Tags:

Universal
 Periodic Rreview:
 Peer
 review
 of
 countries’ 
human
 rights
 records

The UPR was created by the General Assembly in 2006 (A/RES/60/251). It is a State-driven process which provides the opportunity for each Member State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their country and to fulfil their human rights obligations. As stated in its founding document, the UPR operates under the auspices of the HRC and was designed to ensure “universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States” when their human rights records are assessed. The UPR receives information from non-government stakeholders and from the UN system as a whole. By 2011, the human rights record of all 193 Member States had been reviewed. There is no other universal mechanism of its kind. The ultimate goal is to improve, in every country, the situation of human rights and to address violation of human rights wherever they happen.

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How to engage with the UPR process

‘UN Support to the Implementation of UPR and other Human Rights Mechanisms’ Recommendations Policy Decision (Policy Committee Decision 2014/5)* lists the following actions for the UN system to undertake to engage with the UPR and other human rights mechanisms.

1) Prior to the review

Support States and other actors in building their capacity to more actively engage with the UPR through awareness-raising and advocacy;

Provide technical assistance to States in fulfilling their reporting obligations;

Provide a platform for governments, NHRIs, CSOs and other actors to discuss critical human rights challenges;

Encourage the establishment of standing national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up as a means of coordinating the process of reporting to the UPR and other mechanisms and bodies, as well as following up recommendations;

Contribute information on inter alia the implementation of the recommendations accepted by States in the previous cycle of the review and the developments of the human rights situation since then, to be incorporated in the UPR ‘compilation of UN information’ report.

2) During the review

Support States and other actors to more actively engage in and interact with the UPR, for instance by supporting and facilitating local access to the review meetings (which are webcast by the UN) by convening a targeted or public screening;

Participate actively in the review of the State concerned, including by attending and making an intervention at the HRC plenary session during the consideration and adoption of the relevant UPR outcome(s).

3) After the review

Provide support to States in developing institutional mechanisms (such as national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up) with the task to coordinate States’ efforts in implementing recommendations of the UPR and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms;

Assist States in thematically clustering recommendations flowing from the UPR and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms in a comprehensive national implementation plan;

Integrate recommendations of the UPR and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms into country analysis with a view to guiding the formulation of joint UN Country Team or individual UN entities’ planning and programming instruments, including CCAs and UNDAFs;

Further mainstream support in the implementation of the recommendations emanating from the UPR and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms into the peace, reconstruction, humanitarian and development agenda;

Support and facilitate the translation and broad dissemination of the UPR outcome report(s) and use UPR recommendations as advocacy tools;

Systematically compile and analyse recommendations made by the UPR and other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, as well as regional systems, track the government’s response, identify serious human rights issues and establish prevention and response mechanisms;

Document lessons learned and good practices in terms of positive impact of the UPR and the work of other UN human rights bodies and mechanisms on the national and local human rights situation.

KEY RESOURCE

Human 
rights 
treaty 
bodies: 
Reviewing 
progress
 in 
implementing 
human
 rights 
treaties

The treaty bodies are committees of independent experts that monitor the implementation by States parties of their obligations under nine core international human rights treaties. All treaty bodies (with the exception of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture) receive periodic reports from States that are party to the treaties, detailing how they are applying the treaty provisions at the national level. Most treaty bodies may also consider complaints or communications from individuals alleging that their rights have been violated by a State party, provided that State has opted into this procedure. Some may also conduct inquiries and consider inter-State complaints.

All treaty bodies have developed the practice of inviting States parties to send a delegation to attend the session at which the committee (or subcommittee) will consider its report, in order to allow it to respond to members’ questions and provide additional information on their efforts to implement the provisions of the relevant treaty. The examination of a report culminates in the adoption of “concluding observations” intended to give the reporting State practical advice and encouragement on further steps towards implementing the rights contained in the treaty.

The reporting system is an important tool by which a State can assess what it has achieved and what more it needs to do to promote and protect human rights in the country. The reporting process should encourage and facilitate, at the national level, public participation, public scrutiny of State policies, laws and programmes, and constructive engagement with civil society in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, with the aim of advancing the enjoyment by all of the rights protected by the relevant treaty.

