adoption of the Outcome Report by the Working Group on 11 May and by the Human Rights Council on 24 September 2009.

For the first UPR, the government's human rights performance was 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: International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (but not the complaints procedure Optional Protocol); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Convention on the Rights of the Child (but not the complaints procedure Optional Protocol); and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (but not the complaints procedure Optional Protocol).

New Zealand 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.

New Zealand's second UPR will take place during the 18th UPR session from 27 January to 7 February 2014. NGO reports are due in June 2013 (see section below for details) and the government's report is due in October 2013 (information about the government's draft report and how you can comment on it will be added to this page when it is available).

The focus of the second UPR will be on the recommendations in the 2009 Outcome Report and on developments in the human rights situation in Aotearoa New Zealand. The key documents related to the government's first UPR, which will be considered during the second, are:

The New Zealand government did not submit a mid-term follow up report on progress to the Human Rights Council, although the Ministry of Justice drafted a Universal Periodic Review Progress Chart in July 2011.

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How NGOs can be involved in the UPR

There are five main ways in which NGOs can be involved in the UPR process: firstly, by making a written submission (report); secondly, commenting on the government’s draft report when it is released; thirdly, by lobbying Human Rights Council member and observer states after the NGO reports are submitted, before and during the 18th session of the UPR Working Group (27 January to 7 February 2014); fourthly, by making a presentation during the Human Rights Council session when the Outcome Report is adopted; and finally, by monitoring the government's implementation of the UPR recommendations.

This section provides information on the first part of the process, NGO written submissions - information on the other ways NGOs can be involved will be available here after June 2013.

  • Deadline for NGO reports
  • The deadline for UPR submissions from NGOs in Aotearoa New Zealand is Monday, 17 June 2013. Please note that submissions received after that date will not be included in the OHCHR compilation of stakeholders' information.

  • General requirements (please refer to the OHCHR technical guidelines for more information)
  • NGOs are strongly encouraged to provide a written submission that:

      (a) is specifically tailored for the UPR;
      (b) contains credible and reliable information on the human rights situation in Aotearoa New Zealand, including information on the follow-up to the first UPR and on developments since then;
      (c) highlights main issues of concern and identify possible recommendations and best practises;
      (d) covers the period of time elapsed since the first UPR; and
      (e) does not contain manifestly abusive language.
    When referring to information attributed to United Nations bodies/agencies and/or mechanisms in their submission, NGOs should refrain from listing all treaties ratification, Concluding Observations and recommendations of the human rights treaty bodies and/or the Human Rights Council Special Procedures or reports by UN other bodies and agencies, as the latter are reflected in the compilation of UN information prepared by the OHCHR.

  • Word limits and format
  • Submissions by a single organisation must not exceed 2,815 words and are limited to a maximum of 5 pages, to which additional documentation can be annexed for reference; joint submissions made by coalitions of organisations must not exceed 5,630 words and are limited to a maximum of 10 pages, to which additional documentation can be annexed for reference. Annexes to the submissions must not include pictures, maps, organizations' annual reports or reports from other organizations.

    Information included in footnotes or endnotes will not be taken into consideration in the word and page limits; nor will it be taken into consideration for the OHCHR summary of stakeholders' information.

    Written submissions should be clearly identified. The cover page should include the submitting organisation/s letterhead, name, logo, acronym, address and telephone / email contacts, webpage etc. It is also helpful to include a paragraph describing the main activities of the submitting organisation or coalition, a reference to ECOSOC consultative status if relevant, and the date of establishment, especially for NGOs that are providing information to a UN human rights body for the first time. The cover page will not be counted within the word and page limits.

    The cover page should also include the name of the reviewed country, the kind of submission (individual NGO or joint), and the month and year of the relevant UPR session, for example, 'New Zealand, Indigenous peoples' rights coalition, joint UPR submission for the 18th UPR session, January 2014' or 'New Zealand, individual NGO UPR submission for the 18th UPR session, January 2014'.

    Written submissions must be sent as a Word document. Please remember to number the pages and paragraphs of your submission.

