The Universal Periodic Review: what is it and why it matters

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This month, fourteen  countries are being reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review Process. Our aim with this post is to provide you with opportunities to get involved by helping you understand the UPR process, and then providing  you resources through which you could follow the process virtually.

What is the UNHRC?

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is an intergovernmental body through which the human rights conditions in UN Member States are discussed. Its mandate includes amongst others: to promote the respect and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. One of its roles in line with this mandate, is to conduct the Universal Periodic Review.

What is the Universal Periodic Review?

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer review mechanism for all UN member states. Through the UPR, each state declares its actions towards the advancement of human rights within its territory.

In this month’s session (from November 2nd till 13th November, 2020), fourteen countries are being reviewed. They include : Belarus, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Panama, Maldives, Andorra, Bulgaria, Honduras, United States of America, Marshall Islands, Croatia, Jamaica and Libya.

Of the countries being reviewed, it is interesting to highlight that over two years ago – on July, 19 2018- the United States of America (One of the fourteen countries due to undergo the UPR this month), voluntarily left the UNHRC, making it the first state to voluntarily leave before serving it’s full term. 

The International Justice Resource Centre explains the implication of this departure.

Considering the widespread political demonstrations from Belarus – since the disputed presidential election on August 9 – to the recent oppositional alliance victory in Malawi, there are many unique observations to pay attention to.

How to get involved

Our aim with this post is to provide you with opportunities to get involved by helping you understand the UPR process, and then providing  you resources through which you could follow the process virtually.

Our first resource is by UPR Info, an NGO dedicated to strengthening engagement with the Universal Periodic Review. Here is their brief explanation and video on the UPR Process. They also provide updates on NGO pre-session which takes place before the UPR, and keep a database of UPR recommendations made to countries.

Are you interested in the UPR’s implications for indigenous peoples? Consider this piece by Professor Joshua Cooper:  Universal Periodic Review: A Potent Process For The Realization Of Human Rights In Indigenous Homelands. It analyses the UPR process, and highlights ways through which indigenous peoples can participate.

To watch the review process for countries currently being reviewed, please go to the UN Web TV for live videos of the UNHRC sessions.

If you are specifically looking to follow the review process for the US, tune in to UN Web TV on November 9th, 2020 – 8.30am to 12pm ET, for the live session. And follow the US Human Rights Network‘s (USHRN) dedicated page for updates. Post review, you can also follow the USHRN’s UPR Webinar series for more enhanced resources on their advocacy around the UPR Process.


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This blog post was a collaborative effort between HRC associates and interns.

Featured image borrowed from UN News.

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