Introduction to the mechanism
Our organisation is committed to sharing information on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the United Nations (UN), which aims at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 UN Member States.
UPR Info’s programmes run parallel to the UPR cycle to promote its efficiency and inclusivity. In doing so, UPR Info:
- Follows the developments of the HRC
- Participates in debates and contributes to the UPR
- Provides space for consultations and technical expertise
- Ensures that civil society organisations (CSO) and other relevant stakeholders can engage in the UPR mechanism, through consultations with the HRC
To find out more about how our activities complement and enrich the UPR, you can visit our:
What is the UPR?
In this section, we will highlight the key factors that make the UPR unique in the area of the promotion and protection of human rights.
Brief History of the UPR
On 15 March 2006, the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/251 created the Human Rights Council (HRC) and mandated the HRC to
“undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment 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.” It added that:
- “The review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs;
- Such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies.”
The UPR was established on 18 June 2007 when the HRC adopted its own “institution building package” in resolution 5/1 (A/HRC/RES/5/1). The first UPR session was held in April 2008.
How does the UPR work?
Under the UPR, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is reviewed every 4.5 years. Each 4.5-year period is called a UPR cycle.
During the review process, UN members and observer States make recommendations to the State under review (SuR) on how to improve its human rights situation. On average, SuR receives 200 recommendations per review. The UPR is a peer-review mechanism, as recommendations are made to States by other States.
Here is an example of a UPR recommendation:
“Investigate, prosecute and punish acts of hate speech, including those committed by politicians during political campaigns.”
UPR recommendations cover all human rights issues: economic, social, cultural, political, civil, and the principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).
The UPR Working Group is responsible for conducting reviews at the HRC. It comprises UN Member States who wish to participate in the UPR and the delegation of the State under review. The Working Group convenes three two-week sessions per year: in January/February, April/May and October/November. During each session, fourteen countries are reviewed. Click here to check when your country will be reviewed.
The three stages of the UPR
The UPR is a full-circle process comprised of three key stages
It is a cyclical process because each review process is based on the implementation of previously received recommendations.
The UPR, an inclusive mechanism
When preparing statements and recommendations ahead of the UPR Working Group, recommending States are encouraged to meet with national and international CSOs, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other local stakeholders. These meetings allow recommending States to gather information on the human rights situation in the country under review, including on the level of implementation of previous recommendations. UPR Info’s database of recommendations can also be a useful tool at this stage.
To facilitate consultations between CSOs and recommending States, UPR Info organises Pre-sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. The Pre-sessions are organised one month in advance of the Working Group review and have a double objective.
First, they allow local and international CSOs to directly inform permanent missions about the human rights situation in the SuR. Second, they offer the possibility for representatives of the permanent missions to gather complete and up-to-date information in a short period of time by meeting with multiple CSOs simultaneously.
To find out how you can engage in the UPR before, during and after the review as a recommending State, a State under review, a CSO, a NHRI, a UN agency, a parliamentarian, a youth member, a representative of the judiciary, academia, a journalist or member of the media, you can visit our Get involved section.
What makes the UPR unique?
Its thematic coverage: It is the only UN mechanism which addresses all human rights issues.
Its universal geographic coverage: all UN Member States take part in the process and have been reviewed under the UPR. It is the only mechanism with a 100% participation rate.
- Its peer-review functioning: States make UPR recommendations and not experts (who usually carry this responsibility in other UN human rights mechanisms). Therefore, the UPR entails a different kind of leverage to strengthen accountability and promote progress on human rights.
Click on the links below to access the main resolutions, decisions and documents on the modalities of the UPR:
Institution-building of the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1: establishing the UPR as a mechanism of the HRC
Human Rights Council Resolution 16/21: on the outcome of the review and functioning of the HRC
Human Rights Council Decision 17/119: on new UPR modalities for the 2nd cycle
Letter from President of the Human Rights Council on rules and practices of the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, 18 September 2013