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Statement by H.E. Ambassador Choi Kyonglim, President of the Human Rights Council, UPR Info / Switzerland Event “Ensuring sustainable implementation at the Universal Periodic Review” to mark the end of the 2nd cycle of the UPR and prepare for the 3rd.

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10 November 2016

10 November 2016

Deputy High Commissioner,
Excellencies,
Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon everyone. It is very nice to see all of you here. I wish to thank UPR Info, along with the Permanent Missions of Switzerland, Costa Rica, Morocco and the United Kingdom, for organizing this important event and for inviting me to give a few opening remarks.

I very much welcome the holding of this event to mark the end of the second cycle and prepare for the third. The end of the second cycle of the UPR process provides us with the opportunity to reflect on its achievements, assess what we have learned thus far and confront the challenges being faced, all while looking forward to a stronger and more effective third cycle.

Since the UPR began working in 2008, it has proven to be a powerful tool to promote reflection on sensitive issues and encourage change. It is regarded as one of the most innovative and powerful achievements of the Human Rights Council, and with 100% participation over the first two cycles, the UPR is a true celebration of the principle of universality.

By spotlighting the human rights situation in all UN Member States, the UPR has produced a global road map of human rights situations. And the acceptance rate of approximately 75% of the recommendations received by States under review demonstrates the importance that States place in this process.

The first two cycles have produced numerous good examples of States implementing human rights norms as a result of recommendations received. For example, important legal reforms to combat discrimination have been made and national human rights action plans have been established and made operational following UPR recommendations.

Moreover, States are increasingly strengthening their national processes and systems to enable more efficient follow-up on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review as well as more systematic engagement with other human rights mechanisms. I am greatly encouraged by the good examples of such national processes and systems that we learned about during the inter-sessional panel discussion that the Council held yesterday morning. And I hope that this discussion continues.

Over the past eight years, the UPR has evolved into a crucial mechanism for non-politicized, non-selective and non-confrontational discussion among peers. As we enter the third UPR cycle next year, our challenge will be to make it a more implementation-oriented, more responsive and more interactive process.

Implementation is the key word for the third cycle. Around eight thousand recommendations have been given to States each year through the UPR process. This number is very impressive. But it is what States ultimately do with those recommendations that will tell the true story of the UPR’s success.

The cyclical nature of the review process demands an increased focus by States on the implementation of recommendations received in the first two cycles. And implementation of recommendations is essential in order for the UPR to live up to its original aim and purpose of strengthening human rights at the domestic level.

Through discussions that have been held throughout this year, including during the Human Rights Council retreat that was held in Evian last September, Council stakeholders have identified various ways through which we can increase focus on implementation.

For example, the implementation of recommendations that a State received and accepted under prior reviews should be examined during its subsequent reviews. The implementation plan of the State under review could be discussed, and capacity-building requests matched with pledges of international support. And voluntary UPR mid-term reports should be increasingly used, to take stock of efforts and achievements in implementing previously accepted recommendations. The importance of national ownership of implementation has been emphasized throughout the discussions.

As we concluded the last session of the UPR Working Group under the second cycle yesterday, I mentioned that the participation of NHRIs, NGOs and UN country teams in the UPR process has been fundamental during the second cycle. 

The effectiveness and success of the UPR relies on the wide participation of all stakeholders in both the review process and implementation efforts. During its 32nd session, the Council acknowledged the crucial role that Parliaments play in contributing to the Human Rights Council and the UPR process, including implementation through translating international commitments into national policies and laws.

Moving forward, it is essential that all stakeholders, including Parliaments, judiciaries, NHRIs and civil society, play out their respective roles in the review and the implementation processes.

As the second cycle of the UPR comes to a close and the start of the third cycle quickly approaches, we are presented with the ideal opportunity to polish this “jewel of the crown”.

I am not talking about making grand changes to the system. Instead, I am encouraging the Council to address the weak points in the UPR process and build on its strengths. In order to safeguard the effectiveness and credibility of this unique mechanism and ensure that the UPR lives up to its potential and leads to meaningful impact for rights holders everywhere, all stakeholders must seize this opportunity to strengthen the UPR process by increasing their focus to follow-up and implementation.

Thank you very much.

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