Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Applies to/Se aplica a

State practice
State law
Individual cases
For Urgent Action
Only under 18-s


The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was established along with the Human Rights Council by resolution 60/251 in 2006 and is a unique mechanism of the United Nations human rights system which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States once every 4½ years, based on the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and any other human rights instruments to which the State under review is a party, and voluntary pledges and commitments made by the State. During the review process, other States examine the human rights practice of a State under review based on information provided by the State, a compilation of relevant UN documents prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) and information provided by other stakeholders, including NGOs (compiled by the OHCHR).

Other states may ask questions and make recommendations, which the State under review may accept or reject. The result of this review is reflected in an “outcome report” listing the recommendations made to the State under review. Until the next due review, the State under review has now four years time to implement the accepted recommendations and fulfil its voluntary pledges.

The third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review started at the 27th session (1st-12th May 2017), and will run until November 2021. Find the full calendar here: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/UPR/Calendar3rdCycle.doc (a download will begin).

Information, including a timetable of the current review cycle, is available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

1. Likely results from use of mechanism

As this is an inter-governmental procedure, only States can ask questions or make recommendations to the State under review. NGOs can not intervene directly, but have to get a State to ask a question or to make a recommendation to the State under review. The State under review then can either accept or reject a recommendation.

2. To which States does the mechanism apply?

This mechanism applies to all member states of the United Nations.

3. Who can submit information?

The review at the Working Group is based on three sources of information:

  • Information prepared by the State under Review on its human rights situation. This can take the form of a national report no longer than 20 pages.
  • A compilation of “information contained in the reports of treaty bodies, special procedures, including observations and comments by the State concerned, and other relevant official United Nations documents, which shall not exceed ten pages” (Resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1). It can include for example Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee or the Committee on the Rights of the Child, reports by Special Rapporteurs or UN Country teams, etc. This compilation is prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR).
  • Other “credible and reliable information” provided by “other relevant stakeholders” (including NGOs), which are summarised by the Office of the High Commissioner in a document not exceeding ten pages (Resolution A/HRC/RES/5/1).

These three documents are usually available on the OHCHR website ten weeks before the start of the UPR working group.

4. When to submit information?

4. When to submit information?
The Universal Periodic Review Working Group holds three sessions per year dedicated to 14 states each, until the total of all UN members has been reviewed.

According to resolution “A/HRC/RES/5/1, “States are encouraged to prepare the information through a broad consultation process at the national level with all relevant stakeholders”. If your State is following this procedure, it might be a good idea to get involved in the process, and to lobby for inclusion of the issue of conscientious objection in the State's report. Often, coalitions of national NGOs join forces to submit a joint report. If this is the case, it can be advisable to take part in such a coalition, to make sure that the issue of conscientious objection to military service is included in a broader NGO report. Such a national consultation process is likely to take place about one year before the review.

8-6 months before the review:: The deadline for the submission of information by NGOs to the OHCHR is about six to eight months before the session. Submissions must be submitted and received by midnight Geneva time (CET) on the day of the given deadline and late submissions are not considered.

About six weeks before the session of each Working Group, the NGO UPR-Info is holding public sessions for NGOs to suggest questions and recommendations. All government delegations are invited to these sessions, and the timing should provide enough time for the delegations to consult with their respective government.
NGOs interested in taking part should contact:
UPR Info
Avenue du Mail 14
1205 Geneva, Switzerland
Phone: + 41 22 321 77 70
Fax: + 41 22 321 77 71
Email: info@upr-info.org

As the review itself is an inter-governmental procedure, it is then important to lobby other governments to raise questions and make recommendations to the State under review, either via other States' embassies in your country, or via their permanent missions at the UN in Geneva. Please get in touch if you have specific issues to raise in relation to conscientious objection to military service.

