What is Universal Periodic Review and why citizens must participate in it

This is the fourth cycle of the UPR. In the past years, different people’s organizations and human rights groups in the Philippines have participated in this process to add their voice and at the same time to demand from the Philippine government to fulfill its human rights obligations.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – On Nov. 14, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will review the human rights situation in the Philippines at its regular Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the fourth cycle of the UPR. In the past years, different people’s organizations and human rights groups in the Philippines have participated in this process to add their voice and at the same time to demand from the Philippine government to fulfill its human rights obligations. Karapatan, for one, has been engaging in the process since 2008.

Read: Groups score continuing rights abuses as Philippines undergoes review by UN body
Read: The Philippines and the Universal Periodic Review

What is the UPR and why do groups from the Philippines participate in the process?

The UPR is a mechanism of the UNHRC that reviews the human rights records of member states every 4.5 years. This process serves as a venue for each member state to declare what actions they have taken to fulfill their human rights obligations.

According to the Philippine UPR Watch, a network of human rights and faith-based groups engaged in the UN UPR process, the UNHRC’s review of the Philippines is based on the following:

  • Reports submitted by the government,
  • Reports by the UN human rights experts, treaty bodies and other entities,
  • Reports by stakeholders including the Commission on Human Rights and non-government organizations, and
  • From an interactive dialogue.

 

As early as March this year, the Philippine UPR said that there are non-government organizations and people’s organizations who have submitted 22 individual and 33 joint reports, covering civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Of this, the UPR Watch network has contributed 11 individual and 11 joint reports.

The UPR Watch members have also approached at least 25 diplomatic missions to give their perspectives on the Philippine human rights situation. They also lobbied states to intervene during discussions.

Groups also had dialogues with various UN offices and agencies.

During the review, the UPR Watch said they will continue to lobby and organize side events and rallies.

But why is the review of the Philippines’ human rights record important?

Different civil society organizations in the country have always debunked the claims of the Philippine government that the human rights of Filipinos are respected as they have consistently recorded violations of these rights by different administrations – not only civil and political rights but also social, economic and cultural rights.

Read: Advocates debunk PH government’s claim of ‘respecting human rights’
Read: ‘No let-up on human rights abuses despite UN reso, joint program in PH’ – advocates
Read: Plea for food not a crime, court rules in favor of QC residents
Read: ‘We are not immortals’ | Health workers hold protest over shortened gov’t isolation protocols, lack of benefits

The UPR Watch said that the UPR is a multilateral or intergovernmental platform. This, they said, is an opportunity to:

  1. Highlight the country’s human rights situation against official distortions;
  2. Hold the Philippine government accountable for its gross and systematic human rights violations;
  3. Advocate for actions which the UN System can take to address the situation, such as pressuring the government to comply with treaty obligations and allow independent investigations; and,
  4. Push for implementation of recommendations by the UN member states that uphold people’s rights.

 

The first UPR of the Philippines was held in April 2008, during the administration of then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo where thousands of extrajudicial killings of activists, among other rights violations, were recorded by Karapatan. (RTS, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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