Thank you Madam Vice-President,
Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, I am pleased to present the formal response of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the 302 recommendations the UK Government received from 115 States during its Fourth Universal Periodic Review, which took place on 10 November last year.
Let me begin by reiterating the UK’s strong commitment to the UPR process. Then let me move on to explain in more detail how we have responded to the recommendations that we have received.
The United Kingdom is committed to the promotion and the protection of human rights, of democracy and of the rule of law, and to acting as a force for good in the world. We believe that these principles are the indispensable foundations on which open, stable and prosperous societies thrive and are essential to the functioning of our democracies and to upholding and enforcing the rights of our citizens.
Furthermore, the UK Government remains fully committed to upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights treaties. We have ratified seven of the nine core UN human rights treaties and have put in place a combination of policies and legislation to give effect to the rights contained within them.
Moreover, we are, of course, honoured to serve once again as an elected member of the Human Rights Council for the 2021-2023 period. We remain a strong supporter of the Council, and the mechanisms at its disposal to strengthen human rights protections globally.
And indeed, the UPR is one of these mechanisms. It is a constructive process through which States can learn from and help each other in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is as important to clearly acknowledge where progress has been made, as it is to highlight areas that can be improved upon. It is important therefore, that these recommendations are made in good faith, with a genuine view to improving human rights standards globally.
And that is how we approach the Review meetings of other States, and I note that the UK has received positive feedback in previous UPR cycles for our leadership on specific topics – including our commitment to making recommendations on tackling Modern Slavery during the Third Cycle of the UPR – and on our commitment to the UPR more broadly, and we urge all states to remain fully committed to the process.
The UPR is indeed a unique and crucial mechanism for sharing best practice and promoting continual improvement of human rights on the ground, and it is only through the cooperation of like-minded states that this can indeed be realised.
The UK therefore remains fully committed to the UPR mechanism, to the UN treaty monitoring system, and to the Human Rights Council itself, as well as to the promotion and realisation of the full enjoyment of all human rights by all people around the world.
Madam Vice-President, following this introduction, I would like to explain in more detail the way in which the UK has approached its own review.
So, during our 4th Cycle Review meeting on 10 November last year, you will recall that our delegation to the Universal Periodic Review was led by the UK’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Justice, Minister Mike Freer MP, who made every effort to respond both to the questions submitted in advance, and to the recommendations and comments made by delegations, here in this room, on the day.
Other members of our delegation included representatives from the UK’s devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, as well as representatives of the UK’s Northern Ireland Office, in addition to myself, our Global Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, and other UK Government officials. We found the session to be extremely engaging and we listened with interest to the views expressed by other Member States during the session.
After the Review meeting, the UK Government reserved its position on the 302 recommendations we received in order to ensure we could give each and every one of them the full and proper consideration they deserve. As part of that consideration, we carried out substantial consultation with the Scottish and Welsh Governments. Unfortunately, due to the current lack of an Executive in Northern Ireland, it was not possible to engage with, and therefore provide as comprehensive a response for, Northern Ireland as for other parts of the United Kingdom.
We also ensured National Human Rights Institutions and civil society organisations had the opportunity to provide their thoughts to the UK Government as part of this process.
This engagement led to the UK’s responses to the 302 recommendations received. Our response is comprised of two documents. The first is the standard addendum to the Report of the Working Group, which refers to the recommendations by number only, and outlines the UK’s position on each of those recommendations. You will note that we have provided a rationale for those the UK has chosen to support ‘in part’.
The second document is also a longer ‘Annex’ to the Working Group Report, which provides further explanation on the UK’s response to some of the recommendations that we received.
In total, of the 302 recommendations we received, the UK has “supported” 135 recommendations, and “noted” 112. We have also indicated our “partial support” for the remaining 55 recommendations. In these cases, the UK may be supportive of one or more of the actions being recommended, but cannot fully support the entire recommendation because either:
1. It does not agree with part of the recommendation, or
2. It does not agree with the specific wording or intention used by the State which made the recommendation, or
3. Legal or constitutional obstacles prevent the UK Government fully implementing (or committing to fully implement) the recommendation, for example when the issue in question relates to a reserved competency of one or more of the UK’s Devolved Administrations, British Overseas Territories, or Crown Dependencies.
The rationale for our position on each of these 55 recommendations can be found in both the Addendum and Annex, which the Secretariat have published on the UK’s UPR webpage. However, Mr President, we of course recognise that, as we have been advised by the Secretariat, you will be obliged to record these 55 recommendations as ‘noted’ in the final Report of the Working Group.
The UK is clear that the UPR is an ongoing process with which Member States should engage throughout the entire five-year cycle. In 2017 the UK Government made a voluntary commitment to providing the Working Group with a Mid-Term Report, so as to update them on our position with respect to all the 227 recommendations received during our third Review meeting. We submitted this Report in 2020. For this cycle, we once again commit to submitting a Mid Term Report in 2025, to follow up on our response to all the 302 recommendations received in this fourth Review meeting.
We welcome this opportunity to speak to our continued commitment to the UN, to the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, to our position in relation to the 302 recommendations received in November, and to our plans for future reporting.
And, as ever, we look forward to hearing the views of fellow Member States, civil society organisations and National Human Rights Institutions during this adoption meeting.
Let me conclude my opening remarks at this point.
Thank you, Madam Vice-President.