During the review:: The review itself takes place in a Working Group of the Human Rights Council, which is composed of all UN member States and chaired by the President of the Council. NGOs in consultative status can attend but not take the floor during the review.
The review is prepared by a troika, which is selected by the drawing of lots among members of the Human Rights Council and from different regional groups. The troika receives the written questions and issues raised by States and relays them to the State under review. During the review itself, the members of the troika do not have any specific role. After the review, the troika is responsible for preparing a report of the Working Group, with the involvement of the State under review and assistance by the OHCHR. One of the members of the troika will introduce the report before its adoption at the Working Group.

3-4 months after the review: The report of the Working Group is adopted by consensus at a plenary session of the Human Rights Council. During this session, NGOs are allocated a total of 20 minutes for oral statement after the presentations of the State under Review and other States (20min each) and before the outcome report is adopted. Only NGOs in consultative status are allowed to make an oral statement.
It is also possible to write a statement as not every NGO can be considered and coalitions of NGOs are generally favoured. These written statements will become official United Nations documents but they have however less impact than an oral statement. There is a deadline of usually two weeks before begin of the session for written statements, and there are very detailed technical instructions for submissions of statements, which have to be submitted by email.

For a webcast of the interactive dialogues please visit: http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/archive.asp?go=080507.

5. Special rules of procedure or advice for making a submission?

As stated in point 3.) The OHCHR asks NGOs to limit their official submission to a five page (2815 words) document, to which other information can be attached. When the information is submitted by a large coalition of NGOs, the official submission can reach ten pages (5630 words). For ease of reference, paragraphs and pages should be numbered. NGOs need to submit their report as a Microsoft Word document by email, and not in any other file format (no PDF), nor on paper.

As of the third cycle of the UPR, the OHCHR has devised 'Matrices of recommendations of countries to be reviewed during the 3rd cycle of the UPR' . The purpose of the matrices is to collect precise and specific information on the level of implementation, in the State under review, of both the accepted and noted recommendations from their previous reviews. Stakeholders are now also encouraged to submit their completed country-specific matrix, alongside their written submissions. NGOs are encouraged to download their country matrix now available here http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/NgosNhris.aspx, and should complete the final column in the table. The matrix provides a list of received recommendations, clustered by theme, and then allows space for "Assessment/comments on level of implementation".

This is an example of a matrix here https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/matrix_argentina.png

The second and subsequent cycles of the UPR will focus on the recommendations accepted by the State under review during previous review cycles, and on the development of the human rights situation in the State since the last review. However, any other issues that come within the scope of the Universal Periodic Review can also be raised.

The OHCHR has issues “technical guidelines” for National Human Rights Institutions and NGOs, which they need to follow when submitting information to the UPR. The guidelines for the second cycle (2017-2021) can be found at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/UPR/TechnicalGuidelines3rdCycle.... (a download will begin).

Submissions should be sent to through the "On-line UPR submissions registration system" to register contributions for the UPR documentation from UN entities and stakeholders available in the following link: https://uprdoc.ohchr.org. Stakeholders should follow the "Guidelines for the Use of the On-Line UPR Submissions Registration System" available here www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/UPR/How-to-GuideUPR_Online_Registration.... Should organizations encounter technical problems using the Online system, please contact the UPR Submissions Helpdesk through the following email address: uprsubmissions@ohchr.org.

For help and questions relating to the Universal Periodic Review, the website of UPR-Info at http://upr-info.org has a wealth of advice and information.

6. What happens to the submission (how long will it take)?

If the submission complies with the technical guidelines, it will be made available on the OHCHR website ten weeks before the start of the UPR working group. Information contained in the submission will hopefully also be included in the OHCHR compilation of information provided by “other relevant stakeholders”.


After the review, it is important to follow-up on the recommendations accepted by the State, and to monitor their implementation.

States are encouraged to submit a mid-term report on the implementation of UPR recommendation to the Human Rights Council. This provides a further opportunity for lobbying, and NGOs in consultative status can also submit comments in form of a written statement to the Human Rights Council.

