The UN Universal Periodic Review

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Logo of the Human Rights Council

The United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process involving the review of a State’s human rights record by Member States of the UN. Taking  place every four years in Geneva, it is a state-driven mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), and was created in 2006 alongside the establishment of the HRC itself. The UPR’s broad objective is to improve human rights (civil/political and economic/social/cultural) in every country. Civil society plays a key role in the UPR process providing submissions on the current status of human rights in their respective country and informing other Member States of possible recommendations to enhance human rights protection.

It is an interactive dialogue including an oral review where Member States make comments and recommendations, and pose questions to the State under review. The State under review has the opportunity to respond and share what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. NGOs and other stakeholders can attend the review as observers but may not intervene at that time.  The State under review has the opportunity to comment on the final report and recommendations, either noting, rejecting or accepting the recommendations. The report is then adopted a few months later at a HRC plenary session. The State under review, Member States, NGOs and other stakeholders have the opportunity to make comments at the HRC plenary session prior to the report being adopted.

The State has a responsibility to implement the UPR recommendations. The UPR Working Group has a role in ensuring that the State under review is accountable in its implementation. All Member States have been reviewed in the first UPR cycle. During the second UPR, the State under review is expected to provide information on their progress or failure to implement the recommendations. The HRC will decide what measures to take for States who are uncooperative in the process and implementation.

Canada

Canada underwent its first UPR in February 2009. Many countries made recommendations regarding ways in which Canada could improve its human rights record, which are outlined in the outcome report. Key recommendations were made in the areas of human rights implementation mechanisms, housing and homelessness, poverty, and access to effective remedies for violations of rights. In June 2009, the Canadian government responded to the outcome report, indicating that it accepted, in whole or in part, 54 of the 68 UPR recommendations.

Canada underwent its second UPR starting with the oral review in April 2013. Canada submitted its national report for the second UPR in February 2013. It contained a brief section on poverty and homelessness, outlining the minimal action Canada has taken since the first review.

Canadian NGO Participation

NGOs participate throughout the UPR process. They provide written materials to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) before the oral review, attend the oral review and make oral or written statements at the HRC plenary session. NGOs can also take part in national consultations with the State as they prepare their national report, lobby the State under review and other Member States throughout the process, and monitor and report on the progress of the implementation of recommendations. Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is actively participating in Canada’s 2013 UPR. CWP submitted a joint submission with the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation to the OHCHR in October 2012, and will continue to attend sessions in Geneva.

Other NGOs have also made submissions to the UPR including:

At A Glance: Key Moments in Canada’s Second UPR

Canada’s second oral review took place in Geneva on April 26, 2013. At the review the Canadian government provided information on their progress and failures in implementing the recommendations from the first UPR. The following provides an overview of the process leading up to the second review.

  • December 2008:  Canada submits its first UPR report
  • February 3, 2009: First UPR of Canada
  • June 2009: Canada responds to UPR report, indicating what recommendations they will implement
  • 2009-2012: “Follow-up” period (Canada to implement recommendations from first UPR)
  • October 2012: Canadian NGOs make submissions for second UPR
  • CWP made a submission in partnership with the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation.
  • January 2013: Canadian government submits national report for second UPR
  • March 18, 2013: OHCHR releases a compilation of all submissions made by NGOs and a compilation of all submissions made by UN bodies
  • March 25, 2013: Interactive session between Canadian delegates and NGOs (Geneva)
  • CWP representatives travelled to Geneva to make a statement on poverty, homelessness and hunger, challenging the international stereotype of Canada as a “land of plenty”.
  • April 23, 2013: Special briefing for Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators (7-9 pm, Government Conference Centre, Ottawa)
  • April 25, 2013: Civil society organizations meet with members of the Canadian government in Geneva
  • April 26, 2013: Oral review of Canada by Member States at UPR Working Group (Geneva)
  • May 7, 2013: Debriefing Canadian Members of Parliament and Senators on how Canada fared under the UPR (7-9 pm, Government Conference Centre, Ottawa)
  • September 19, 2013: Canada formally responds by accepting 122  and rejecting 40 of the recommendations made at the April 26, 2013 oral review.

Follow the CWP blog on our homepage to get more updates on the UPR process and Canada’s response.  You can also follow us on Twitter@CWP_CSP to stay connected to updates on the UPR and human rights in Canada.