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HOW TO ENGAGE WITH THE HUMAN RIGHTS TREATY BODIES

What is the added value of human rights treaties and their monitoring bodies for UN Country Teams?

UN Country Teams are in a unique position to utilize the treaty body system in their own activities on the ground
in their common effort to strengthen national human rights protection systems. The following points highlight
the added value of treaties and their monitoring mechanisms in the overall support by Country Teams to
strengthen national protection systems:

• The human rights treaty framework should be the basis of the national protection framework. The former alone establishes international legal obligations for States and attracts the accountability that only legal obligations predicate, even as national laws and practices change. Thus, human rights treaties form a continuing reference system and minimum standard for UNCT action;
• Treaty bodies provide clarification on the meaning of universal human rights standards;
• The process of treaty implementation by States parties, including the preparation of reports and follow-up measures to recommendations of treaty bodies, provides a critical mechanism to bring about legislative, policy and programmatic change, and accountability at the national level by providing:
• A tool in benchmarking the current level of knowledge and implementation of relevant human rights obligations;
• A tool for assessing the gap between the human rights obligations and the situation experienced by the population in general, and children,    women and minorities in particular, as well as the capacity of institutions and mechanisms to address that situation;
• A tool for emphasizing legal responsibility of Governments for human rights protection and promotion in dialogue with Governments;
• An opportunity to establish a national mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the various human rights treaties;
• An opportunity for public scrutiny of government policies and the participation of various sectors of society in the formulation, evaluation and review of policies;
• An entry point and platform for a national dialogue on human rights amongst the various stakeholders in the process, including different government agencies, the media, national human rights institutions, NGOs, the Parliament, women and young people and civil society as a whole, thus engaging with and facilitating the host society’s efforts, indispensable for strengthening sustainability.
• The concluding observations and recommendations of treaty bodies identify specific human rights concerns, to help set priorities at the national level which may provide a framework for joint action by Governments, UN agencies, NGOs and other partners, and a guiding reference and tools for programming consistent with the provisions of the relevant treaties, which should inform the CCA/UNDAF processes;
• International human rights standards and the output of the treaty bodies, including their General Comments, provide a reference system for national courts and a framework for human rights accountability at international and national levels;
• Treaty bodies provide additional tools for National Human Rights Institutions, whose responsibilities often include encouraging ratification or accession to international human rights instruments and ensuring their implementation, as well as contributing to the reporting process.

Possibilities for cooperation between UN Country Teams and Treaty Bodies

The human rights treaty bodies provide a number of useful entry points and opportunities for participation by UN Country Teams. For instance, UNCTs can systematically facilitate the participation in the reporting process by States and NGOs, where appropriate; provide concise data to Committees; and use its outputs as a programming tool. Such engagement transforms the reporting exercise into a dynamic tool for assessment and dialogue with States, UN agencies and NGOs which can provide an essential framework to hold States parties accountable for their treaty obligations. Specific activities may include:

Participating in the reporting process by providing concise and substantive input to treaty bodies on particular areas of concern with regard to the implementation of the respective convention under consideration, as well as concrete suggestions to the list of issues to be prepared by the treaty body
prior to the consideration of reports;
Following up with States parties on implementation of concluding observations and recommendations of treaty bodies, as well as drawing these recommendations to the attention of other actors, including national human rights institutions and NGOs, for instance, by organizing briefings or town hall
meetings, and assisting in follow-up as appropriate. These recommendations can be used by UNCTs as a tool to encourage necessary legislative, policy, budget or programmatic review or change, as well as effective implementation of existing legislation or policies. They should also inspire UN action at the
country level and contribute to CCAs/UNDAFs;
Encouraging compliance with reporting obligations in a timely manner and in accordance with the reporting guidelines of the respective committees, including through reporting workshops and other capacity building activities for both Government and civil society;
• Acting as catalyst for national level action by a wide range of partners, including international and regional agencies and NGOs, in encouraging and facilitating participation of these partners in the reporting process and follow-ups;
Encouraging accession or ratification of treaties or their optional protocols in their contacts with the Government;
Encouraging the creation of an institutional framework for the preparation of reports and mechanisms to allow for participation of all sectors of society in the reporting process and the implementation of recommendations;
Raising awareness about the treaties and the outputs of their monitoring bodies amongst national stakeholders, including by translating the recommendations into local languages, thus strengthening national level capacity.

International
 human
 rights
 treaties

Treaty Treaty 
body Number
 of
 State
 parties
 (as
 of
 17
 August
 2015)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) (ICCPR)
Optional Protocol (1966) 
Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (1989) Human Rights Committee (CCPR)

168

115

81

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) (ICESCR)
Optional Protocol (2008) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

164

21

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965) (ICERD) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 177
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979) (CEDAW)
Optional Protocol (1999) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

189

106

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) (CAT) Committee against Torture (CAT) 158
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2002) (OPCAT) Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) 79
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (CRC) Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000) 
Optional Protocol to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000) 
Optional Protocol to the CRC on a communications procedure (2011) Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

195

159

169

17

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990) (ICMW) Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) 48
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) (CRPD)
Optional Protocol (2006) Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

157

86

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (2006)(ICPED) Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) 50

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Other key declarations, standard rules, 
guidelines, recommendations and principles of the United Nations system

  • Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (1955) and Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (1988);
  • Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (1979);
  • Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (1985);
  • Declaration on the Right to Development (1986);
  • Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (1992);
  • Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993);
  • Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1998);
  • Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007);
  • Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules) (2010);
  • Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (2010);
  • Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training (2011).

Special
 procedures:
 Independent
 experts
 reviewing
 country
 or
 thematic 
issues

The special procedures of the HRC are independent human rights experts with a mandate to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special procedures mandates are held by either an individual (called a Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert) or a working group composed of five members from the five regions recognized by the UN. Mandate holders serve in their personal capacities and do not receive salaries or other financial compensation for their work. They rely on government invitations and cooperation to carry out their work. They contribute to the development of international human rights standards, engage in advocacy, raise public awareness, receive complaints from rights holders and provide advice for technical cooperation.

Special procedures report directly to the HRC, and the majority also report to the General Assembly and are supported by OHCHR. Their mandate depends on the resolution that creates them. They achieve their mandate through communications to States on individual cases, and the undertaking of studies and consultations, country visits, technical cooperation and outreach. The system of special procedures is a central element of the UN human rights machinery and covers all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social, as well as the right to development.

As of 15 June 2015, there were 41 thematic mandates and 14 country-specific mandates.

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HOW TO ENGAGE WITH THE SPECIAL PROCEDURES

What is the added-value of Special Procedures for UNCTs?

Through the conduct of fact-finding missions, special procedures mandate-holders identify the root causes and various facets of phenomena of human rights violations at a given time, and can analyze good practices, and on that basis provide recommendations to help refine the possible range of preventive or remedial measures. Reports on fact-finding missions provide a detailed analysis of the political, institutional, legal, judicial and administrative frameworks from a human rights perspective, as well as with regard to the promotion and protection of a given right or set of rights.

Through communications to Governments, Special Procedures not only have the possibility to address with the concerned authorities individual cases of violations, but they identify patterns of human rights violations country-by-country. Such trends constitute essential information on areas which need reform and strengthened support and are useful elements for the design, implementation and evaluation of technical cooperation programmes.

Through the development of thematic studies, Special Procedures contribute to the further definition of human rights norms and standards, refining their content and their field of implementation. They also increasingly study the relationship between certain themes and human rights norms and standards, which provide a normative basis for rights-based programming.

Through press releases, Special Procedures raise awareness among the wider public of human rights violations, thereby promote discussion and participation at the local level.

