During 2022 we worked to bring the voices and experiences of people experiencing violations of their economic, social and cultural rights in the UK to the Human Rights Council at the United Nations through a mechanism known as the ‘Universal Periodic Review’ (UPR).
Below is a summary of the different steps involved in this process and what we’ll be doing next.
Step 1: We bring together evidence and submit a report to the UN
At the beginning of 2022 we worked with Project 17 to develop a report to send to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) as part of the UPR of the UK. This partnership was incredibly important. Project 17 works directly with those experiencing violations of their economic, social and cultural rights through being subject to the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition. This meant that when writing the section of the report on NRPF we could include evidence that was drawn directly from the experiences of people who were experiencing the condition, as well as including supporting statistics and evidence. NRPF was once of five sections in the report. We also discussed Brexit, the Human Rights Act, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis.
Step 2: The UN picks up our messages in its own report
In early autumn 2022 we learned that the UNHRC had picked up 5 of our key messages (including on the impact of NRPF) and included these in a short report on the UK that was then sent to all member and observer states in the United Nations (read more in this blog). This meant that evidence including people’s experiences of rights violations was read about and discussed by countries across the world.
Step 3: We brief members of the UNHRC
Because 6 months had passed since we submitted our initial report to the UNHRC, we put together 5 discrete briefings on issues we covered in the report (including one on the impact of NRPF) , with updated information and sent these directly to several countries to reinforce the messages the UNHRC has sent round in their short report.
Step 4: We share the work
Then in October, during London Challenge Poverty Week 2022 we presented to the London Child Poverty Summit about NRPF as a violation of human rights. We were able to talk directly to the 200 attendees, including those with direct experience of NRPF, about the ways we believed the condition represented a violation of rights. It was important for us to be at this event and feed back to people with experience of the condition what we were doing with the information they had trusted us with (read more about this event in this blog).
Recognising that many groups and individuals found the UPR process complicated and opaque (which it is!), we ran a free online training in early November where we took participants through the process, gave practical examples and worked with them to integrate recommendations into their own campaigning and advocacy.
Step 5: The review
The actual review of the UK by the UNHRC took place on 10 November, and many of the issues we highlighted were raised. You can read a summary here including on:
• The impact of excluding people from accessing public funds.
• Bringing our rights, particularly those in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) into domestic legislation and ensuring individuals can directly communicate with the Committee that oversees this treaty.
• The impact of the current cost-of-living crisis and poverty on people’s economic, social and cultural rights.
• The need to ensure that nothing is done to undermine our Human Rights Act or the ways in which it protects people in the UK.
Step 6: Shining a light on the review
Immediately after the review we wrote a joint statement, highlighting the main issues that were raised during the UPR – the statement was signed by 82 organisations across every nation and jurisdiction in the UK (read more in this blog). The statement also received coverage in the Guardian – meaning that even more people across the UK were made aware of the UPR and the outcomes.
Step 7: Next steps
We have now written to the ministers responsible for the UPR at the UK Ministry of Justice and included the joint statement in this communication. In the coming months we will be working to encourage and challenge them to act on the recommendations made during the review to better realise the economic, social and cultural rights of people across the UK. We have already sent this response to a request for some of our initial thoughts on the draft recommendations.
We’ll also be mainstreaming these recommendations into our own work through our submissions and policy documents and encouraging others to do the same.
Finally, we’re also preparing a report for another UN human rights review body – the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). For more information on this work and to get involved, see here. This report will once again work to bring rights violations experienced by people across the UK to the attention of the UN.
Read our previous blogs on the UPR: