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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Joachim Ruecker, President of the Human Rights Council at UPR Info Pre-sessions Geneva, 17 December 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the outset, let me welcome you all to the 12th round of UPR pre-sessions.

I am pleased to be with you this morning and grateful to UPR Info for organizing these important pre-sessions -a practice upon which States and civil society firmly rely upon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Universal Periodic Review mechanism is an effective mechanism of the Human Rights Council and we are proud of this unique international mechanism.

Through informal discussions held throughout the year on the Universal Periodic Review, it became evident that the UPR provides an excellent platform for studying the effectiveness of the Human Rights Council and its impact on the ground.

Through its universal participation, the ever-increasing contributions and engagement of civil society and the seriousness with which States undertake implementation domestically, the UPR is central to the Council’s impact, as well as to the universal promotion and protection of human rights as a whole.

Here I would also like to recognize the work of UPR Info in disseminating information about the UPR to national actors around the world and developing innovative tools to facilitate the follow-up to the UPR outcomes. Without you, the UPR would not be as effective and impactful as it is today.

Looking back over the lifespan of the UPR, the first and currently the second cycles showed the potential of the UPR as a catalyst for change. Many States have recognized that the UPR provided them with an opportunity for self-reflection and self-improvement.

Implementing UPR recommendations has resulted in important, palpable changes on the ground. And this change can often be measured, through examples from the national level over the course of the first two UPR cycles.

For instance, the Ambassador of Fiji once noted that there was a stark contrast in the human rights record of her country between the 1st and the 2nd cycle of the UPR, where Fiji participated actively in Geneva. As a result of the UPR, the Ambassador said, Fiji removed all references to the death penalty in military law, therefore effectively abolishing the death penalty from all national legislation.

With a view to the 3rd UPR cycle, such concrete examples must be shared and can have a powerful positive effect in stimulating similar improvements in other States and generating further positive momentum towards human rights protection nationally.

However, let us bear in mind that there can be a fine balance between stimulating national improvements and overwhelming a State with unattainable expectations.

Through the Corsier dialogues it became evident that in the 3rd cycle the capacity and circumstances of States under review should be better taken into consideration, by States which extend recommendations. Also, the recommendations extended during the previous cycles of the UPR and the status of their implementation should also be taken into account before extending further recommendations. Because the UPR presentation of the report in Room XX is not an end itself but it is a process extending over years. Emphasis should therefore be placed on realistic, measurable and implementable recommendations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the UPR process, we all have an important role to play.

In this regard, let me underline the importance and potential of civil society as a major driver of impact in the UPR process.

Although the State has the primary responsibility to implement the recommendations stemming from the review, domestic civil society, media and human rights defenders are often key in following up on these recommendations and can help translate State commitments into laws, policies and actions. Civil society engagement at all stages of the UPR is therefore crucial and –as I have been underlining throughout the year- we, States, should make an effort to preserve and further cultivate it.

With these words, I wish you all a successful UPR Pre-Session and I look forward to participating in the 24th session of the Working Group of the Universal Periodic Review, this time in my capacity as Ambassador of Germany.

I thank you all for your attention.