by Marcial Boo
Published: 28 Nov 2022
UK human rights record: under the spotlight in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
On Thursday 10 November, I spent the day at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the UK was examined as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The UPR is a process where UN countries review each other’s progress on putting human rights into practice (known as a ‘peer review’) and make recommendations for future improvement.
The last review of this kind for the UK took place in 2017.
The Commission’s UPR report
Our UPR report, which we submitted to the UN and published earlier this year, looked at how human rights are upheld in Britain. Our report made 29 recommendations to the UK and Welsh governments to improve human rights.
Our priorities included that:
any reform of the Human Rights Act does not weaken protections for people
social care policy, including any reforms, enhance the rights of people with care needs
action is taken to close gaps in educational attainment across protected characteristic groups.
A key aim of our report was to help other countries in making their own recommendations to the UK. It was therefore particularly positive to hear the representatives of countries around the world echo many of the issues we included in our report. They acknowledged the challenges faced in the UK during the pandemic. And they urged our governments to continue taking action to build a fairer society.
Many countries pointed out how out of step we are internationally because the age of criminal responsibility in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is just 10 years old. In Scotland, it is 12 years old. They recommended, as we have, raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14, in line with international standards.
There were also recommendations from many countries that the UK Government ensure that any legislative changes to our human rights framework do not lead to a reduction in protections.
Other countries also highlighted the need for the UK to continue to tackle discrimination against protected characteristic groups and ensure the equal enjoyment of human rights in areas such as healthcare, employment and criminal justice, which we also discussed in our report.
Rising to the challenge and making positive change
The UN has now published a draft report that consolidates the more than 300 recommendations made to the UK during that session. They cover almost all the topics in our UPR report.
We will encourage the UK and Welsh governments to consider all these recommendations and to accept as many as possible, and to implement them in a coordinated manner across the UK and Welsh governments and their various departments and public bodies.
As one of the UK’s three national human rights institutions, the Equality and Human Rights Commission will continue to support and challenge the government and other organisations, as appropriate, to act on the recommendations so we can keep working towards a fairer society across Britain that respects the human rights of everyone.
Find out more
Read our UPR report which informed the UN’s examination of the UK as part of the UPR process.
We commissioned Birmingham City University’s Centre for Human Rights to help civil society to hold the UK and Welsh governments to account for human rights through the Universal Periodic Review process. They will hold events on the UPR over the coming months and share useful resources. For more information, view BCU’s website.