Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
Established by the General Assembly in 2006, the Universal Periodic Review is a review by the Working Group of the Human Rights Council of states' overall human rights records. Over a four/five year cycle, every UN member state is reviewed and receives recommendations from other states to which it must respond and on which it must report progress.
From the beginning of the UPR process, prohibition of corporal punishment has featured prominently, confirming its centrality to states' obligations under international human rights law. The Global Initiative submits briefings for the UPR of every state which has not yet prohibited all corporal punishment of children, monitors coverage of the issue during the reviews and conducts a follow up programme.
Recommendations on corporal punishment
In the first cycle of the UPR (12 sessions between 2008 and 2011) the human rights records of 194 states were reviewed. The obligation to prohibit corporal punishment was raised as an issue in relation to 95 states, at least 47 of which accepted recommendations to prohibit it. In the second cycle (14 sessions between 2012 and 2016), prohibition of corporal punishment was recommended to 112 states, accepted by 52 states. In the third cycle (nine sessions so far), prohibition of corporal punishment has been recommended to 76 states, accepted by 43. Overall, as at April 2020, of the states which have not yet prohibited all corporal punishment, 131 have received recommendations to do so during their UPR(s), and 73 have accepted these recommendations. These positive responses provide opportunities for NGOs, human rights institutions, UN agencies and others to advocate for law reform to prohibit all corporal punishment.
Opportunities for advocacy
A minority of states are outspoken in their defence of corporal punishment of children and reject recommendations concerning prohibition. Others provide information on prohibition which is disputed by the Global Initiative, for example claiming that existing law adequately protects children from corporal punishment and further reform is unnecessary. In these states, where governments misinterpret legislation or actively oppose law reform, human rights institutions, NGOs and other child rights advocates may need to consider the use of legal action and international and regional human rights complaint/communication mechanisms in pursuing law reform. The Global Initiative is always pleased to give advice and technical assistance: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is very welcome that the UPR is paying serious attention to this issue; that there have been many recommendations to hold states to account for their very obvious human rights obligation to prohibit all violent punishment of children. It is even more welcome that many states have accepted recommendations to prohibit. We must hope for systematic follow-up in successive cycles of the Review."
(Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Independent Expert appointed by the UN Secretary General to lead the UN Study on Violence Against Children, speaking at a penal discussion during the 15th session of the UPR, 2013)