The role of civil society

NGO side-event at the United Nations as part of AI's campaign on Control Arms

NGO side-event at the United Nations as part of AI's campaign on Control Arms

© Amnesty International

Civil society can play an essential role in the UPR and there are a number of options for civil society organizations and groups to engage with the UPR. Some of these are stipulated in the rules governing the UPR; others are advocacy opportunities and other activities on the fringes of the official process. 

  • Take part in the national consultations

The Human Rights Council has recommended that States prepare their report for the review through a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders. This provides civil society with a very useful opportunity for engaging with the process early on.

In advance of a country coming up for review, civil society groups and organizations may consider undertaking the following activities:

  • Contact your government and suggest that they organise a broad national consultation both within government and with civil society partners.
  • Ask that the consultation process be widely publicized and involve a broad spectrum of civil society organizations, including women’s groups, indigenous groups, and national human rights institutions.
  • Participate in the national consultation meeting or event (if one is organized), including by bringing key human rights concerns to the attention of the state and asking that these be addressed in the review.
  • Submit information on the situation of human rights in the countries coming up for review

Another important opportunity for civil society in the UPR process is to submit information on key human rights concerns in countries coming up for review. These submissions are summarized by the UN into a "Stakeholder Summary" which is one of the three official documents that form the basis of country reviews - the other two are the National Report and the Compilation of UN Information pertaining to the country under review.

NGO submissions should not exceed five pages, unless submitted on behalf of an NGO coalition, in which case they can be ten pages. The deadline for NGO submissions is usually around 5-6 months in advance of the relevant UPR session.

Find out more: 2012-2016 schedule of reviews and how to make submissions and the deadlines from the website of the OHCHR.

  • Lobby governments to make recommendations to the state under review to address human rights violations

An important part of the UPR is the three-hour dialogue in the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council during which other states may raise concerns with the state under review and make recommendations to it to improve the protection of human rights and to address specific human rights violations. NGOs may attend the sessions of the UPR Working Group, but may not make interventions. It is therefore essential to lobby other states, in advance of the UPR Working Group session, to make focused interventions in the Working Group, including concrete and measurable recommendations aimed at improving the human rights situation in the country under review.

  • Follow the interactive dialogue in the UPR Working Group

The interactive dialogue in the UPR Working Group between the state under review and other UN Member States is webcast. It can be viewed either as it takes place or subsequently via the UN webcast services:

  • Organize a public meeting to watch the review via the web-cast. If possible, invite government representatives to be present to discuss the outcome of the review and plans for implementation.
  • Lobby the state under review to accept as many as possible of the recommendations that address the key human rights concerns in the country
  • Make comments on the outcome of the review before the adoption by the Human Rights Council

The Council formally adopts the report of a country review in a subsequent regular session. At this stage civil society organizations with the necessary ECOSOC accreditation may submit a written statement or address the Council in an oral statement

  • To make an oral statement, NGOs (with the necessary ECOSOC accreditation) will need to secure a slot on the list of speakers
  • Lobby for prompt implementation of the outcome of the review

Once the outcome of the UPR has been adopted, the state reviewed is responsible for implementing the recommendations in the outcome report that they support. The ultimate value of the UPR lies in the extent to which those recommendations are implemented promptly and in full and leading to an improvement in the situation of human rights at the national level

  • Encourage your government to organize a meeting with civil society groups and organizations to discuss measures to implement the recommendations arising from the review.
  • Disseminate the recommendations in the outcome report to civil society partners.
  • Identify opportunities, over the four year period until the next review, to continue to push for implementation of the recommendations.


For more information on the UPR and opportunities for civil society engagement check the following links:

How you can help