Possibilities for cooperation between UNCTs and Special Procedures:

The activities of Special Procedure mechanisms provide opportunities for useful cooperation with UNCTs:

Mission preparation/conduct: Substantive participation by UNCTs in mission preparation and conduct affords the opportunity to update and contextualize the information already received by the mandate holder and helps her/him to get the most out of the visit in terms of identifying persons, sites and material to be most usefully consulted. It can also provide opportunities for the UNCT to engage in a dialogue on human rights issues, with a various range of partners, in particular the Special procedures mandate-holders themselves, the authorities, human rights NGOs, etc.;
Follow-up to missions: UNCTs can make use of the interest generated following a visit, as well as keep in contact with the mandate holder, in order to maintain momentum on addressing human rights issues;
Advocacy and programming: UNCTs can encourage the government to cooperate with, invite and implement the recommendations of Special Procedure mandate holders. The recommendations made can also serve as a platform for UNCTs to mobilize the government and other actors to address human
rights concerns, and also for longer-term programming and institution-building.

KEY RESOURCES

Supervisory
 mechanisms
 of 
other
 United
 Nations 
system
 norms 
and
 conventions 
on 

human
rights

The fundamental conventions of the ILO and the relevant bodies that monitor these standards are critical for monitoring rights to and at work. The ILO fundamental conventions include the following:

KEY RESOURCES

Related Blogs and Country stories

Silo Fighters Blog

Getting real on leaving no one behind: Women’s periods and the SDGs in Nepal

BY Stine Heiselberg, Bronwyn Russel | April 19, 2018

Who are Nepal's most vulnerable groups, and how is their vulnerability similar or different from other countries? This wasn't a rhetorical question for the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP), an inter-agency initiative of the UN in Nepal, but a must-know in order to properly structure their priorities for the 2018-2022 UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Key in answering this question, was to get in touch directly with those vulnerable groups and to listen to their experiences. To target the areas where there's a clear gap, we designed a community perception survey that would allow us to fully grasp why certain populations are falling behind in development progress, and most importantly, to help them catch up. We spoke with members of the UNDAF thematic groups from various UN agencies to develop a questionnaire that would also help us amplify existing data sources for future programming efforts. As a next step, we selected districts by aggregating the Human Development Index (HDI) at the provincial level and identified the provinces with the lowest HDI. Then, we identified districts within those provinces and pulled the data that would reflect as many UNDAF-related areas as possible. In October last year, we mobilized 30 enumerators across nine districts (Kailali, Achham, Bajura, Muhu, Dailekh, Rukum, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat) over the course of two weeks. A total of 1,800 respondents completed the survey. To get our hands on qualitative data, we also held 12 focus group discussions in targeted communities facilitated by team members of the Common Feedback Project. This helped to contextualize quantitative findings and provide greater insight into the survey results. Making sense of all the data Once we collected the data, we put on our investigator hats to analyse results and disaggregate overall findings by district, age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. We did this to drill down and pinpoint factors that may influence how people in different regions are experiencing development. By far, the most effective surveys were the ones administered and analysed without pre-existing bias or predictions, which is what we strived for. The final product was a 39-page infographic style report that breaks down the responses based on focus areas, including detailed analysis of the survey feedback.   Some UN agencies are already focusing more in detail on the results that impact their mandate which could guide their future work. Debunking cultural misconceptions One of the things that came up during the surveys is the practice of chhaupadi, through which women are banned from their homes, public areas, temples, and schools during their menstrual periods. According to our findings, this still remains a regular practice even though it was outlawed in 2017. To contextualize these findings, we held focus group discussions to in Dailekh, a district where only half of the population is literate, and the Human Development Indicators are extremely low. From the focus group discussions, we learned that school teachers often ask female students to stay at home for four days during their periods. This is a problem because school girls miss up to one fifth of the school year. Beyond this impact on education, the practice of chhaupadi has far reaching implications. A number of women die annually from animal bites, infections, and smoke inhalation as they stay in unsafe and unsanitary shacks during their period. The good news is that some communities are beginning to understand that this ostracizing practice is damaging and unnecessary. And with collective efforts to raise awareness, this practice can be eliminated. In the western district of Mugu, chaupaddi is now considered a thing of the past, in part, due to the investments at the community level to teach people about the biological aspects of the menstrual cycle and the impacts of excluding women and girls from their communities. In several districts in Nepal, UNFPA and UNICEF are providing life skills education to girls and boys, both in and outside of school. A programme called Rupantaran (which means "transformation") empowers and enables adolescents to become change agents in their communities.   What's next We are committed to giving communities a voice at the table from the very beginning of our planning efforts.  The Common Feedback Project team will continue to support the UN team to integrate feedback from communities into their development plans. As part of this effort, we are currently designing a new community perceptions survey to better understand the dynamics of harmful traditional practices such as chaupaddi. The data collected will inform UN joint programmes to eradicate these practices. We will keep you posted on our findings. Check back with us in the next few months!

