Update on Australia's Universal Periodic Review

In the lead up to Australia’s review by the UN Human Rights Council, the Australian NGO Coalition has released a series of Fact Sheets and held a briefing event to inform UN member states about the human rights situation in Australia.

The Universal Periodic Review (‘UPR’) is a mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council which reviews the human rights records of all 193 United Nations Member States. Australia was last reviewed under the UPR in January 2011 and faces its second review this year. Australia is due to submit its report for the UPR in early August ahead of appearing before the Council in Geneva on 9 November. 

Progress since the last UPR

While Australia accepted 90% of recommendations made in 2011 (in whole or in part) and a number of positive steps have been taken, progress has stalled on many recommendations and we have witnessed regression in key areas. The vehicle introduced to drive and monitor the implementation of UPR recommendations, Australia's National Human Rights Action Plan, has not advanced, which has meant the status of many recommendations remains unclear. Australia is likely to be criticised for its failure to implement the vast majority of recommendations accepted in the last review as well as emerging human rights challenges.

Fact sheets released

Following the lodgement of a Joint NGO Submission in March this year, the Australian NGO Coalition has released a series of Fact Sheets to ensure that UN member states are provided with credible and accurate information about key human rights issues in Australia.

The 18 thematic Fact Sheets build on the submission and provide further background on key issues as well as our suggested recommendations. The Fact Sheets will be used to brief and lobby embassies and missions in Australia and Geneva.  Thanks to the members of the UPR NGO Advisory Committee that assisted in the drafting of the materials.

UPR Briefing event in Canberra
UPR Briefing event in Canberra

Embassies briefed in Canberra

The Australian NGO Coalition partnered with the Australian Human Rights Commission to convene a UPR Briefing for embassies in Canberra earlier this month. The event was generously hosted by DLA Piper and attended by around 70 diplomatic staff representing 48 countries, as well as representatives from the Attorney-General’s Department and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

President Triggs facilitated a panel of NGO delegates representing a range of issue areas and population groups, including Anna Brown (HRLC), Amanda Alford (National Association of CLCs), Les Malezer (National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples), Asher Hirsch (Refugee Council of Australia), Christina Ryan (Advocacy for Inclusion), Corey Irlam (COTA Australia and the Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby), Gulnara Abbasova (FECCA), Anna Lyons (Justice Connect Homeless Law) and Elena Rosenman (ACT Women’s Legal Centre). Strong interest was shown by attendees, particularly in issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Australia’s asylum seeker and refugee policies.

What is happening next? 

The Australian Government is due to submit its UPR report in early August. Representatives of the Australian NGO Coalition and the Australian Human Rights Commission will be briefing country missions in Geneva in October ahead of Australia’s appearance in November.

The UPR is a mechanism designed to encourage dialogue, exposure and accountability in an effort to improve the realisation of human rights. With this in mind, the Australian NGO Coalition will be continuing its dialogue with the Australian Government and working to raise awareness of the UPR amongst civil society and the broader public over the coming months.

p.s. to tweet about the UPR please use the hastag #AusUPR

Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation (Anna.Brown@hrlc.org.au)