7. History of the use of the mechanism.

The issue of conscientious objection was brought up several times during the first cycle of the UPR, for example during the review of Colombia in 2009. Resolution: A/HRC/10/82

The OHCHR has developed a special database for the documentation related to the universal periodic review at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Documentation.aspx.

Contact Details: 
OHCHR address: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)  Email: uprsubmissions@ohchr.org http://www.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/Pages/ContactUs.aspx
Further Reading: 


Title Date
Conscientious objection to military service (Resolution 2013/24) 23/09/2013

The resolution recalls the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and previous Human Rights Council and Commission resolutions on the subject of conscientious objection to military service, and:

  • Encourages all States, relevant United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions to cooperate fully with the Office of the High Commissioner by providing relevant information for the preparation of the next quadrennial analytical report on conscientious objection to military service, in particular on new developments, best practices and remaining challenges";
  • "Welcomes the fact that some States accept claims of conscientious objection to military service as valid without inquiry;";
  • "encourages States to allow applications for conscientious objection prior to, during and after military service, including reserve duties";
  • "Emphasizes that States should take the necessary measures to refrain from subjecting individuals to imprisonment solely on the basis of their conscientious objection to military service and to repeated punishment for refusing to perform military service, and recalls that repeated punishment of conscientious objectors for refusing a renewed order to serve in the military may amount to punishment in breach of the legal principle ne bis in idem";
  • "Also encourages States, as part of post-conflict peacebuilding, to consider granting and effectively implementing, amnesties and restitution of rights, in law and in practice, for those who have refused to undertake military service on grounds of conscientious objection to military service";
  • "Invites States to consider including in their national reports, to be submitted to the universal periodic review mechanism and to United Nations human rights treaty bodies, information on domestic provisions related to the right to conscientious objection"
Recommendations and Commitments
Title Date
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodical Review on the Republic of Korea 25/08/2008

In the Working Group “Slovenia noted the recommendation by the Human Rights Committee that the Republic of Korea recognize the right of conscientious objectors to be exempted from military services. The Committee found a violation of article 18, paragraph 1, of ICCPR in two individual communications. Slovenia recommended that the Republic of Korea follow up on the Committee’s recom­men­dation to provide the authors of these communications with an effective remedy. It also recommended recognizing the right of conscientious objection by law, to decriminalize refusal of active military service and to remove any current prohibition from em­ployment in government or public organizations.” The United Kingdom recommended “that active steps be taken to introduce alternatives to military services for conscientious objectors.

The Republic of Korea did not explicitly accept these recommen­dations, but reported that it had “announced a new programme to give conscientious objectors the opportunity to participate in alternative in civilian service, in September 2007. For the implementation of the new system”, the statement continued, “the Government has to revise the Military Service Act, and considers submitting a revised Act to the National Assembly this year.” (http://wri-irg.org/node/20846)

In its written responses at the time of adoption of the report, the Republic of Korea stated with regard to both recommendations only that “Alternative service programs for conscientious objectors are currently being studied.

Report of the WG on the Universal Periodic Review on Finland 23/05/2008

In the Working Group, the United Kingdom “welcomed the attempts to end discrimination against conscientious objectors through the reforms of the Non-Military Service Act. [but] encouraged Finland to go further in reducing the duration of non-military service and to establish parity between the length of non-military service and the average, rather than the longest possible, length of military service.
Although the issue was not included among the formal responses to recommendations, the Finnish delegation did respond to the United Kingdom's comments during the Working Group dialogue itself, stating that “On the important question on the length of the Finnish non-military service that has recently been shortened and is now equal to the longest duration of military service, under the Military Services Act, [...] the Finnish Constitutional Committee of Parliament [had] compared the burden of non-military and military services and the overall burden irrespective of the length was assessed to be more or less equal between the two forms of services and this is the reasoning behind the length of non-military service.