Country Stories

Viet Nam Engaging with International Human Rights Mechanisms to Achieve Universal Access to Education

March 8, 2014

The most important reason for us to support mother tongue-based bilingual education is to promote social equality in education by creating equal opportunities for ethnic minority children to have access to quality education. - Mr. ViVan Dieu, Director, Research Centre for Ethnic Minority Education, Viet Nam Institute of Educational Sciences. Abstract As a direct result of Viet Nam undergoing the Universal Periodic Review in May 2009, the government invited six Special Procedures mandate holders of the United Nations Human Rights Council to visit Viet Nam. Four Special Procedures visited Viet Nam during 2010-2011, one of whom was the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues in July 2010. During her visit, the Independent Expert on minority issues engaged closely with the United Nations country team, which contributed to ensuring that her recommendations reflected the realities, priorities and challenges in the country. The recommendations from the Independent Expert proved a valuable tool for guiding and strengthening efforts to move forward on ensuring equitable and inclusive growth in Viet Nam. In particular, her engagement with UNICEF on the issue of bilingual education for children of ethnic minorities resulted in an explicit reference to UNICEF’s work in this area and a recommendation that this approach be supported and expanded in the country. These recommendations added significant weight and credibility to UNICEF’s work on bilingual education, providing UNICEF with an advocacy tool to raise attention and commitment to this approach. Bilingual education has since been recognized by the Ministry of Education as one of the solutions to reducing disparities in access to education. Background The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is a one-party state ruled by the Communist Party of Viet Nam. It has an estimated population of 87.8 million people, of which 14.3 percent belong to one of 53 minority ethnic groups.1 Many of these ethnic groups have their own distinct language, religion and cultural identity and live in remote parts of the country. The rest of the population belongs to the majority ethnic group, known as the Kinh. Over the past two decades, Viet Nam has achieved rapid economic growth and has significantly reduced overall poverty rates from 58.1 percent in 1993 to 14.5 percent in 2008.2 As a result of this growth, Viet Nam attained the status of a middle income country in 2010.3 One of the biggest development challenges that Viet Nam faces in the process of transitioning to a middle income country is the widening gap between rich and poor and between different regions. The ‘feminization of poverty’4 is also a growing challenge. Local customs, patriarchal attitudes and traditions have led to gender inequality in the labour market and in political and public life. Furthermore, ethnic minorities continue to be particularly vulnerable to high levels of poverty and inequality. While in 1990, only 18 percent of those living in poverty belonged to ethnic minorities, by 2008 ethnic minorities accounted for almost 56 percent of the poor.5 In 2012, the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted its concern over the lower level of development indicators among ethnic minorities, especially regarding access to health and education.6 Viet Nam faces significant human rights challenges in the area of civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association and assembly. Space for expressing views on government policies and practices is also limited.7 Education for ethnic minorities The official language used in schools in Viet Nam is Vietnamese. While the law recognizes that ethnic minorities have the right to use their mother tongue in schools in order to preserve and develop their ethnic and cultural identity, the lack of teaching capacity in minority languages has meant that in practice children are taught in Vietnamese only. As many minority communities have only a limited understanding and proficiency in Vietnamese, this has created a language barrier for many of these children. Lack of access to education in their mother tongue, together with the use of Vietnamese, is considered one of the reasons why the net primary school completion rate among ethnic minority children (61 percent) is significantly lower than the rate for Kinh (86 percent). For minority women the problem of illiteracy is particularly acute; literacy rates for ethnic minority women are just 22 percent, as compared to 92 percent for ethnic Kinh women.8 Strategy Engaging with international human rights processes and mechanisms Since 2008, UNDP has been implementing a capacity-building project on human rights treaty reporting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project has provided an opportunity for the United Nations country team in Viet Nam to engage with and support the government in its interaction with international human rights mechanisms. Supporting engagement with the Universal Periodic Review, human rights treaty body reporting, sharing knowledge on processes and procedures, and supporting the government in organizing visits of Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council proved a useful way to concretize human rights concepts and provide expertise