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Human Rights Council begins general debate on the Universal Periodic Review

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21 September 2018

AFTERNOON

GENEVE (21 septembre 2018) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon began a general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.

In the general debate, speakers noted that the Universal Periodic Review was a bridge for sharing experiences and cooperation.  It was a truly cooperative mechanism with potential to make long-term advancements in all 193 United Nations Member States.  However, for it to have a real impact on the ground, providing technical assistance to the country concerned was required.  It was also important to have action-oriented, specific and measurable recommendations.  Some speakers drew the attention of the High Commissioner to the practice established by her predecessor of addressing letters to States that underwent their Universal Periodic Review, asking them to address recommendations selected by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Establishing any kind of hierarchy among human rights undermined the spirit of the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the principle of sovereign equality among States, which was the cornerstone of the United Nations system.

Speaking in the general debate were Togo on behalf of the African Group, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Venezuela on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Austria on behalf of the European Union, Russian Federation on behalf of a group of countries, Canada on behalf of the Organisation de la Francophonie, Tunisia, Mongolia, Cuba, Australia, Venezuela, Georgia, Iraq, United Kingdom, China, and India.  

At the end of the afternoon, the Council met behind closed doors to discuss its complaints procedure.  The Council will resume its work in public on Monday, 24 September, at 9 a.m., when it will continue the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review.  The Council will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to be followed by general debates on the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, and on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action respectively.

General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review

Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it was important to stress the importance of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which was needed to ensure that country reviews remained inclusive and egalitarian.  However, recommendations needed to remain realistic.  The African Group drew the attention of delegations to the high number of recommendations made and suggested that the number be calibrated, with particular attention paid to the implementation of recommendations from previous cycles.

Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reconfirmed their position which reflected an attachment to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.  The Universal Periodic Review was an arena to exchange best practices.  It should therefore be strengthened and the scope broadened, providing it with further effectiveness.  It was also essential to align national legislation with international commitments.  

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said the Universal Periodic Review was established to enhance universal coverage and equal treatment of all States, and it was supported by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  In that respect, meaningful dialogue was encouraged to promote and protect all human rights.  The valuable role of civil society, which acted as a peer review mechanism, was appreciated.  

Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that at the seventeenth Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Heads of State and Government reiterated the need to preserve the Universal Periodic Review as the only international mechanism to examine the human rights in all Member States on an equal footing.  It should be carried out as a result-oriented cooperation mechanism and should not be used as a tool to coerce.

Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, stated that the European Union remained strongly committed to the Universal Periodic Review, a truly cooperative mechanism with potential to make long-term advancements in all 193 United Nations Member States.  However, for it to have a real impact on the ground, providing technical assistance to the country concerned was required.  It was important to have action-oriented, specific and measurable recommendations.  The European Union also reaffirmed its strong opposition to reprisals against persons who cooperated with the human rights mechanisms.

Russian Federation, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, drew the attention of the High Commissioner to the practice established by her predecessor of addressing letters to States that underwent their Universal Periodic Review, asking them to address recommendations selected by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Establishing any kind of hierarchy among human rights undermined the spirit of the Universal Periodic Review, as well as the principle of sovereign equality among States, which was the cornerstone of the United Nations system.

Canada, speaking on behalf of the Organisation de la Francophonie, shared some recommendations to improve the Universal Periodic Review, such as the establishment of national coordination committees, development of tools to ensure the implementation of recommendations, drafting of a mid-term report to ensure the collection of data for the final report, usage of the templates provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and sharing of good practices.

Tunisia stated that the Universal Periodic Review was an extremely important mechanism at the international level because of its impact on human rights with many solutions and recommendations.  It was a bridge for sharing experiences and cooperation.  The international community needed to ensure that the Human Rights Council did not become politicized, and that the Universal Periodic Review become a driving force for change and transformation.  

Mongolia said it would go through the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2020.  The procedure of reporting on the implementation of obligations under the international treaties had been established.  Mongolia fully echoed the view that implementation had to be a key word for the third cycle and highlighted that technical assistance and capacity building were crucial.

Cuba expressed condolences to Vietnamese people for the death of their president.  Cuba was completely committed to the Universal Periodic Review.  Due to technical problems, Cuba was not able to sign up to the speakers list when other countries were presenting their reports.  The Universal Periodic Review was the right mechanism to address all human rights concerns in all countries on an equal footing.

Australia was at the mid-point between the second and third cycle.  The Universal Periodic Review monitoring website had been launched, providing information on Australia’s position on each of the recommendations.  The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment had been ratified in December 2017 and the Government was working on establishing the National Preventive Mechanism.

Venezuela reiterated its support for the Universal Periodic Review.  Since its inception, this mechanism had shown its effectiveness in the promotion and protection of human rights.  It allowed countries to present their achievements and challenges in the realization of human rights in their countries on an equal footing.  Technical assistance and capacity building were essential for consolidating objectives envisaged under the Universal Periodic Review.

Georgia deemed the Universal Periodic Review to be a unique human rights mechanism, enabling States to better assess development and implement necessary policies.  The active involvement of all relevant stakeholders in the Universal Periodic Review process, including the wider engagement of the non-governmental sector and the independent national human rights institutions, was welcomed.
 
Iraq said the universality of the Universal Periodic Review could be strengthened and should be far from politicisation and selectivity.  It was a mechanism that worked with a constructive view and drew from each country’s unique experience.  It also drew from credible information.  Iraq encouraged States to fully implement their commitments and look at objectives that had been adopted by United Nations bodies.

United Kingdom attached great importance to the Universal Periodic Review and took part in the review of every State.  On 21 September 2017, they made two voluntary commitments.  First, they undertook to provide a further mid-term report in 2019.  Second, they informed the Council about progress they had achieved in implementing five of the recommendations they supported, a commitment they took one step further by submitting information relevant to five thematic areas.

China said the Universal Periodic Review was an effective platform for countries to share experiences in the promotion and protection of human rights.  China attached special importance to the Universal Periodic Review.  China would be reviewed in November and stood ready to participate in a constructive dialogue.  The principles of the Universal Periodic Review should be adhered to during the process and provide recommendations based on specific country conditions.

India said that national or domestic mechanisms were the only ways to translate Universal Periodic Review recommendations into concrete outcomes taking into account respective social, political and economic circumstances.  Any attempt to circumvent and undermine the primacy of States would adversely affect the voluntary and objective participation of the Member States in the process.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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