Status of Children's Rights in the UPR

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is the UN’s main way of assessing the human rights situation in every State. It’s where the Human Rights Council (HRC) reviews the human rights record of each State, every four and half years. The review is based on reports State submit, and also alternative reports submitted by civil society, including NGOs. The UPR presents an excellent opportunity to get children’s rights featured in international human rights debates as it is about all human rights.

CRIN monitors every UPR session and uploads children’s rights extracts into the CRIN library, which you can search for free. Each country has also been given an individual country page.

Based on this monitoring, in 2010 CRIN did some research into how well the UPR is being used to advance children’s rights, and in particular, to what extent civil society is using the UPR to advance children’s rights. The research also looked at NGOs’ experience of using the UPR and some lessons learned.

Download the full text of CRIN's report on the "Universal periodic review: the status of children's rights" in English | Español | Francais

Key findings from the report include:

  • One in five mentions focus on children's rights: Approximately one fifth of all points made across the UPR process are children's rights focused. This is despite the fact that a third of the population is a child and everyone is a child once, and that children have all human rights too. Furthermore, the findings highlighted below raise concerns over which issues are being addressed adequately and which ones are not.
  • States are avoiding more controversial issues: States tend to focus on, and accept, mostly recommendations on 'softer' issues such as education and health. They then neglect, or reject recommendations on more controversial issues, such as corporal punishment or juvenile justice. As part of our research, we compiled a full list of children's rights recommendations rejected by States. The rejected recommendations are usually the key to advancing children’s rights in a given country because these are the ones States want to avoid.
  • NGOs have an important role to play: NGOs lag behind UN bodies and UN Member States in the extent to which they address children's rights in the UPR. Indeed, with States shown to avoid the more controversial issues, NGOs have an important role to play to address the full spectrum of children's rights issues and ensure neglected issues are brought to the forefront of the agenda.

NGOs experiences of using the UPR

CRIN has summarised the findings of a series of interviews conducted with a range of children's rights focused organisations, assessing the ways they have approached the various stages of the UPR process.

The report illustrates both successful and unsuccessful strategies adopted in each stage of the UPR process, from submitting reports, to national and international lobbying approaches, to post-review follow-up. This guide is an important source both for organisations who have already submitted reports to the UPR, as well as those looking to engage with the mechanism for the first time.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • NGOs are still learning about the UPR: As the UPR differs from existing UN mechanisms in a number of ways, NGOs are, to an extent, still finding their feet.
  • Two different perspectives: A clear distinction exists between those who engage at the Geneva level (primarily international NGOs) and those far from Geneva (national NGOs amongst others). Having a representative based in Geneva enables organisations to combine report submission with lobbying. For obvious reasons, this is often not an option for national NGOs.
  • The UPR as an additional advocacy tool: A number of organisations alluded to the need to treat the UPR as an additional advocacy tool that complements their existing day to day work. The UPR was often seen as an 'enforcer' of existing advocacy work, done in relation to the CRC, for instance.
  • Wider benefits of engaging with the UPR: A number of internal and external benefits emerged from the survey, particularly national NGOs reporting how the UPR helps them build alliances with the wider human rights community.

NGOs reporting to the UPR

CRIN has compiled a list of all the child rights focused NGOs (and other organisations, including Ombudspersons), who have submitted reports to the UPR. Reports are either submitted individually or as part of a coalition or joint submission with other organisations. See more on the database of children's rights organisations reporting to the UPR.

Why is this important?

For NGOs/Individuals engaging with the UPR, the database will highlight which other organisations are already reporting to the UPR so that you can, if needs be, co-ordinate your approach. The database also details the list of coalitions that exist, so your organisation may wish to join a coalition or submit particular information to that reporting body.