Insights gained from ten years work on the Universal Periodic Review: Interview with Roland Chauville

  • Roland Chauville UPR Info

    The founder of UPR Info Roland Chauville Photo: UPR Info

Today, the Human Rights Council starts a two week-long session of the Universal Periodic Review, better known as UPR. We met with Roland Chauville, the founder of UPR Info, the civil society organization that ensures sustainable UPR implementation of the recommendations.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a Human Rights mechanism, where all 193 UN Member States are regularly reviewed. Each State is being reviewed every five years by other Member States and is then given recommendations that must be followed up within a five year period, that is, the States take specific actions to achieve the goal. The UPR is an important tool to ensure that human rights are being respected.

After almost ten years of diligent work, the UPR has become an integral part of the human rights work in Geneva. The civil society organization UPR Info was founded in connection to the start of the UPR, in 2008, by Roland Chauville. The organization’s main goal is to raise awareness and provide capacity-building tools to the different actors of the UPR process. This session will mark a milestone in Chauville's records as he is moving on to other duties outside the organization. We met with him for a forecast of UPR Info, the work in the field, and the third UPR cycle.

Mr. Chauville, what are the practical outcomes of the UPR?
“There are two different types of impact of the UPR”, Chauville points out. Focusing on what the recommendations have led to, he mentions concrete examples such as the Seychelles decriminalizing same sex activity, Pakistan creating a national Human Rights commission, and Colombia launching a campaign for birth registration.

Working to advocate human rights, the UPR has also resulted in uniting civil societies at the national level. Another result of the UPR-process is the adoption of national actions plans in Kenya. This is an extra and valuable impact of the reviews.

Furthering the improvement of human rights all over the world, the Universal Periodic Review kicks off today. A diverse group of states are being reviewed, ranging from Switzerland in Europe, to Ghana in Africa and The Republic of Korea in Asia. The focus is on the follow-up from previous recommendations, and on giving those states new recommendations. “It is also important that recommending states reiterate previous recommendations, to show that they haven’t forgotten; the States are held to account”, Chauville explains.

You have dedicated the last ten years to UPR Info and will now be passing on the baton to Mona M’Bikay. She has previously worked for the Swiss government, and the United Nations in two capacities, not least for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. How might this affect the nature of the organization’s existing working system?

“Ms. M'Bikay has governmental and UN agency experience as well as experience from the field, so she may be more prone to naturally turn towards the actors in the field and engage with them further in the future”.

“The connection and work with civil society is an important part of the UPR - work, especially in the implementation phase”, Chauville points out. The last three to four years, UPR Info has been focusing on supporting civil society organizations (CSOs) and other actors on a national level, to strengthen the UPR and make the civil society engage in furthering human rights. “Half of our activities are actually happening in countries. Even in terms of workshop, it’s more than half of our budget that is now towards in-country activities, and within that implementation. Making the UPR real and tangible for people working with it at the national level is an important part of our work”.

Sweden will participate as recommending state and will mainly focus on giving recommendations on issues regarding women, children, HBTQ and sexual & reproductive health. What can we do better during this session?

“Contribute with more recommendations, and diversify them. There is a general imbalance between the two types of recommendations: civil & political (CP) rights, and economic, social & cultural (ESC) rights. Sweden could assist to level this gap with their recommendations”, Chauville states.

The Permanent Mission of Sweden congratulates Roland Chauville and wishes him all the best in his new endeavors!

During this review, 14 countries are being reviewed: Argentina, Ghana, Guatemala, The Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Pakistan, Zambia, Japan, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Czech Republic, Gabon, Peru and Benin. Sweden will be one of the recommending states and so put forward recommendations.