Universal Periodic Review Process

According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a mechanism of the Human Rights Council through which states examine the human rights records of all member states of the UN. The review concerns not only the human rights situation in a state under review, but also its legislative frameworks for the protection of human rights or its ratification of international instruments in the field of human rights.”

The UPR was mandated by the General assembly on 15 March 2006 in resolution 60/251, the same resolution that created the Human Rights Council. The UPR is held according to a four-year cycle during which all 192 member states of the UN are reviewed.

The Council, in its resolution 5/1 of June 2007, developed its Institution-building package which included the mechanism for carrying out the UPR. The reviews are based on:

  • The Charter of the United Nations;
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • Human rights instruments to which a State is party; and
  • Voluntary pledges and commitments made by States, including those undertaken when presenting their candidatures for election to the Human Rights Council.

The reviews are also required to take into account applicable international humanitarian law.

The objectives of the UPR are:

  • The improvement of the human rights situation on the ground;
  • The 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 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The UPR is to be guided by a list of 13 principles which include:

  • Promoting the universality, interdependence, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights;
  • Being a cooperative mechanism based on objective and reliable information and on interactive dialogue;
  • Ensuring universal coverage and equal treatment of all States;
  • Fully involving the country under review;
  • Complementing and not duplicating other human rights mechanisms, thus representing an added value;
  • Being conducted in an objective, transparent, non-selective, constructive, nonconfrontational and nonpoliticized manner;
  • Fully integrating a gender perspective;
  • Taking into account the level of development and specificities of countries; and
  • Ensuring the participation of all relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions.

The states that are serving as members of the Human Rights Council are reviewed during their mandate. The modalities of the review are as follows:

  • The review will be conducted in one working group, chaired by the President of the Council and composed of the 47 member States of the Council. Each member State will decide on the composition of its delegation;
  • Observer States may participate in the review, including in the interactive dialogue;
  • Other relevant stakeholders may attend the review in the Working Group; and
  • A group of three rapporteurs, selected by the drawing of lots among the members of the Council and from different Regional Groups (troika) will be formed to facilitate each review, including the preparation of the report of the working group. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will provide the necessary assistance and expertise to the rapporteurs.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) can participate to the UPR process either formally or informally. Formally, they have the possibility to provide the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) with information about a State under review. This information is taken up in the so-called ‘summary of stakeholders’ information’. This is a 10 pages summary of the information received from NGOs and it is compiled by the OHCHR. This “summary of stakeholders’ information” is one of the three documents that serve as a basis for the review of a particular State.

NGOs can attend the sessions of the UPR Working Group but cannot make statements during this session. They can however attend and take the floor during plenary sessions of the Council when the report of the UPR Working Group is examined and the final report on the State under review is adopted.

Informally, NGOs may participate in the elaboration of the ‘national report’ of the State that will be reviewed, lobby other States and organize side events during the sessions both in Geneva and in the country being reviewed. They can also play a role in the follow-up of the review by, for example, disseminating to their country’s population the report of the review, the recommendations that have been addressed to the State under review and the commitments made by the State under review.

The final outcome of the UPR is adopted by the plenary of the Council. The format of the outcome of the review is a report consisting of a summary of the proceedings of the review process, conclusions and/or recommendations and the voluntary commitments of the State concerned.