The Universal Periodic Review process
The establishment of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2006 led to the creation of a new instrument, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which checks whether human rights are worth more than the paper on which they are written. Every five years, the 193 United Nations Member States report to the Human Rights Council on the implementation of their human rights obligations. They also answer questions from other Member States and receive recommendations from them on how they can improve their human rights record. By accepting the recommendations, the governments concerned make a voluntary commitment to take concrete steps to improve the human rights situation in their country. Their record is then measured against these voluntary commitments in the following UPR cycle.
However, some countries refuse to accept demands made by other Member States. This can provide insight into the human rights situation in these countries.
Benchmarks for the process
The benchmarks for the review are laid down in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all UN human rights conventions that a country has ratified. Talks with civil society play an important role in the groundwork for the UPR. Members of civil society often have different insight into the actual human rights situation in individual countries and are an important source of information for the German Government’s recommendations to other countries. During the drafting of their reports, the countries under review, which include Germany this year, are called on to seek dialogue with civil society. Non-governmental organisations and National Human Rights Institutions can provide input to the review process. This element is particularly important in countries where the government does not liaise with civil society on a regular basis.
Germany under review
In May 2018, Germany will take part in this process for the third time. Previous reviews were conducted in 2008 and 2013. In the last cycle in 2013, Germany accepted over 160 recommendations from other countries. In 2018, Germany’s UPR national report addresses the implementation of these recommendations. It will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 8 May by Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office.