The involvement of local actors in the UPR process
On the 21st of September 2022, UPR Info in partnership with the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco, the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea, and the Moroccan Inter-ministerial Delegation for Human Rights held an event on the margins of the 51st session of the Human Right Council (HRC) entitled “The involvement of local actors in the UPR process: implementation of recommendations, monitoring and advocacy”.
The event was timely organized in advance of the 4th UPR cycle and it provided the opportunity to reflect on how the UPR can continue to improve human rights on the ground with the support of local and regional governments (LRGs). The new cycle starting in November will be focusing on “enhanced implementation”. As Mr Federico Villegas, President of the Human Rights Council said in his introductory remarks “ It is a relevant phase that we all have to support and local and regional governments have a tremendously important role to play in order to complement the efforts made by the States.”
During the event, the speakers shared good practices on how LRGs can participate more actively in the different phases of the UPR process. In Morocco, for example, ahead of the submission of the national report for the 4th UPR cycle, the government conducted a series of public dialogues with territorial actors in 12 different regions. "The importance of permanent local interlocutors has become more apparent” said the Inter-ministerial delegate of Morocco. Their contribution supported a fruitful debate on economic and social empowerment of children and women and the youth as well as on increasingly controversial issues, namely the protection of migrants and refugees, the issues linked to the environment, desertification and climate change.
But LRGs can also contribute to the implementation phase especially on those recommendations that have been accepted by the State. Cities, for example, have decision-making power at the local level and the capacity to implement decisions to improve human rights, including on issues relevant to them such as rights to housing, education, equality and non-discrimination and the protection of persons in vulnerable and marginalised situation. “Their proximity to communities ensures that decisions take into account the voice of rights holders and respond to their needs” said Mona M’Bikay, Executive Director of UPR Info.
Many initiatives that go in this direction have already been taken by several local actors. In some countries, regional government have established mechanisms in charge of promoting and protecting human rights. As Mona M'Bikay reported “In Indonesia, the city of Wonosobo has established a human rights commission consisting of representatives from the government, religious leaders and of vulnerable and marginalised groups.”
Challenges for LRGs involvement in the implementation of UPR recommendations as the lack of financial resources or the lack of knowledge and capacity have also been discussed. In some countries these challenges were overcome by adopting creative solutions or by collaborating with different stakeholders as academics or civil society organizations (CSOs). The city of Buenos Aires in Argentina, for example, created with the civil society a space to raise awareness of the right of transgender people.
At the end of the event, Mona M’Bikay suggested a few recommendations for States and LRGs that we would like to share here:
|For LRGs:||For States:|
|Develop a collaboration with CSOs and academia to build capacity of local actors and raise awareness on human rights issues affecting the rights of the community or certain groups living in vulnerable situation.||Engage LRG in the UPR process (national consultation, observers during the interactive dialogue, preparation of the mid-term report).|
|Take into account the implementation of human rights responsibilities in the development of budgets.||Involve LRGs in the development and implementation a national human rights actions plan and of policies aiming at implementing UPR recommendations and strengthening human rights at the local level.|
|Adopt legislation, policies, and programme at the local and regional level on the promotion and protection of human rights.||Involve LRG in National mechanism for implementation, reporting and follow-up.|
|Ensure an enabling environment of work for civil society participation in decision-making.||Take into account the relevant aspects of VNRs of SDGs implementation conducted by LRGs when preparing the national report to the UPR.|
|Establish regional human rights bodies with a legal mandate can facilitate the local anchorage of the UPR recommendations. They can contribute to the compliance of local measures with international commitments.|
|Human rights cities model can be an innovative way of engaging in the process at the local level thus building ownership and encouraging civic participation.|
|It is vital to build the capacity of all governmental stakeholders with respect to international human rights instruments, the UN human rights monitoring mechanisms to create local ownership of the State’s human rights commitments. Guiding principles on local government and human rights could be a useful tool to inform the work of LRG.|