to the government. In May 2009, Viet Nam was assessed under the Universal Periodic Review. This afforded the government an important chance to present an overview of the main opportunities and challenges they faced in meeting their international obligations, as well as to demonstrate progress made toward achieving key commitments under human rights treaties. It also provided an opportunity for the United Nations to support the government to engage effectively with this process. At the government’s request, UNDP, in close coordination with the United Nations country team and with OHCHR Geneva support, facilitated training for government officials on the Universal Periodic Review. As part of this training, UNDP invited other countries from the region (Indonesia and Philippines) that had already undergone the process to share their experiences with Viet Nam. These activities helped build the government’s capacity and openness to engaging with international human rights mechanisms and, in doing so, strengthening the quality of Viet Nam’s engagement in the Universal Periodic Review. Viet Nam ensured representation at the highest level, which reflected the importance given to the Universal Periodic Review by the government. The Universal Periodic Review experience, in turn, generated greater momentum to engage with other human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. One of the follow-up measures to the Universal Periodic Review process was the government’s invitation to six Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council to visit Viet Nam. BOX United Nations Special Procedures: The Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Special Procedures are either an individual (called Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert) or a working group, usually composed of five members. Mandate Holders serve in their personal capacities and do not receive salaries or other financial compensation for their work. They rely on government invitations and cooperation to carry out their work. Mandate holders are appointed by the Human Rights Council and their work is supported by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). END BOX Viet Nam received four visits of United Nations Special Procedures mandate holders between 2010 and 2011: the Independent Expert on minority issues (July 2010); the Independent Expert on extreme poverty and human rights (August 2010); the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt (March 2011); and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health (November – December 2011). These visits provided significant occasions for Viet Nam to benefit from the expertise of Special Procedures in its efforts to follow up on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, and to address key human rights issues in the country. The United Nations country team took a number of steps to maximize the value and impact of these visits and to optimize the benefits of the government’s engagement with the Special Procedures. As a first step, and in collaboration with OHCHR Geneva, the United Nations country team organized workshops for the government to provide guidance on the overall procedures of such visits and the mandates of the Special Procedures. During the visits, the United Nations country team and technical experts from the agencies played an important role by providing the Special Procedures with technical expertise on issues falling within their mandates. This was particularly important in Viet Nam where civil society is developing its capacity to engage in these processes. In turn, being able to draw on this expertise ensured that the Special Procedures report and recommendations reflected the realities, opportunities and challenges in the country. United Nations country team engagement with the Independent Expert on minority issues In July 2010, the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougal, visited Viet Nam. The United Nations country team viewed the visit of the Independent Expert as an opportunity to strengthen and further reinforce government efforts to address widening inequalities and persistent poverty among minority ethnic groups. Supporting the government to achieve inclusive and equitable growth is a core part of the United Nations country team’s development agenda. At the beginning of the visit, the United Nations country team organized a formal briefing with the Independent Expert to discuss key issues, challenges and opportunities. This was followed by in-depth briefings with technical experts from several United Nations agencies. The United Nation’s inter-agency approach proved extremely valuable in this process. Having all United Nations agencies around the same table provided the Independent Expert with a breadth of expertise and knowledge on a wide range of issues affecting her mandate – ethnic minority poverty, cultural diversity, sexual reproductive health for minorities and bi-lingual education. United Nations agencies’ expertise in the relevant areas enabled the Independent Expert to support the agencies’ work. It allowed the Independent Expert to draw on agency expertise to make concrete and useful recommendations that could assist the government to move forward. According to the Independent Expert, her visit was, “a great opportunity to re-introduce Viet Nam to the international human rights mechanisms. It allowed Viet Nam