Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a mechanism of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (HRC) that emerged from the 2005 UN reform process.[1] Commonly referred to as the UN-UPR, it was established by General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 3 April 2006, the UN-UPR periodically examines the human rights performance of all 193 UN Member States. It is intended to complement, not duplicate, the work of other human rights mechanisms, including the UN human rights treaty bodies. This is the first international human rights mechanism to address all countries and all human rights. The Working Group on the UPR, which is composed of the HRC’s 47 Member States and chaired by the HRC President, conducts country reviews.

Principles and objectives

HRC Resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007 and HRC decision 6/102 of 27 September 2007 elaborated on the UPR’s functions in its first cycle from 2008 - 2012. For the second and subsequent cycles, a few amendments were introduced to the UPR by HRC Resolution 16/21 of 12 April 2011 and HRC decision 17/119 of 19 July 2011, after a review by the HRC (for further details, see HRC review process below). HRC resolution 5/1 provides that the UPR should:[2]

The objectives of the UN-UPR are:[3]

HRC resolution 16/21 further provides that the second and subsequent cycles should focus on the implementation of the accepted recommendations and the developments of the human rights situation in the State under review.


UN-UPR cycle

While the first UN-UPR operated on a four-year cycle, the second and current cycle has been extended to four and a half years. Forty-two States are now reviewed each year during three sessions of the HRC’s Working Group on the UPR, with 14 States reviewed at each session. The HRC determined the order of review for the first UPR cycle (2008-2012) on 21 September 2007 through the drawing of lots[4] and the same order will be maintained during the second and subsequent cycles. The first order of review was instructed by the resolution 5/1 requirements[5] that all 47 member States of the HRC be reviewed during their term of membership, in addition to a few other criteria.

Basis of country reviews

The basis of country reviews is: (a) the Charter of the UN; (b) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (c) human rights instruments to which a State is party; and (d) voluntary pledges and commitments made by the State, including those undertaken when presenting their candidature for election to the HRC. Country reviews also take into account applicable international humanitarian law.[6]

Documentation upon which country reviews are based

Country reviews are based on three documents:[2]

In decision 6/102, the HRC provided guidelines for the preparation of information under the UPR. It specifies that States, in preparing national reports, should address/provide:

Working Group on the UPR

The Working Group on the UPR is composed by the 47 Member States of the HRC, chaired by the HRC President and conducts country reviews. The Working Group held its first review in 2008. It allocates three and a half hours to each review, 70 minutes of which is given to the State under review to discuss its domestic human rights framework, measures taken to promote and protect human rights in country, human rights issues of particular national pertinence, and steps taken to address and redress violations. It is also an opportunity for the State to present voluntary human rights pledges and commitments. An interactive dialogue of 140 minutes follows the State’s presentation, during which UN member States question the State and make recommendations towards the improvement of its human rights situation and performance. It is worth noting that all 193 UN member states (both HRC members and not) can take the floor.

A wide variety of issues have been addressed during the country reviews and potentially all human rights issues could be addressed during this session. While the counting of the actual number of recommendations is complicated by the fact that they are clustered together in the Working Group report, the NGO UPR Info has calculated the first cycle of the UPR to have provided a total of 21,356 recommendations and 599 voluntary pledges.[7]

The role of the Troika and drafting of the Working Group report

Each review is facilitated by a group of three States, known as the “troika”, that serve as rapporteurs. The troika is responsible for receiving the advanced questions from UN member States to the country under review. The second role of the troika is to prepare an outcome document on the review, which includes a summary of the review proceedings, recommendations suggested by States, conclusions, and voluntary commitments presented by the State under review. The outcome document is prepared with the assistance of the UPR secretariat and the recommendations contained in the outcome of the review should preferably be clustered thematically with the full involvement and consent of the State under review and the States that made the recommendations.[8]


Thirty minutes are allocated to the adoption of the outcome document at a later stage in the same Working Group session, during which the State under review is given a preliminary opportunity to indicate whether it supports the recommendations suggested to it by States as well as the conclusions reflected in the outcome document. Once adopted, the outcome document is transferred to the HRC for discussion and adoption in plenary. In the intervening period between the Working Group and plenary sessions, the reviewed State is expected to confirm which UPR recommendations it accepts and does not accept.

HRC plenary session

The UPR is a standing item on the HRC’s agenda (item 6). At each HRC session, time is allocated to the consideration and adoption of the outcome documents transferred from the Working Group on the UPR. An hour is allocated to the adoption of each document, during which the reviewed State is offered the opportunity to present replies to questions or issues not sufficiently addressed during the interactive dialogue at the Working Group.[9] HRC member and observer States are also given the opportunity to express their views on the outcome of the review before the HRC takes action on it.[10] NHRIs with ‘A’ status[11] and NGOs in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) have the opportunity to make ‘general comments’ before the adoption of the outcome report.[12] This is the only opportunity for civil society to take the floor during the UPR.

Follow-up to UPR outcome

While the outcome of the review, as a cooperative mechanism, should be implemented primarily by the State concerned, States are encouraged to conduct broad consultations with all relevant stakeholders in this regard.

