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Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Image of Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Supporting countries to prepare for the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) examines the human rights records of 193 UN member states once every four and a half years. Each country reports on how it is implementing its human rights obligations under international human rights law and standards, and receives recommendations from other states in improving their compliance. Some countries face challenges in reporting under the Review due to limited financial and human resources to collate and analyse information.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit works with member countries on three levels: building the capacity of the country to collate and analyse information and report it constructively; supporting the country’s presentation in Geneva to the Human Rights Council; and technical assistance to help the country implement recommendations which they accept following the Review.


The Commonwealth is committed to engaging with its member countries to strengthen the respect, protection and promotion of human rights.


In 2011 the Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit held five regionally-focused seminars in Bangladesh (Asia), Barbados (Caribbean and Americas), Mauritius (Africa), New Zealand (Pacific) and the United Kingdom (Europe) to support member states in constructively engaging with the UPR process. The regions were presented with good practices for the follow-up and implementation of recommendations accepted. They were attended by representatives from governments, national human rights institutions, ombudsmen, parliamentarians and civil society organisations.

Swaziland's Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Reverend David Mathse said in 2011: "We appreciate the Commonwealth Secretariat's commitment to helping us in Swaziland, particularly because the development of our constitution is at an early stage.

"The workshop went very well and the participation and depth of discussion was very intense. There were stakeholders from various government departments and civil society organisations, and it was enlightening to look at issues from different angles.

"We hope it will take us a step forward in preparing for Geneva in October."

In the same year the Secretariat observed and assisted 19 delegations as they presented their country reports at the Human Rights Council in Geneva: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Namibia, Nauru, Rwanda, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago and Uganda.

In 2012 regional seminars were held in Africa and the Caribbean and in 2013 for the Asia Pacific region on best practice in implementing recommendations. The countries participating were: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Gambia, Grenada, Guyana, Kenya, Kiribati, Jamaica, Lesotho, Malawi, Maldives, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago and Uganda.

In November 2012 the Secretariat and the Inter-Parliamentary Union convened a seminar for parliamentarians to strengthen their understanding of how the UPR functions as well as their critical role within the process.

In 2013 the first in a series of regional seminars for parliamentarians was held in Trinidad and Tobago for the Caribbean and Americas.

The series aims to strengthen parliamentarians’ understanding of their role in the protection and promotion of human rights, and under the UPR. It was convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with expertise from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It resulted in the establishment of the Commonwealth Caribbean Parliamentary Human Rights Group, which aims to:

  • be an inclusive forum for networking and sharing experiences, information and ‘best practices’ among Commonwealth Caribbean parliamentarians;
  • promote and facilitate strategic partnerships and linkages between parliamentarians,  parliaments and other regional and international bodies; and
  • coordinate (consensus-based) expressions of support, encouragement or concern on human rights issues, events and developments affecting parliamentarians individually and collectively, for the better protection and promotion of human rights.   

The regional seminar for Africa was held in March 2014 in Seychelles.

The Secretariat has also produced publications to aid states in their understanding of the Review process, including Universal Periodic Review: Lessons, Hopes and Expectations.


Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights