Universal Periodic Review in the United Nations Human Rights Council
The Universal Periodic Review as a Human Rights Mechanism
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism was established in 2008 and operates under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council. As part of the UPR, the human rights situation of all UN Member States is examined approximately every four and a half years, emphasising the universal nature of human rights.
The process and modalities of the UPR are described in detail on the official UPR website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). All documents related to the UPR may also be accessed through the official UPR website. Also the website of UPR Info (a non-governmental organisation) provides an easily accessible and comprehensive gateway to information on the Universal Periodic Review.
The first cycle of the UPR was formally concluded in March 2012. The UPR has been deemed a success. It has helped to highlight the recommendations given to states by bodies responsible for monitoring compliance by States Parties of human rights conventions. It has therefore proved to be a mechanism that is complementary to other human rights mechanisms.
The reviews have allowed room for transparent and constructive dialogue between states on human rights on the national level. The UPR has also provided a forum for discussions with non-governmental organisations. The interactive dialogues between the delegation or representatives of each State under review and other UN member states is webcasted and may be followed in real time. Besides the interactive dialogue, the national preparatory and monitoring process carried out in each country are equally important parts of the review. As the UPR enters into the second cycle, it is already possible to identify positive developments it has helped to bring about on national level.
Finland’s objective is to ensure that the UPR is taken into account in bilateral cooperation and dialogue with other countries. During the second cycle, Finland will follow with great interest the implementation by states of the recommendations they received during the first review.
The Second Universal Periodic Review of Finland in 2012
The first Universal Periodic Review of Finland’s human rights situation was carried out in the first session of the working group in April 2008. In May 2012, Finland will be among the first countries to be reviewed in the second cycle. The UPR review is among the priorities of the Finnish Human Rights Policy in 2012. The interactive dialogue between Finland and other UN member states will be organized on 23 May in Geneva, during the 13th session of the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council. The Finnish delegation will be led by a minister, and the delegation includes senior experts from various ministries as well as a representative of the Finnish Parliament and of the civil society.
The objectives of Finland in preparing for the review include openness and transparency, broad-based consultations, readiness to participate in a constructive dialogue and to undertake a self-critical assessment of the domestic human rights situation, and the importance of consistency and coherence between domestic and international human rights policies. Through applying these principles, Finland also seeks to promote good practices in the UPR.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs was responsible for drafting and coordinating Finland’s second National Report for the Universal Periodic Review. The Report was drafted jointly with the Prime Minister’s Office and other Ministries and it was sent to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2012. The Report gives an account of the realization of human rights in Finland and of the implementation of the recommendations Finland received during its first UPR review in 2008. The report also includes a section on achievements and good practice, and challenges and limitations.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs prepared the report by formally requesting information on the national human rights situation from a total of 100 sources, including the supreme guardians of the law (the Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman) and other Ombudsmen, advisory boards, the Government of Åland, the Sámi Parliament, churches, religious congregations and numerous non-governmental organisations. The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland, the Parliament of Finland, the parliamentary groups of political parties and the highest law courts were also advised of the Universal Periodic Review and the process of drafting the national report.
Materials already collated for preparing the Government’s first National Human Rights Action Plan were also used for drafting this Report, and a public hearing organised on 12 October 2011 to discuss the Action Plan also provided valuable information on the implementation of fundamental and human rights in Finland.
Civil society was also heard online and through the social media, with an opportunity provided over a three-week period from November to December 2011 to comment freely on strengths, challenges and trends in the Finnish human rights situation via the “Take a Stand” (Ota kantaa) online discussion forum. Attention was also called to this debate through the social media, including the Facebook page and Twitter account of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
A meeting held on 17 February 2012 at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs with participants from various other Ministries also provided a forum for non-governmental organisations to submit their views on a draft version of this Report.
Ongoing work on the UPR Report and the National Human Rights Action Plan enabled a comprehensive evaluation of the Finnish human rights situation and an open discussion with civil society. The supreme guardians of the law, specialist ombudsmen, advisory boards and nongovernmental organisations reviewed the shortcomings and challenges involved in fully realising fundamental and human rights, and proposed Government measures to improve the situation. The National Human Rights Action Plan responds to these proposals with several projects.
Recommendations received by Finland during the consideration of its human rights situation by the working group on the Universal Periodic Review in March 2008, and the actions undertaken by the government of Finland in response to these recommendations (PDF, 11 KB)