States are encouraged to provide the Council, on a voluntary basis, with a midterm update on follow-up to accepted recommendations. As of 20 February 2013, 28 countries so far have provided the HRC with an implementation report.[13]

According to Resolution 16/21, other relevant stakeholders are encouraged to include information on the follow-up to the preceding review in their contributions. The summary of the information provided by other relevant stakeholders should contain, where appropriate, a separate section for contributions by the national human rights institution of the State under review that is accredited in full compliance with the Paris Principles.

The Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance, established by the Council in its resolution 6/17, should be strengthened and operationalized in order to provide a source of financial and technical assistance to help countries to implement the recommendations emanating from their review.

States may request the United Nations representation at the national or regional level to assist them in the implementation of the follow-up to their review. Financial and technical assistance for the implementation of the review should support national needs and priorities, as may be reflected in national implementation plans.[8]

The NGO UPR Info has from 2011 to 2014 undertaken 165 assessments at a two-years distance after the review in order to see how the recommendations (the main UPR outcome) are implemented,[14] and what is the real effect of the UPR on the ground. In 2012 it published its first study on the assessment of these implementations by 66 countries. A second publication followed in 2014, titled Beyond Promises, assessed 165 countries and shared best practices observed from States, NHRIs, and NGOs. A third publication, released in 2016 and dubbed The Butterfly Effect, aimed to spread UPR best practices and inspire all actors.

State non-cooperation with the UPR

After exhausting all efforts to encourage a State to cooperate with the UPR mechanism, the HRC will address, as appropriate, cases of persistent non-cooperation with the mechanism.[15]

The first case where persistent non-cooperation was discussed is Israel's UPR. Israel was not reviewed as scheduled on 29 January 2013.[16] As a consequence, the HRC discussed in March[17] and June[18] 2013 the issue of "persistent non-cooperation". Eventually, Israel resumed its cooperation with the HRC and was reviewed on 29 October 2013,[19] but the HRC missed the opportunity to define what "persistent non-cooperation" is.[20]

Stakeholders UPR contribution opportunities

The rules governing the participation of NHRIs and NGOs at the HRC, and therefore in the UPR mechanism, are prescribed by resolution 5/1, which states that their participation shall be based on the ‘practices observed by the [former] Commission on Human Rights, while ensuring the most effective contribution of these entities’.[21]

While the UPR is an intergovernmental process, a number of opportunities for contribution are available to non-governmental stakeholders. These include:

HRC review process

In resolution 60/251, the General Assembly required the HRC to review and report on its work and functioning after its first five years.[22] In October 2009, the HRC established the open-ended intergovernmental working group on the review of the work and functioning of the HRC (composed by the 47 member States of the HRC) to lead its review process.[23] Chaired by the then HRC President (Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand), the Working Group met for two substantive sessions. The first Working Group session took place on 25–29 October 2010; the second session was held on 7, 17-18, and 23–24 February 2011.

On 25 March 2011, the HRC adopted as resolution 16/21 the outcome of its review of the work and functioning of the HRC, later followed by HRC decision 17/119 of 19 July 2011 with the following changes to the UPR:[24]


  1. ‘In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all’, Report of the Secretary-General (A/59/2005), 21 March 2005; World Summit Outcome, General Assembly resolution 60/1, 24 October 2005.
  2. 1 2 Annex to resolution 5/1, para. 3.
  3. Annex to resolution 5/1, para. 4.
  4. ‘Basic facts about the UPR’, OHCHR.
  5. Annex to resolution 5/1, paras. 8-11.
  6. Annex to resolution 5/1, paras. 1-2.
  7. http://www.upr-info.org/database/index.php?limit=0&f_SUR=All&f_SMR=All&order=&orderDir=ASC&orderP=true&f_Issue=All&issueFilterType=OR&searchReco=&resultMax=300&response=&action_type=&session=12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1&SuRRgrp=&SuROrg=&SMRRgrp=&SMROrg=&pledges=RecoAndPledge
  8. 1 2 "Review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council" at 4.
  9. Annex to resolution 5/1, para. 29.
  10. Annex to resolution 5/1, para. 30.
  11. NHRIs accredited by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions(ICC) as compliant with the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (Paris Principles).
  12. Annex to resolution 5/1, para. 31.
  13. "UPR Implementation"
  14. The Follow-up Programme on UPR recommendations
  15. Annex to resolution 5/1, para. 38.
  16. http://www.upr-info.org/en/news/israel-absent-its-own-upr
  17. http://www.upr-info.org/en/news/human-rights-council-discusses-cases-non-cooperation
  18. http://www.upr-info.org/en/news/hrc-president-presents-report-dialogue-israel
  19. http://www.upr-info.org/en/news/universality-preserved-israel-expected-be-reviewed-tuesday-29-october-2013
  20. http://www.upr-info.org/en/news/non-cooperation-upr-paving-way
  21. Annex to resolution 5/1, at rule 7. Resolution 5/1 also stipulates that NGO participation is to be informed by Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31 of 25 July 1996, and NHRI participation by CHR resolution 2005/74 of 20 April 2005.
  22. General Assembly resolution 60/251 at operative para. 16.
  23. HRC resolution 12/1 of 12 October 2009, ‘Open-ended intergovernmental working group on the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council’.
  24. "New UPR Modalities for the Second Cycle"

External links

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