Universal Period Review (UPR) of the UK
Date: 16th May 2017
Category: Scotland-specific monitoring and reporting
On May 4th 2017, the UK was examined on its human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
This is a unique peer review mechanism of the UN's Human Rights Council through which countries are assessed every four years on how well they are implementing their human rights treaty obligations. As a result of joint lobbying between Together, the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) and the Welsh UNCRC Monitoring Group, a quarter of the 226 recommendations in this cycle are focused on children.
The report on the UK includes recommendations from countries on many of the issues raised through this work, including:
- Ratify the third optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC);
- Incorporate the CRC into domestic law;
- Evaluate the human rights implications of the anti-terrorism 'Prevent' strategy;
- Monitor the implementation of the 2015 Modern Slavery Act on child trafficking;
- Train the police on human rights and the use of excessive force;
- Raise the age of criminal responsibility;
- Abolish life sentences for children;
- Undertake an assessment of the impact of welfare reform on children and eradicate child poverty;
- Prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including in the family;
- Take measures to fight child sexual exploitation and domestic violence against children;
- Ensure that migrant children are not detained and reform guidance on family reunification;
- Forbid children from taking part in armed conflict hostilities.
There were also strong recommendations on access to legal aid for all and safeguarding the Human Rights Act to ensure that any changes maintain the same level of protection, including as part of Brexit. This was a result of a huge collective effort across the wider NGO sector and National Human Rights Institutions.
The lobbying process started back in September when we submitted a joint Great Britain civil society report as part of the review and raised a number of key children's rights issues. Many of these recommendations featured in the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) summary report of civil society submissions given the large number submitted.
CRAE was then selected as one of four NGOs to speak on behalf of the UNCRC membership organisations across England, Scotland and Wales at the UK Pre-Session at the Human Rights Council on 7th April. CRAE's Director gave a statement alongside Amnesty International, the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and the three UK Equality and Human Rights Commissions. Together, England and Wales also wrote 8 different briefings outlining key issues identified across civil society on:
- Legal measures of implementation;
- Non-legal measures of implementation;
- Immigration. Asylum and Trafficking;
- Protection from all Forms of Violence;
- Criminal Justice, Policing and Children of Prisoners;
- Child Poverty and Homelessness;
- Prevent Strategy;
- Mental Health.
Whilst in Geneva, CRAE met with Senior Diplomats from a number of countries in order to distribute these joint briefings which was followed up by communication with the Embassies based in London which are interested in children's rights issues. The process of deciding which recommendations a country will make during a UPR examination includes inputs to government from both UN Diplomatic Missions and Embassies.
As the Government is currently subject to "purdah", due to the forthcoming General Election, it did not accept any of the recommendations raised by the other countries, as would normally be the case. Together, CRAE and the Wales UNCRC Monitoring Group will therefore be urging the new Government to set out their commitment to improving the UK's children's rights record by responding positively to the UPR recommendations. In Scotland, Together will be working alongside other organisations to advocate for those recommendations within the devolved remit of the Scottish Government, and to put forward those recommendations that pertain to the whole of the UK.