One of the objectives of the Bridging the Gaps programme is improving the rights of key populations. To realise this aim, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are encouraged to do advocacy work around the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). COC Netherlands will, therefore, conduct a training on how to engage with the UPR mechanism. Participants will include activists from countries that will be up for review in the near future, namely Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and possibly Bolivia and Ecuador. The UPR was introduced by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UCHCR), to review the human rights records of all 193 UN member states on a regular basis, that is every four and a half year. It is intended to be a cooperative instrument, designed to assist states in fulfilling their international commitments and improving their human rights situation.
The UPR training will focus on the process of engaging with the UPR. The different steps include the very first coalition building and data collecting, writing a shadow report, and the actual lobby to other governments to make recommendations to your government in Geneva. The follow-up and implementation of these recommendations will also be addressed.
NGOs have a number of opportunities to take part in the UPR process. For instance, they can submit materials concerning countries under review. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will prepare a ten-page report summarising all such materials. The state under review is encouraged to hold national consultations with all relevant stakeholders to assist in preparing its report. NGOs can urge the state to hold consultations, invite government representatives to community consultations, and ensure an active dialogue with the state while it is preparing its report. The state will then submit its report. The report contains an outline of the consultation process, the national constitutional and statutory frameworks, international obligations, human rights achievements, best practices, challenges, and constraints. Moreover, it describes key national priorities, initiatives, and commitments that the state intends to undertake to improve its human rights situation.
Advocacy in Geneva and beyond
Then, a Working Group consisting of the member states of the Human Rights Council will conduct a three-hour dialogue with the state concerned, in Geneva. NGOs will be able to attend the dialogue, but are not allowed to speak. NGOs may, however, organise informal briefings, make materials available, and encourage states on the Working Group to raise particular concerns and make recommendations. NGOs have an important opportunity to lobby governments to accept key recommendations prior to adoption of the final report. The final report will be considered by the full plenary of the Human Rights Council, during a one-hour session. Before the final report is accepted, NGOs are able to make general comments. Strong NGO participation in follow-up activities – preferably in partnership with mainstream human rights organisations or national human rights institutions – can help publicise and promote action on the recommendations. The state will be required to report on its implementation of the recommendations at its next review.
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