Universal Periodic Review

As part of the reform efforts culminating in the creation of the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, Canada was a leading proponent of an initiative to review the human rights performance of every UN member state on a regular basis. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) began on April 7, 2008, with the first round of 16 countries reviewed April 7-18, 2008. Over the next four years (PDF version, 38 KB)*, all 192 UN members are to undergo their review before the Council. Canada’s own review took place during the first half of 2009.

Watch the UPR live via webcast. Archives of previous UPR sessions.

Basis of the UPR

The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 60/251 (PDF version, 115 KB)* (2006), mandated the Human Rights Council to:

“Undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies.”

Preparations for the UPR

The UPR formally considers written input from three sources: the state under review; the UN human rights system; and civil society. The state under review prepares a 20-page national report in advance of the review. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) prepares a 20-page report, comprised of a ten page compilation of information contained in reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, and other official UN documents, and ten pages summarizing information received by the OHCHR from relevant stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions.

These reports inform the UPR review and are posted on UPR as they become available (generally 4-6 weeks before thereview).

General Guidelines for the preparation of these reports were adopted in September 2007.

The UPR Process

Reviews are conducted in Geneva by the 47-member UN Human Rights Council (HRC) meeting as a working group. Each review is facilitated by a “troika” of three Council members. As a Council member until June 2009, Canada served on five troikas. Each review lasts three hours and is conducted in the format of an interactive dialogue between Council members and the reviewed state. States that are not members of the Council (observer states) can also participate in the interactive dialogue, as Canada has done since the end of its term as a Council member in 2009. Sessions are webcast on the HRC’s website.

Outcome of the UPR

A report of the review is adopted approximately two working days following the review. This report contains a summary of the interactive dialogue, followed by a listing of recommendations and/or conclusions made during the interactive dialogue. The state under review has the opportunity to submit additional comments or responses before the Human Rights Council convenes its next plenary session. At the next plenary session of the Council, an outcome document is adopted which contains the aforementioned report, additional comments and replies submitted by the state under review, including its views on the recommendations made during the review, as well as its voluntary commitments.

Order of Review

The schedule for reviews over the next four years was selected by random draw in September 2007, and is available (PDF version, 38 KB)*. Three UPR rounds are held each year, with 16 countries reviewed per round.

Civil Society Participation

Civil society organizations can contribute directly to the UPR process by submitting input to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which compiles this material into a ten page summary for the review. NGOs wishing to submit information for consideration and possible inclusion by OHCHR in the summary of stakeholders’ information should send their contribution to: UPRsubmissions@ohchr.org.

NGOs may also provide information directly to the state under review, as part of the consultation process that states are encouraged to undertake in preparing their own national reports.

Civil society organizations can observe but cannot intervene during the interactive dialogue at the working group review. However, they can intervene at the subsequent HRC plenary session where the UPR outcome is discussed and adopted. Civil society organizations can also play a valuable role in following up on recommendations contained in the outcome report.

For further information on civil society participation in the UPR:

Civil Society Participation in Canada

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada welcomes your views on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism. For general comments and issues specific to the review of other countries, please e-mail us at: UPR.ghh@international.gc.ca

NGOs wishing to submit information for consideration by Canada in its preparations for the Universal Periodic Review of other countries should send their contribution to: UPR.ghh@international.gc.ca. Please include the country on which you are submitting information in the subject line (e.g., UPR December 2008: Botswana).

Inquiries regarding Canada’s review in 2009 under the UPR should be directed to the Department of Canadian Heritage at: upr-epu@pch.gc.ca.

For more information:

* If you require a plug-in or a third-party software to view this file, please visit the alternative formats section of our help page.