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Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group to hold thirty-sixth session in Geneva from 2 to 13 November 2020

Working Group to review human rights records in 14 States

GENEVA (29 October 2020) - The thirty-sixth session of the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will be held in Geneva from 2 to 13 November, having been postponed from May this year due to COVID-19 measures, during which the next group of 14 States are scheduled to have their human rights records examined through this unique process.

The group of States to be reviewed by the UPR Working Group during this session are (in order of scheduled review): Belarus, Liberia, Malawi, Panama, Mongolia, Maldives, Andorra, Honduras, Bulgaria, the Marshall Islands, the United States of America, Croatia, Libya and Jamaica.  The meeting will take place in the Assembly Hall at the Palais des Nations in Geneva and will be webcast live. 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting will be held using a combination of in-person and remote participation, in line with modalities already agreed upon by the Human Rights Council (HRC) and utilized for HRC 44th and HRC 45th sessions.  In addition, no side events will be held at the Palais des Nations.  Moreover, due to restrictions on the number of participants allowed inside the room (50 maximum), the media is encouraged to follow the proceedings on webcast.

High-level delegations representing the 14 countries are scheduled to address the Working Group, which comprises the entire membership of the 47-member Human Rights Council, and other UN member or non-member State wishing to take part.  Statements by heads and members of the various delegations will either be pre-recorded video messages or live links through WebEx.  Some 100 States, on average, make recommendations to each State under Review (SuR).  SuRs are expected to present efforts they have made in fulfilling their human rights obligations and commitments, in particular since their last UPR review, assessing both positive developments and identifying challenges. The timetable of State reviews and adoption and distribution of reports can be found below, and online.

The thirty-sixth session of the UPR Working Group marks the ninth session held during the third UPR cycle.  During the third UPR cycle, which is focused on implementation and follow up, States are expected to spell out steps they have taken to implement recommendations received during their previous reviews, in particular those which enjoyed their support, as well as present developments that occurred since the previous review and share challenges in their follow-up action.  The reports serving as the basis for these reviews are available online. 

During the session, an interactive dialogue between the country under review and the Working Group takes place.  Each country review lasts three and one-half hours and an additional half hour for each country will be devoted to the adoption of the recommendations put forward by their peers.  The review for each State is facilitated by groups of three Council members from different regional groups, or troikas, who act as rapporteurs.  The troikas for States to be reviewed during the session were selected through a drawing of lots on 14 January 2020 during an organizational meeting of the Council.

The final outcome of the thirty-sixth session will be adopted by the plenary of the Human Rights Council at its forty-sixth regular session taking place in February/March 2021.

About the Universal Periodic Review

General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006, which created the Human Rights Council, mandated the Council to "undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States. Subsequently, the Universal Periodic Review mechanism was established through the adoption by the Council of its “institution-building package” - HRC resolution 5/1 - on 18 June 2007, one year after its first meeting.  

The UPR Working Group consequently held its inaugural session in April 2008 for the first group of States, the order for which was decided through the drawing of lots.  With the holding of this first session, the first cycle took off through which all 193 United Nations Member States have had their human rights records reviewed (April 2008 to October 2011).  Subsequently, all 193 States underwent a follow-up review during the second UPR cycle (January 2012 to November 2016).  With the holding of the 27th session of the UPR Working Group in May 2017, the third cycle commenced. 

Per Human Rights Council resolution 16/21 adopted on 25 March 2011 and decision 17/119 pertaining to the review of the Council, the second and subsequent cycles of the UPR should focus on, inter alia, the implementation of the accepted recommendations and the developments of the human rights situation in the State under review. 

With the third UPR cycle well underway, the OHCHR has been provided with an opportunity to strengthen the engagement with all States on the follow-up and implementation of international human rights mechanisms’ outcomes, in particular those of the UPR, through cooperative efforts and sharing of best practices among States and stakeholders. 

Given increasing requests for assistance under the Voluntary Fund for UPR Implementation (see please documents 41/28 and 41/29), three regional workshops were held in Africa in 2018 (Uganda, Senegal and Cape Verde) and one in Latin America in 2019 (Panama) on good practices of implementation in the context of the 3rd cycle of the UPR linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (see please emerging good practices as contained in HC report HRC 41/25). 

The implementation of UPR recommendations aims to strengthen national human rights protection systems – not least through a greater engagement of parliaments and other national stakeholders, including NHRIs and NGOs, and in addressing the root causes of human rights violations, and as such, has a preventive effect. 

The High Commissioner for Human Rights sent letters to foreign ministers of States upon the adoption of their third cycle reviews encouraging their continued engagement in achieving concrete results, especially on the recommendations they have supported; 112 such letters are available online. A matrix of clustered UPR recommendations supported and or noted by the member State is also available together with an infographics with basic information on trends between the second and third cycle as well as in terms of the link between human rights recommendations and the SDGs.  

It may be recalled  that the Human Rights Council held a high-level panel discussion on 26 February 2018 session where participants focussed on challenges and opportunities in implementing UPR recommendations in view of strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights at the national level fully integrated with the efforts at the SDGs (summary).

Following the Secretary-General’s launch of the Call to Action for Human Rights, announcing the issuance of a “practical guidance to every UN country leader around the world to strengthen our platforms of cooperation to address human rights challenges utilizing the power and potential of the Universal Periodic Review”, on 24 February 2020, please note that UPR Practical Guidance was issued accordingly.

UPR Reporting and Objectives

In accordance with the Council’s “institution-building package”, and as reinforced by the outcome of the Council’s review adopted in March 2011, State reviews are based on: information prepared by the State concerned (National Report), submitted by the State and presented orally during the review; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, Special Procedures, and other relevant UN mechanisms and entities (UN Compilation) to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions research institutes, regional organizations, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document (Summary of Stakeholders).  

Per the adopted institution-building package, the objectives of the Universal Periodic Review are: the improvement of the human rights situation on the ground; fulfilment of the State's human rights obligations and commitments and assessment of positive developments and challenges faced by the State; the enhancement of the State's capacity and of technical assistance, in consultation with, and with the consent of, the State concerned; the sharing of best practice among States and other stakeholders; support for cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights; and, the encouragement of full cooperation and engagement with the Council, other human rights bodies and OHCHR.

Timetable for the Universal Periodic Review Working Group 36th Session:   
(Contains links to documentation page for each State)

Monday, 2 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Belarus
14h30 – 18h00 Review of Liberia
 
Tuesday, 3 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Malawi
14h30 – 18h00 Review of Panama

Wednesday, 4 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Mongolia
14h30 – 18h00 Review of Maldives

Thursday, 5 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Andorra
14h30 – 18h00 Review of Honduras

Friday, 6 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Bulgaria
15h00 – 18h00 Adoption of recommendations on Belarus, Liberia, Malawi, Panama, Mongolia and Maldives

Monday, 9 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Marshall Islands
14h30 – 18h00 Review of United States of America

Tuesday, 10 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Croatia
16h30 – 18h00 Adoption of recommendations on Andorra, Honduras and Bulgaria

Wednesday, 11 November
09h00 – 12h30 Review of Libya
14h30 – 18h00 Review of Jamaica

Thursday, 12 November
No meeting

Friday, 13 November
15h30 to 18h00 Adoption of recommendations on Marshall Islands, United States of America, Croatia, Libya and Jamaica. 

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the Universal Periodic Review webpage

Media contact:  Rolando Gómez, Media Officer, OHCHR, + 41(0)22 917 9711 or rgomez@ohchr.org