On the 21st of January in 2019, New Zealand’s human rights record will be reviewed by the United Nation’s Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The UPR is carried out periodically by the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group. New Zealand’s review will take place in Geneva as part of the UPR Working Group’s 32nd session which is held between Jan-Feb 2019.
The UPR is quite different from the reviews that take place under UN human rights treaties. It is not focused on one particular human rights treaty or population group. Instead, it enables States to report to the UN on their overall human rights situation and steps they have taken to improve human rights outcomes. At the conclusion of the process, the UPR Working Group issues the participating State recommendations that set out actions it can take to improve or progress human rights in their country.
The UPR is an important, high profile human rights event. It provides a great opportunity for the government and the community to enter into a dialogue about the overall status and progress of human rights in Aotearoa New Zealand. The recommendations that arose from New Zealand’s last UPR review in 2013 formed the basis for New Zealand’s current National Action Plan on Human Rights.
The New Zealand Government’s report and participation is being led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Non-government organisations and individuals can also participate in the process through attending events and making submissions.
Submissions are made directly to the UN, not the Human Rights Commission or the Government.
For more information on the UPR:
- The UN guidance for stakeholder reports
- The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights provides a more detailed summary about the UPR Process, available here.
- The Geneva-based organisation UPR-Info provides excellent information for non-Government organisations and individuals on how to participate in the UPR Process, available here.
- New Zealand’s National Action Plan on Human Rights can be accessed here.
The UPR covers New Zealand’s overall human rights record and therefore may encompass issues regarding:
- Civil and political rights – this includes things such as privacy, freedom of expression and religions and non-discrimination
- Economic, social and cultural rights – these include matters such as health, education, adequate standard of living and housing
- Issues affecting population groups – women, ethnic groups, children, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities
The Process and Opportunities to Participate
There are several opportunities to participate in the UPR process.
In February and March 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be holding consultation meetings in different regions across New Zealand.
Making a submission
Non-government organisations and individuals are encouraged to make a submission to the UPR. Group submission are particularly encouraged. Submissions can focus on one human rights issue or many. However, there are strict word limits – 2815 words for individual submissions, 5630 for group submissions.
Submissions are made directly to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. You will need to register in order to make your submission. If you follow this link you will be able to register and then upload your submission.
Attending a UPR Pre-session
Before the UPR Review of the State in Geneva takes place, a preliminary meeting called a “pre-session” is held in Geneva.
The pre-session provides an opportunity for the non-government organisations and individuals to present information directly to the UPR Working Group representatives.
In addition, some countries hold “in-country” pre-sessions which are attended by representatives of consulates or embassies of the member state of the UPR Working Group. This provides an opportunity for groups and individuals to participate in a pre-session without having to travel to Geneva to do so.
UPR-Info co-ordinates and provides support at the pre-session events. A guide on the UPR pre-session process is available on UPR-Info’s website here.
The UPR Review itself
Non-government organisations and individuals can attend and observe the review of the state by the UPR Working Group. The review takes place at a session of the UN Human Rights Council. However, the review consists of an interactive dialogue between members of the UPR Working Group and Government representatives. The is no opportunity for non-government groups and individuals to participate directly in this process.
Submissions by non-Government organisations and individuals are due on 12 July 2018. The Government’s UPR submission is due in October 2018. The tentative date for UPR Pre-session for the 32ND UPR Working Group is December 2018. To attend, a pre-session an application must be made to UPR-Info for attendance. (See UPR-Info’s website for details.)
The UPR Review will be taking place in Geneva as part of the UPR Working Groups 32nd session, on the 21st of January 2019. For a basic timeline, click here.
The Commission is due to lodge its UPR submission on 12 July 2018
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