Observing the Commonwealth at the UN Human Rights Council
CHRI has been working with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) since it was established in 2006. CHRI’s work at the UNHRC can be divided into the following themes:
- ESTD/ Monitoring and assessing: Several Commonwealth member states have sat on the 47 member UN Human Rights Council since its inception. Each term is for three years. Prior to being elected onto the Geneva based Council each country makes a series of voluntary pledges and commitments towards upholding the highest standards in promotion and protection of human rights; cooperating with the Council; and being reviewed under the Council’s Universal Periodic Review mechanism.
CHRI’s report ‘Easier Said Than Done’ periodically assesses the compliance of Commonwealth members towards their human rights obligations. The report examines member states’ voting record, analyses compliance against the pledges and summarises national human rights trends, setbacks and progress. As a one of its kind, CHRI’s ‘Easier Said Than Done’ reports are considered a reference guide by diplomats, NGOs, NHRIs, intergovernmental organisations and others interested in the Council. The report aims keep under scrutiny the voting behaviour of Commonwealth countries at the Council.
- Networking/ participating: CHRI makes oral and written statements during Council sessions on themes of relevance to the Commonwealth and engages by joining in campaigns with similar ends initiated by partner organisations. CHRI also strives, from time to time, to support human rights defenders from Commonwealth countries to present statements on their country situation during Council sessions, through enabling their participation and helping with all logistical work.
CHRI is a long standing member of HRC-Net, an advocacy network of likeminded organisations from around the world that focus on the Human Rights Council. HRC-Net is an integral civil society player in urging that human rights promotion and protection, and not politics, are the central factors in decision-making at the Council.
CHRI is also a member of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN, a civil society coalition that works on India at the UN from a human rights context.
- Monitoring and engagement through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR): The Council’s UPR mechanism is a peer review process under which, every four years, the human rights situation of each UN member state is reviewed. As a part of this review, each member state is required to submit a report to the Council detailing its performance in implementing its human rights obligations and commitments. The civil society can actively participate in this review by making prior representations, oral statements, and written submissions to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Although the reviews are conducted by the UPR Working Group which consists of the 47 members of the Council, these documents are integrated, summarised and provided to all UN member states to enable them to participate in discussions and dialogues with the States under review. The review of each State is facilitated by a group of three States selected through a drawing of lots.
CHRI has been engaged with the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism since its inaugural session in 2008. CHRI has made numerous stakeholder submissions to the reviews of Commonwealth countries and oral statements during the adoption of reviews. Further, CHRI monitors follow up and action taken on selected recommendations in order to inform its own advocacy and that of other organisations. When the UNHRC underwent a review process after its fifth year of operation, CHRI was an integral civil society voice in calling for improvements to the Universal Periodic Review process.
- Trainings: CHRI also supports other organisations to make UPR submissions. CHRI has resourced UPR trainings for NGOs, NHRIs and governments all over the Commonwealth and contributed to two Commonwealth Secretariat publications on the UPR. CHRI assists organisations with drafting their own UPR submissions. CHRI also helps local organisations interpret and analyse recommendations and measure governments’ compliance with them.