The information on this page is a summary of the UPR process. For more detail, take a look at A Guide to the Universal Periodic Review for Civil Society Organisations.

What is the UPR?

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a key way the United Nations (UN) reviews, and seeks to improve, the human rights situations of all the 193 countries (States) that are members of the UN. The UPR is run through a part of the UN called the Human Rights Council (HRC).

The HRC is made up of 47 countries that are members of the UN. These 47 members are elected by the General Assembly of the UN for three year terms, and represent the different geographic regions of the world. The HRC is a key UN body working on the protection and promotion of human rights across the globe. Find out more about the HRC here

As part of the UPR process every country’s human rights situation is reviewed every 4.5 years. This means each year 42 countries are reviewed.

Who’s who

  • State under review: This is the country that is having its human rights situation reviewed.
  • Working Group: The review is carried out by a Working Group, chaired by the President of the HRC. The Working Group is made up of all the countries who are members of the UN.
  • Others: Other relevant stakeholders, such as NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions and UN agencies can attend the Working group (but they cannot talk at the meeting).
  • Troika: There is a troika made up of delegates from three countries to assist the Review. They can be the official delegates of those three countries or specially appointed representatives. There is a different troika for each State under review.

Key stages

The UPR process has three key stages:

Key documents

The review is based on three key documents:

  • The National Report (20 pages) prepared by the country concerned (in practice, the government) on the human rights situation in the country;
  • A 10-page report prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) containing information from UN bodies (including committees that monitor treaties and special experts called rapporteurs) and UN agencies (e.g. UNICEF); and
  • A 10-page summary prepared by the OHCHR of the information provided by civil society groups. This is where BIHR’s project comes in because we will be supporting organisations to get skilled up to contribute to a joint report (and/or submit their own reports).

The Review

The Review lasts for 3.5 hours and takes place at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. After the Review, the troika prepares a report summarising the discussion, the responses by the State under Review to the questions, and recommendations made by other countries in the Working Group. The report is then adopted during the Working Group session a few days after the review. It is then accepted by the Human Rights Council a few months later at a session which:

  • Allows the State under Review to reply to questions and issues that were not sufficiently addressed during the review and respond to recommendations;
  • Allows member states to express their opinion on the outcome of the review; and
  • Gives civil society groups, NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), the opportunity to make general comments.

The Recommendations

Recommendations are suggestions made to the State under Review to improve the human rights situation in the country. The recommendations are a key element of the UPR process. These are what the State under Review should look to address when the current review ends, and over the 4.5 years before the next one.

The HRC processes for the UPR say that States under Review can support recommendations or make other comments on them (this is set out in Resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1). Sometimes a state will make a comment that they do not support particular recommendations. The responses of the State under Review to each recommendation must be clearly explained in writing, in a specific document called an “addendum”. This should be submitted to the HRC before the HRC adopts the report.

Voluntary pledges are commitments made by a State under Review during the UPR to do certain things. For example many countries make voluntary pledges to submit a mid-term report on their implementation progress. At the UK’s last UPR examination the government made a voluntary pledge to provide updates through a mid-term report in 2014.