Universal Periodic Review Process
The review of a national government is carried out on the basis of three documents:
- A report submitted by the national government.
- A report compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and special procedures concerning the country, including its observations and comments, and other relevant official UN documents.
- An OHCHR compilation of “additional credible and reliable information provided by other relevant stakeholders,” including NGOs and national human rights institutions.
The review of a national government takes place in a working group of the HRC (the working group consists of all HRC members). Each country under review undergoes a three-hour Q&A session, webcast on the UN website, in which any UN member is able to ask questions and make recommendations. The reviewed national government is entitled to use one hour of that time to present its report, respond to any written question it may have received prior to the day of the review, respond to oral questions, comments and recommendations from the floor and present its conclusions.
After the interactive session, a group of three HRC members, known as the “troika of rapporteurs,” and a member of the Secretariat (OHCHR) work together to produce the report of the review. (The troika is selected prior to the review by lottery.) The report must be an accurate reflection of the debate that took place during the review and must contain the recommendations made to the national government during the process. The national government can accept or decline to implement any of the recommendations resulting from the review, and must inform the troika of its decisions. The report is presented to the Working Group, two days after the review takes place, for adoption. Factual errors in the report can be corrected for a two week period following adoption, through the request of delegations.
Follow-up on recommendations is one measure of a country’s commitment to the process and to improving its particular internal human rights situation.
The composition of the delegations of national government has varied from country to country. Some have worked exclusively through their foreign affairs ministries while others have had diverse delegations representing a broad spectrum of ministries. A large number of the delegations have been headed by Ministers. Heads of delegations have included Ministers of Justice, Interior, Foreign Affairs or Human Rights.
The final Outcome Report of the UPR of a national government is debated and adopted in the following plenary session of the HRC. If the review takes place in February or May, the final Outcome Report will be adopted in the HRC plenary session of June or September, respectively. If the review takes place in December the final Outcome Report will be adopted in the HRC plenary session of March--such will be the case for the United States’ review.
During the plenary session (also webcast), each national government outcome report is debated for one hour. The national government has up to 20 minutes to make a statement to clarify any issue insufficiently addressed during the review, its decision regarding the recommendations put to it, its voluntary commitments, its views on the Outcome Report and final comments. A slot of 20 minutes is dedicated to members and observers of the HRC (open to all 192 members of the UN), who can also make comments on the UPR Outcome Report. Lastly, 20 minutes is dedicated for civil society organizations and National Human Rights Institutions with ECOSOC status, which can make short two-minute interventions to express their views on the UPR Outcome Report for a given country.
The final Outcome Report of the UPR is adopted at the plenary session. It is composed of: a procedural decision adopting the Outcome Report, the report of the working group, with the written comments provided by the national government and the summary of the plenary proceedings contained in the report of the session.
According to the OHCHR, “The State [national government] has the primary responsibility to implement the recommendations contained in the final outcome. The UPR ensures that all countries are accountable for progress or failure in implementing these recommendations. When it comes time for the second review of a State [national government] they must provide information on what they have been doing to implement the recommendations made during the first review four years earlier. The international community will assist in implementing the recommendations and conclusions regarding capacity-building and technical assistance, in consultation with the country concerned. If necessary, the Council will address cases where States [national governments] are not cooperating.”