The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a State-driven collaborative process, under the auspices of the UNGA and its subsidiary body, the Human Rights Council. Up until now, cities have been seen as places of implementation (or unfortunately, of violations of human rights) in the context of UPR. But they are only rarely considered as actors, decision- or policy-makers, despite their central role for numerous human rights in the areas of housing, education, law enforcement, etc., for which they usually have autonomy to decide and act upon.
GCH is leading constant reflection on the ways and means to adapt UPR to the reality of multilevel diplomacy. This has led to the launch of a Coalition “Local and Regional Governments in UPR” on 8 June 2022 at the Villa Rigot. As stated by Kamelia Kemileva, Co-Director of the GCH, “adding a new dimension to UPR through the participation of local and regional governments enables us to draw the mechanism closer to the reality on the ground.”
The coalition will concretely seek to involve local and regional governments (LRGs) in UPR by garnering support for human rights at all levels of governments to enhance their implementation on the ground.
Partners of the Coalition are the Geneva Human Rights Platform, UPR-Info, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, OHCHR and UN-Habitat, together with the Geneva Cities Hub. These organizations agreed to reflect collectively and foster LRGs’ participation in UPR, including by working on a common narrative related to the benefits of LRGs’ involvement in UPR, for LRGs of course, but also for States and for the implementation of human rights.
The Coalition is open to new members and will deploy its activities at the beginning of the 4th cycle, in November 2022. It will start by encouraging a few pilot cities to participate in the UPR, in particular those who have already engaged with the UN system through Voluntary Local Reviews on SDGs. More information will be published closer to the beginning of the 4th cycle.
More details on the Universal Periodic Review
The UPR has been created in 2006 to provide equal opportunity for each national government of all UN Member States to report to the international community what actions have been taken to improve the human rights situations in their respective countries and to fulfill their human rights commitments and obligations. The review is based on 3 reports, the National report by the State concerned, a compilation of information on the State concerned contained in UN reports (including human rights treaty bodies, special procedures mandate holders), and the report submitted by other stakeholders (regional human rights mechanisms, national human rights institutions, and civil society). These reports lead to peer reviews in the UPR Working Group resulting, on average, in 230 recommendations made by 100 States for each State under review, and then to adoptions of the outcomes in the Human Rights Council plenary sessions, where the State clarifies its position on each recommendation – whether it is accepted or noted – and with the opportunity for all relevant actors (States, UN entities, civil society, national human rights institutions) to provide comments/observations. Further, States may undertake a voluntary “mid-term review” in the middle of their cycle to update the international community about where they stand on the implementation of recommendations received during their review.
Over the past many years, the UPR has constantly improved – with its 4th cycle, starting in November 2022, being focused on “enhanced implementation” of recommendations. The role of Parliaments and national human rights institutions has become more significant and NMIRFs (National Mechanisms for Implementation, Reporting and Follow-up) have started to be established in many States to facilitate and institutionalize the human rights reporting and implementation processes. With 100% State participation, and at the highest level of the Government, the UPR has resulted in sovereign decisions leading to human rights improvements, in laws and practices. The tools developed as a result of the Secretary-General’s Call to Action – especially the UPR Practical Guidance – have encouraged greater coordination, implementation and follow-up within the structures of the States and the UN system. They have also increasingly engendered the active participation of local and regional governments, parliaments, regional mechanisms, national human rights institutions, and civil society organisations, in all phases of the reviews.