to share its accomplishments and the obstacles it has had to surmount with the Human Rights Council and human rights mechanisms. The government took my mission very seriously. They learned a lot from the mission on what they can expect in engaging with human rights mechanisms.” Engaging the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues in support of bilingual education for ethnic minorities Internationally there has been consistent recognition of the value of bilingual education in improving learning and reducing drop-out rates.9 To examine ways by which this concept can best work in Viet Nam, the Ministry of Education and Training worked together with UNICEF to pilot a project on bilingual education in three provinces (see Box 1). In addition, to generate support among government counterparts for this approach and to ensure the government would benefit from the expertise of international human rights mechanisms, UNICEF, in collaboration with the United Nations country team, strategically engaged with the Independent Expert on minority issues during her visit in July 2010. UNICEF provided the Independent Expert with in-depth briefing notes on the legal framework for ethnic minority languages in education and their rights to use their mother tongue in school. UNICEF also held face to face meetings with the Independent Expert and organized her participation in a mother-tongue teacher training workshop. This participation enabled her to interact directly with teachers being trained. BOX Box 1: UNICEF’s Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education in Viet Nam UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Education and Training to implement and monitor a pilot project on bilingual education since 2008. The pilot project is being carried out in three provinces – Lao Cai, Gia Lai and Tra Vinh – in the minority languages of H’mong, Jrai and Khmer, respectively. Students in each province will complete the pilot programme by 2015. Through the project, teachers are trained in bilingual education techniques and provided special teaching and learning materials developed in consultation with local communities. The project is being carefully monitored for evidence of improvements in the quality of education. The ultimate objective is to feed the research results into a national education strategy that supports bilingual education.10 END BOX Results In the Independent Expert on minority issues’ report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the issue of bilingual education for ethnic minorities featured prominently among the key recommendations. The Independent Expert explicitly referred to the example of UNICEF’s work in bilingual education and recommended that this approach be supported and expanded to other districts. According to the Independent Expert’s report, “the importance of improving the education outcomes of minorities cannot be overstated. Access to quality and appropriate education is a fundamental gateway to development and poverty eradication for minorities in Viet Nam..." The independent expert saw clear evidence that bilingual education ultimately serves to increase the potential of ethnic minority children and communities to learn and use Vietnamese…The government should permit and support bilingual education for ethnic minority children.”11 Her recommendations to Viet Nam were fully in line with the United Nations country team’s overall policy recommendations on minority issues outlined in the United Nations’ One Plan. This is an achievement realized through the engagement and cooperation of the United Nations country team with the Independent Expert during the course of her visit. Most importantly, the visit of the Independent Expert provided a powerful advocacy opportunity for the United Nations’ efforts to promote bilingual education. By validating the methodology that UNICEF and the Ministry of Education were piloting and encouraging its institutionalization, the recommendations provided authoritative inputs for UNICEF to draw upon in advocating for this approach.12 The recognition and support of the Independent Expert added weight and credibility to the methodology, providing a significant recommendation for its acceptance in the country. The Ministry of Education has now formally recognized that bilingual education is one of the solutions to strengthen ethnic minority children’s education.13 Moreover, early results from the UNICEF Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education are promising. As a whole, children enrolled in the programme are performing better than minority children not enrolled in the programme in language competency tests in both their mother tongue and Vietnamese. They also outperform ethnic minority students not in the programme in listening comprehension and mathematics. As a result of the encouraging results from the Action Research, this approach is increasingly being recognized as a good practice, both nationally and in the region. One provincial department of education and training has opted to use its own funds to more than double the number of bilingual education classes; 344 Mong ethnic minority children are now enrolled in these classes. Three additional provinces, Dien Ben, An Giang and Ninh Thuan, have also expressed interest in the methodology and have committed to applying the approach. The Provincial Department of Education and Training