Advocacy at the UPR

CRIN’s research has found that children’s rights are often neglected by the Universal Periodic Review. This needs to change. The UPR is one of the best tools the UN has to promote and protect human rights, and children’s rights must no longer be ignored. 

Below you will find ideas on how to use the UPR both at the international and national level. Some NGOs are suited to lobbying on the international stage, whereas others are most effective in national contexts. Both are vital - one gets the issue attention and helps establish international norms; the other works towards making human rights a reality.  

International advocacy: Engaging with the UPR

To ensure children’s rights are central to the work of the Human Rights Council, NGOs can use the UPR by getting involved at the review stage - this is where the Council gathers evidence before delivering a report on the human rights situation in a country. In particular, NGOs can try influencing the official State report, or submit their own - called an alternative report.

Influence the official State report

Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1 encourages States to prepare the information they provide to the UPR through a broad national consultation process with all relevant stakeholders. This means that governments should, at the very least, look at evidence NGOs provide them.  

Submit alternative reports

The States provide their official reports. But is this really happening? Local NGOs can be the best source of this information, particularly when it comes to underreported issues like children’s rights.

Submitting your own report for your country’s UPR is a great way of getting children’s rights and your message on the international agenda. The OHCHR has indicated that it really values the information provided by NGOs and that it can really help shape or even lead what issues the HRC considers in a State’s UPR.

Importantly, NGOs don’t have to be ECOSOC accredited to submit alternative reports, but the OHCHR would prefer them to be submitted along with alternative reports from ECOSOC accredited NGOs.

It is vital that you clearly identify the main issues you want the Human Rights Council to raise with the State during the UPR. This is because the OHCHR complies all the information they receive from NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and other stakeholders into one 10-page summary. You can keep your message short and simple by either preparing short submissions specifically for the UPR, or if you want to send more detailed information that you think is really important (like original reports and research), you can provide short summaries of this information and then attach the original reports in an annex. 

How to submit an alternative report

The OHCHR has produced detailed and technical guidelines for submitting alternative reports, along with the latest deadlines for different States and a portal for submitting a report online (which has been compulsory since March 2013). 

In summary, the OHCHR suggests:

  • Page limit: NGOs are strongly encouraged to limit their submissions to five pages. More detailed and factual reports can be attached for reference. The OHCHR has emphasised that the five page document is extremely important and should clearly lay out all the issues you want to raise. Longer documents can be attached as annexes, but they are not as important.
  • Focus: The document should highlight the main issue(s) of concern and suggest priorities for the Human Rights Council to discuss in the UPR. Facts and details in support, as well as suggested recommendations to be made to the State, can be annexed.
  • Time period: The information provided should only cover the previous four and half years (as in, the UPR period).
  • Deadline: These vary depending on when the State is being reviewed. CRIN’s latest news and the Children’s Rights at the UN CRINmail regularly give deadline information. The OHCHR’s website also lists upcoming deadlines for different States. 
  • Language: The submissions must be written in a UN language (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian or Spanish), but ideally in English, French or Spanish.

Using the UPR to advocate for children’s rights at a national level

Just because the Human Rights Council has said that a State must stop violating children’s rights doesn’t mean that it will automatically happen. And the UN follow up process can be slow and inadequate. So it is crucial that NGOs continue to put pressure on States to respect children’s rights - it is often their role to keep it on the national agenda. 

NGOs can be directly involved, and even drive the UPR follow up at national level. They can help the government address the recommendations, ensure children’s rights are integral to the national agenda, and collaborate on the ground with national human rights groups, politicians, academics, the media and children themselves. 

Advocacy ideas include:

  • Distribute the UPR report nationally to bring attention to children’s rights issues. You can send it to politicians, journalists, other human rights NGOs as well as anyone who works with children (eg teachers/schools, social workers, lawyers, judges, parents/guardian groups). To help draw attention to a particular issue, you should write a short summary or press release.
  • Draw up an action plan or strategy that will help get the UPR’s recommendations implemented, and send it to your government. If possible, try to set up follow up meetings with relevant officials. You can view mid-term progress reports on UPR recommendations submitted by States and NGOs to the UN.
  • Monitor a State’s progress since the UPR and how well they are implementing the recommendations can be a great way to identify shortcomings as well as advocacy success stories. You should welcome positive moves in children’s rights by your government, both personally and in public with press releases and statements on your website. And you can then use this opportunity to remind them of ways they can still improve. 

This is of course not an exhaustive list, and we encourage people to contact us with further ideas so we can help inspire others around the world to creatively and effectively campaign for children’s rights, so please email us.