    Please note that the UPR process does not provide for confidentiality and is conducted on the basis of public documents - all submissions which respect the guidelines above will be made publicly available on the OHCHR's website as received, including the name of the submitting NGO/s.

  • What to include in your report
  • When preparing your report, it is useful to keep in mind that the information and recommendations in it may be included in the OHCHR ten page stakeholders' compilation document, along with information from the reports of other stakeholders. As well as the OHCHR summary document, the UPR troika and Working Group, as well as other Human Rights Council member and observer states may look at your full report - it is therefore important that the layout and content is as clear as possible.

    It is useful to have an Executive Summary of the key points in your report on the first page. Then, for each issue you cover, it is helpful to include: a general statement outlining the issue (you could refer to the relevant human rights instrument/s, legislation, policy, practice, and so on for each issue described); one or more examples; and one or more recommendation(s) for each issue raised. It is useful if your recommendations are specific, rather than general, and action oriented - for example, "Recommendation: that New Zealand ratifies [whatever human rights instrument] ..." rather than "that New Zealand considers ratifying [whatever human rights instrument] ..." or "that New Zealand repeals / amends / changes [whatever legislation, policy or practice] and [whatever it is you the government to do, make this as precise as possible]" rather than "that New Zealand considers repealing / amending / changing [whatever legislation, policy or practice] ... "

    As mentioned above, the second UPR will focus on the implementation of the accepted recommendations from the first UPR - so it is important to refer to any achievements, best practices, challenges or constraints for each issue - and on human rights developments in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2009.

    In addition, the OHCHR guidelines suggest that NGO reports include information on (particularly relevant sections for NGOs are in bold):

    • Developments since the previous review in background of the State under review and framework, particularly normative and institutional framework, for the promotion and protection of human rights: Constitution, legislation, policy measures, national jurisprudence, human rights infrastructure including national human rights institutions and scope of international obligations; and
    • Promotion and protection of human rights on the ground: implementation of international human rights, national legislation and voluntary commitments, the activities of the National Human Rights Institution (the NZ Human Rights Commission in our case), public awareness of human rights, and cooperation with human rights mechanisms.

    To increase the chance of getting information and recommendations from your report included in the stakeholders' summary document, it is useful to follow the layout used by the OHCHR in the compilation document - the headings used by the OHCHR are available here. For examples of which heading/s to use for the topic/s or issue/s covered in your report, please refer to the OHCHR compilation report on Canada, 29 January 2013 (A/HRC/WG.6/16/CAN/3).

  • How to submit your report
  • NGO reports should be submitted via the on-line UPR submissions system - you will need to follow the 'Register' link and fill in the relevant sections on the page to submit your report.

    If there are any technical problems with the on-line system, please send your report to email - in the subject line of your message, please use the format: name of the (main) coalition or NGO submitting the contribution - the kind of contribution (individual or joint) - the name of the reviewed country - the month and year of the relevant UPR session, for example, 'Indigenous rights coalition – joint UPR submission – New Zealand – January 2014' or '[name of NGO] – individual UPR submission – New Zealand – January 2014'. In the text of the email message with the report, include the details of the relevant contact person and a paragraph describing the NGO or coalition’s main activities and date of establishment.

    The OHCHR secretariat will electronically confirm receipt of your submission, please keep a copy of the receipt message.

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    NZ government UPR report

    The government's draft report was released for comment on 22 August 2013, with a deadline of 19 September 2013. Prior to the draft report being put together, there were some consultation meetings with NGOs, but no specific consultation with hapu and iwi. There were no consultation meetings to discuss the draft or provide feedback on it. A number of NGOs involved in the UPR process sent written comments on the draft report, and some of the NGO analysis is available on this page.

    The final version of the report was approved by Cabinet on 29 October 2013, and it was submitted to the OHCHR on 4 November 2013.

    Where you can get more information about the UPR process

    The OHCHR has produced two UPR guides for NGOs, both include information on how to make a submission to the UPR: Information and Guidelines for Relevant Stakeholders Written Submissions and Universal Periodic Review: A Practical Guide for Civil Society. A factsheet on NGO written submissions by UPR Info and the NGO Group for the CRC is available here.

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