is supporting these efforts and has scaled up mother tongue-based bilingual education so that each school year from 2011 to 2015, a new group of 210 children aged five will enter mother tongue-based bilingual education classes. Specific policy recommendations on the use of bilingual education have also since been promulgated by the National Assembly and Committee for Ethnic Minorities. In addition, delegations from Myanmar and China visited Viet Nam to learn from this experience. Equally, the report from the Independent Expert raised the visibility and interest in the approach among donors and development partners in Viet Nam. These partners have expressed interest in supporting the follow-up to the Independent Expert’s recommendations. For example, the European Union delegation in Viet Nam welcomed the Independent Expert’s recommendations on the expansion of mother tongue-based instruction and requested UNICEF to prepare a concept note on how this approach could be expanded within the country. The experience of Viet Nam also highlights the important role that the United Nations country team, through its long-term presence in the country, technical expertise and normative mandate, can play in supporting the government to follow up on recommendations of the Special Procedures mandate holders. As noted by the Independent Expert, “the United Nations country team is essential and may be the only possible mechanism for follow up, given the limited capacities of Special Procedures” Since the visit of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Viet Nam’s growing engagement with other human rights mechanisms is leading to greater international exposure on the issue of bilingual education. The country recently reported to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 2012)14 and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (June 2012).15 Both Committees, in their Concluding Observations to Viet Nam, urged the country to increase the provision of bilingual education programmes for ethnic minority children, further supporting and validating Viet Nam’s efforts in this area. Lessons Learned The Universal Periodic Review presents an opportunity for government to strengthen its engagement with all international human rights mechanisms and for the United Nations country team to support government capacity in engaging with these mechanisms. The United Nations country team can play an important role in maximizing the value and impact of the visits of Special Procedures mandate holders. Engaging with the United Nations country team during a country visit allows the Special Procedures to draw upon the expertise of development agencies to offer concrete and useful recommendations that can help the government move forward on human rights issues. Access to quality and appropriate education is a gateway to development and poverty reduction for minorities. The introduction of bilingual education for minority children can help these children to make better early progress and creates strong and culturallyappropriate foundations for their future schooling. The recommendations of international human rights mechanisms can provide valuable and authoritative inputs to integrate human rights into United Nations advocacy, policy and programming initiatives to further development outcomes. The visits of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council can ensure that government efforts to address human rights challenges and to mainstream human rights into development programmes benefit from internationally-recognized expertise. Endnotes UNICEF Action research brief UNICEF, Vietnam and the Millennium Development Goals United Nations in Viet Nam Website United Nations compilation report to the Universal Periodic Review, OHCHR, March 2009, A/HRC/WG.6/5/VNM/2. Viet Nam Millennium Development Goals National Report 2010, p. 114. Concluding Observations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam, June, 2012, CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4. Concerns over access to freedom of information, the independence of the media from the State, freedom of assembly, the ability of individuals, groups and civil society to express their opinions or dissent publicly were noted at the interactive dialogue of the Universal Periodic Review of Viet Nam by the Human Rights Council in May 2009: A/HRC/12/11. Report of the Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, January 2011, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2. Mission to Viet Nam (5-15 July 2010) UNICEF Annual Report 2010, p. 23. UNICEF Action research brief  Report of the United Nations Independent Expert on minority issues, Gay McDougall, 24 January 2011, A/HRC/16/45/Add.2 paras. 85, 87 and 89. Mission to Viet Nam (5-15 July 2010) UNESCO has been a key partner with UNICEF in advocating for and promoting multilingual education in Viet Nam. The 2011 “Management Document on Teaching Vietnamese to Ethnic Minority Students” of the Ministry of Education and Training, explicitly cites the Action Research on mother tongue-based bilingual education as one of the four solutions to improving education for children of ethnic minorities. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Viet Nam, March 2012: CERD/C/VNM/CO/10-14. Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Viet Nam, June 2012: CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4.