Background Briefing

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In May 2006, Human Rights Watch released its initial paper on the functions of the new Human Rights Council (HRC), focusing on universal periodic review (UPR), country situations, and the review of special procedures.1  In the ensuing months, numerous member states, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and leading scholars have offered proposals for how the UPR should be conducted.  This discussion paper revisits the Human Rights Watch paper, taking account of the many proposals that have been made, in an attempt to identify the key points necessary to creating an effective system for UPR.

Existing peer review systems provide useful models for an effective UPR system, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), created by The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).  APRM has been widely cited as a model, and entails a robust review procedure with five stages.2 

[1] Human Rights Watch background paper, “Human Rights Council:  No Business as Usual,” May 2006 [online],

[2] The five stages of the African Peer Review Mechanism are:  one, an extensive questionnaire to the state, and preparation of a study and issue paper by the African Peer Review (APR) Secretariat; two, a country visit by the APR Team; three, a report by the APR Team; four, consideration by the APR Forum, with the Forum’s decisions communicated to the state under review; and five, following publication of the report and decision, provision of capacity-building and technical assistance, and supervision of implementation by the APR Forum, either periodically or whenever the Forum deems it necessary.

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