Talking points by Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia at the meeting on Universal Periodic Review.
Good afternoon and thank you for giving me the opportunity to showcase the work on UPR in Serbia. I will share 4 points on how we advance the Human rights agenda through the UPR framework, including regarding civic space, anti-discrimination, and disability rights.
1. I start with a brief overview of how the UPR is managed in Serbia: the country passed through 3 cycles since 2008 and will start the 4th in May 2023. In 2018 Serbia received 190 recommendations, of which 175 were accepted, corresponding roughly to 15/16 Thematics. The UN supported the establishment of the National Mechanism for Monitoring, Reporting and Follow-up (NMRF) which was recommended in previous UPR cycles. The mechanism is now recognized for its contribution to the promotion, monitoring and reporting of HR, and ultimately, for their protection. The recommendations from the 3rd cycle have been linked to the concluding observations of treaty bodies and the outcomes of other human rights mechanisms. I must say that we work hard to ensure coherence, consistency, and complementarity between the UPR and the other human rights mechanisms.
2. the UPR is an important mechanism to engage with multiple stakeholders in a very structured manner, including the State, civil society, independent institutions, academia, and the UN. The UN engagement has enabled a direct and expanded dialogue between the civil society and the Government for technical and substantive engagement on matters related to the broad HR agenda – through technical sessions of the NMRF with CS experts – particularly important on sensitive HR topics. The dialogs lead to substantive exchange and a better understanding of limitations and gaps, better options for efficient implementation. It has also contributed to strengthening evidence-based reporting by civil society and their submissions to Human Rights Mechanisms, including the UPR. These reports allow an assessment of the progress, identification of obstacles and opportunities; they foster accountability and coordination at the national level, and ultimately contribute to joint advocacy, outreach, and policy interventions, such as towards the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2021. Most recently the publication of the CS UPR report in dec 2022 brought once again everyone together under the co-leadership f Minister, CS, RC as UN rep.
3. The UPR is much more than a monitoring and planning tool – when used strategically, it enables us to accelerate progress on multiple areas of human development. Internally the UN team mainstreams the outcomes of the UPR review into the Cooperation framework with GovSerbia – We also develop tools that cross-reference UPR recommendations with other human rights mechanisms, EU accession chapters, and some the core principles of Agenda 2030. As an example, the country recently developed a Leave No One behind tool that will be mainstreamed in the legislative, which is based partly on UPR recommendations. As the RC - on behalf of the UNCT, I routinely use the UPR outcomes, in public outreach, advocacy and interaction with decision-makers and the international community.
4. A word on progress in key areas in the past couple of years; 2021 and 2022 have been packed with legislative changes and adjustments - For example amendments to the Anti-Discrimination Law, adoption of a new Gender Equality Law, the Disability Rights Strategy and Action Plan as well as Deinstitutionalization Strategy, Roma Strategy, Anti-Discrimination Strategy and Action plan. The draft Same-Sex Unions Law was developed in 2021 with active involvement of LGBTI organizations using UPR outcomes. All these law and policy amendments and adoptions were the results of a strong engagement, technical support, and advocacy of civil society, and included public hearings in several local self-governments with full inclusion of received inputs from all interested parties.
When it comes to disability rights, it is important to stress the interlinkages between the outcomes of the UPR and those of the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – which provide a solid platform for monitoring the rights of persons with disabilities by civil society. The processes related to CRPD are managed by an independent national mechanism assigned to the Ombudsman – who also has a mandate of the National mechanism for the prevention of torture. Further strengthening of this mechanism is foreseen for 2023.
Let me conclude by saying that in 2023 and 2024, I see 4 areas where we need to accelerate actions with our partners: i) implement the legislative framework so that there is a meaningful difference for people in their lives; ii) expand action on new Thematics such as environmental rights; iii) continuously to support platforms for promoting constructive dialog and iv) expand our advocacy towards the political and religious leaders and communicate about the HR agenda towards a wider audience.
This is our commitment to the Principe of LNOB of Agenda 2030, and the call to action on HR by the UN Secretary general.