Mr President, Ambassadors, distinguished delegates, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the impact of Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, especially in the UK’s Overseas Territories across the Caribbean. The UK is committed to helping those affected recover as quickly as possible, and we pass on our thoughts to all those affected. I would also like to extend our sincere condolences to those affected by the recent earthquake in Mexico earlier this week.
Turning now to the UK’s Universal Periodic Review, I am pleased to be here to present the formal response to the 227 Universal Periodic Review recommendations the UK Government received during the very constructive dialogue in May this year.
The UK has a longstanding tradition of ensuring our rights and liberties are protected domestically and of fulfilling our international human rights obligations. And last week, we marked the International Day of Democracy to recognise the benefits of democracy, and the rule of law to individual states, and to support the rules based international system.
We believe that strong democratic institutions and accountable government, which upholds universal rights and the rule of law, are key building blocks for secure and prosperous states.
The UK played a key role in the United Nations at its inception, and we remain a confident, strong and dependable partner internationally – true to the universal values of the United Nations.
The UK strongly supports the work of the treaty bodies and regards them as central to the broader human rights system. The effective functioning of the treaty body system is essential to achieving improvements in the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world. This is why the UK has been supporting efforts to ensure that all candidates for treaty bodies are nominated through an open and transparent selection process and have a proven record of expertise in the relevant area.
The UK is honoured to serve again as an elected member of the Human Rights Council. We remain a strong advocate of the Council, and the mechanisms at its disposal to strengthen human rights protection globally, which includes the Universal Periodic Review, and we are committed to the ongoing success of this mechanism.
In March this year, we made our joint statement with Brazil, Morocco and Paraguay and many other like-minded States on the successes and challenges of the UPR.
We welcomed the positive changes that the UPR has promoted, including the spirit of international cooperation in human rights amongst States, and the important role played by technical assistance in helping States with their UPR recommendations.
During this third cycle of UPR, the UK has participated fully, and demonstrated our commitment to ensuring that all of the recommendations we make to other States are precise, practical, constructive, forward looking and implementable.
Additionally, we have continued to exercise restraint on the number of recommendations given to other States, and are open to working with other States who wish to learn from our approach and experience to the UPR.
Turning now to May of this year when the UK underwent its 3rd cycle of UPR. Our delegation was led by the then UK Government Minister responsible for human rights, His Excellency Oliver Heald QC, Minister of State.
The UK Government delegation listened with interest to the views and perspectives expressed during the session, and every effort was made to respond on the day to the issues, recommendations and comments raised by States, and also to address the questions submitted in advance.
Following the May session, the UK Government reserved its position on the 227 recommendations received. This enabled the careful review of the recommendations through consultation across Government and with colleagues in the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Government and the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
The UK Government also met with some stakeholders and our National Human Rights Institutions over the summer to discuss the recommendations with them, and to listen to their views on priority areas amongst the 227 recommendations.
I would like to make clear that the UK Government has given considerable thought to how to respond to each recommendation, and in August, the UK submitted its response to the recommendations.
Colleagues will have seen that the UK’s response is in the form of two documents.
There is an Addendum document, which groups the recommendations by subject matter but refers to them only by number, and then a longer ‘Annex’ which sets out the recommendations in full and outlines the UK Government’s position in relation to each one. This document draws in responses from across the UK’s Government and the UK’s devolved administrations, and we hope its content will help support a greater understanding of the UK Government’s position on all recommendations.
As I mentioned earlier we used the agreed upon terminology in responding to the recommends, and in summary, the UK “supported” 96 recommendations (which means the UK Government has either fully implemented them or intends to do so), and “noted” 131 recommendations (which indicates that the UK may have taken some steps but is not fully implementing these recommendations at this time).
In 2012, the UK Government voluntarily committed to updating the Working Group via a Mid Term Report, on its position in relation to the 132 recommendations received during our second cycle of UPR. And we delivered on this commitment with a Mid Term Report in 2014.
The UK Government has again committed to follow up the 227 recommendations we received in May with a Mid Term Report in 2019, and we have also made the additional commitment to provide an update on up to 5 recommendations by May 2018.
We are clear that the UPR is not just a three-and-a-half-hour dialogue that occurs for States every four years. Each cycle builds on the last, and Mid Term Reports and other updates are an important way to demonstrate ongoing commitment ahead of the next cycle.
Mr President, Ambassadors, distinguished delegates, thank you for the opportunity to deliver these remarks on our continued commitment to the UN, the UPR mechanism, our position in relation to the 227 recommendations the UK received in May and our plans for future reporting.
I look forward to listening to views from the floor from the many States who are speaking today. I am pleased to see National Human Rights Institution and civil society representatives here today, and also look forward to hearing their views.