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Item 6: General Debate on the Universal Periodic Review Process
September 23, 2010

Statement of the Delegation of the United States of America

Delivered by John C. Mariz

Human Rights Council 15th Session

September 23, 2010

Thank you Mr. President.

Before beginning my prepared remarks I would like to associate myself with the statement made by the Belgian Ambassador on behalf of the EU, particularly with regard to his comments about the need for states to clearly respond to recommendations at the conclusion of their reviews, and the need for UPR to demonstrate tangible improvements in human rights conditions on the ground.

Mr. President.

The United States believes the Universal Periodic Review is a positive contribution to the international Human Rights agenda and an essential component of the Human Rights Council. As the Council moves toward completion the first round of the UPR and as we begin the 2011 review process, we would like to address those aspects of the UPR process that need to be improved if the UPR is to fulfill its potential to promote and protect human rights.

First, we want the UPR process to reinforce improving accountability on countries’ human rights commitments. The second round should build on the reviews conducted in the first round, focussing on states’ commitments to improvement, particularly those recommendations it has accepted. In national reports, basic information on constitutional structures should no longer be needed for most countries, with the exception of countries whose governing system has changed substantially since its previous report. Rather, states should focus on updating the Council on their human rights situations and discussing progress on implementing accepted recommendations and pledges they made in the first round. OHCHR, Special Procedures, and civil society stakeholders might also adjust their role to comment on states’ follow through on their UPR pledges. The Council should also consider innovative mechanisms that give countries a possible way to provide reports on important developments in the implementation of pledges and accepted recommendations. Finally, in all of this, important recommendations made from the first round that did not enjoy support of the state should not be overlooked by either the state or the Council in the second round.

Second, in light of the continuing unsatisfactory arrangements we have operated under during this session, we must have a definitive and impartial reform of the speakers’ list modalities for the second round. The United States is convinced this can only be done by ensuring that the UPR actually becomes “universal” — that is, by ensuring that all states that wish to speak during any particular review are guaranteed that opportunity. We realize that this would involve changes to the current format and that some sessions may require more time than the current three hours. In light of the importance of a review that takes place only once every four years, however, it seems entirely justified to extend sessions when necessary or to balance the scheduling of shorter and longer reviews. We are eager to examine these and other measures with states in order to definitively resolve the issue of speakers.

Third, we hope to make the UPRs more substantive. The Council should consider the establishment of a best practices mechanism both to guide states in their preparation for the UPR and to promote sound recommendations. The Council might consider ways to provide assistance to those countries that request it with their UPR report preparation. With our own UPR presentation in November, we have reached out to several countries that have already undergone the process to learn from their preparatory steps.

Mr. President:

The Universal Periodic Review has in many regards been a success and an invaluable exercise for the great majority of governments committed to human rights. These governments have used the process to advance the promotion and protection of human rights in their countries. Preparing for our own UPR session was an important opportunity for our government to engage with civil society, as we conducted unprecedented consultations in more than ten cities across the country, to examine practical human rights issues facing our citizens in a new and novel manner, and to reflect on our own accomplishments and challenges. Nevertheless, the UPR must improve and evolve in the second round to retain its integrity and relevance.

Thank you, Mr. President.