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Canada, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and universal periodic review

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  • Introduction: In 2006, a new United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council came into existence, replacing the former UN Commission on Human Rights with a restructured body for the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms. Heralded as a turning point for human rights within the UN system, the new forty-seven-member Council is intended to operate with a renewed emphasis on fairness, objectivity, and transparency. To help achieve these goals, the Council has developed a new mechanism for monitoring the human rights performance of all states, which it has labeled Universal Periodic Review or simply UPR. In essence, UPR is a form of performance review for states, conducted by other states, using an agreed set of standards to be universally applied with equal force. Under UPR, the human rights record of all 192 states in the world will be reviewed and assessed every four years through a process of written reports and interstate dialogue that examines a state’s domestic human rights law and policies, including its constitutional protections. Canada underwent its first UPR review in February 2009, while serving as a member of the Council from 2006-09. The aim of this article is to provide an assessment of the UPR mechanism through an examination of Canada’s recent experience. An overview of the Council’s creation in 2006 will also be provided, as well as the details of the Council’s mandate and functions, including the rules governing the UPR process.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 2009 Constitutional Forum. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Harrington, J. (2009). Canada, the United Nations Human Rights Council, and universal periodic review. Constitutional Forum, 18(2), 79-93.