The Commonwealth believes that healthy, prosperous societies are founded on democratic principles that guarantee human rights to their citizens. Poverty and governance challenges create situations where rights can be eroded and violated, perpetuating cycles of insecurity and under-development.
Protecting and promoting human rights is therefore a Commonwealth priority. A sustainable way to achieve this goal is to help member countries engage effectively with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism and process of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
This review examines the human rights record of all United Nations member states every four and a half years. Some countries, however, face challenges of capacity in the reporting process, anticipating obligations, and in implementing its outcomes.
The Commonwealth has worked to strengthen the capacity of member governments and institutions since 2008, so they can participate more effectively in the United Nations Universal Periodic Review. We help build countries’ capacity to collate and analyse information, develop country reports, establish co-ordination mechanisms and support the implementation of recommendations.
Between 2011 and 2013, we organised regional seminars on constructively engaging with the Universal Periodic Review in Australia, Bangladesh, Grenada, Mauritius, Namibia and the United Kingdom. More than 200 representatives from governments, national human rights institutions, parliaments and civil society organisations participated. We are also supporting parliamentarians across the Commonwealth to be active stakeholders in the process.
Our support to Commonwealth member governments and institutions has led to improved engagement with the Universal Periodic Review and, as a result, robust human rights frameworks and implementation mechanisms have been adopted around the world.
To date, we have provided support to more than 30 countries across all Commonwealth regions. For example, we helped Seychelles to develop its National Action Plan on Human Rights in 2014, which its government described as especially responsive to its ‘context, needs and challenges.’
By working with governments and other partners including civil society organisations to participate in international human rights mechanisms, we help to strengthen the respect, protection and promotion of human rights globally.