In Highlight: UPR Info Database

14 March 2024

Stakeholders at both national and international levels have introduced a growing number of digital human rights tracking tools and databases (DHRTTDs) designed to facilitate a more holistic approach to human rights monitoring and implementation.

Via its DHRTTDs Directory, the Geneva Human Rights Platform (GHRP) provides a comprehensive list and description of such key tools and databases. But how to navigate them? Which tool should be used for what, and by whom?

In this interview, Martina Caslini, Intern at the Geneva Human Rights Platform and Claudia C. Caicedo, Senior Programme Manager of the Digital Innovation and Knowledge Management Programme of UPR Info help us better understand the specificities of the new highlight of the directory: UPR Info’s Database.

What is special about this tool? What differentiates UPR Info’s Database from other tracking tools and databases?

Since its inception, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has played a positive role in advancing human rights protection and promotion, from generating international pressure around an issue to creating opportunities that local activists can leverage. Recently this United Nations (UN) mechanism has contributed to important human rights developments at the national level, such as the bill granting marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples in Greece, the national housing strategy focused on vulnerable groups in Canada, and the law recognizing the rights of indigenous people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is therefore crucial that information concerning UPR recommendations is easily accessible. To that end, UPR Info created this database to ensure that various stakeholders, such as governments, diplomats or civil society actors can find the relevant information stemming from this mechanism. It uses advanced algorithmic methods to ensure efficient and accurate access.

Developed in collaboration with HURIDOCS, the database leverages advanced technology to streamline a vast data collection of over 100,000 recommendations, and it further categorises and disseminates them. It is built on Uwazi, an online tool for creating collections of human rights information. The database relies on swift data-processing, a user-friendly interface and multilingual accessibility. It contains features that allow human rights activists to search for previous recommendations, allowing the content to be filtered, for instance, by UPR cycle, session, issue, action category, state under review, recommending state, as well as response.

Moreover, it encompasses a tool developed by Professor Edward R. McMahon of the University of Vermont (United States) together with UPR Info, which introduces an innovative approach to assessing the level of action required by specific recommendations, ranking it on a scale from 1 (minimal action) to 5 (specific action).

The database is currently available in English and French, with a Spanish version in development.

Are there other tools relying on UPR Info?

UPR Info's Database has probably inspired the development of more theme-specific human rights databases that monitor or follow up UPR recommendations.

Additionally, Professor McMahon’s analysis showed that almost half of the publications and reports citing UPR Info refer to its database of recommendations.

Can you give a concrete example of how it can be used to monitor the national implementation of international human rights obligations?

Consider an NGO dedicated to improving access to education for children living in vulnerable situations in Switzerland, Peru, or Tuvalu. By using UPR Info’s Database, it is possible to swiftly access human rights recommendations, monitor their implementation effectively and, for instance, advocate for additional measures. By monitoring and reporting international human rights commitments, UPR Info’s Database can help various stakeholders, as well as drive tangible progress and change to improve the overall human rights situation within a country.

Who are its main users?

UPR Info’s Database caters to a diverse array of stakeholders who are deeply engaged in human rights advocacy. Civil society organizations, national human rights institutions, media outlets, UN agencies, and researchers constitute its primary user base. Additionally, states themselves remain major users of the database.

Are there any upcoming developments related to UPR Info’s Database that you would like to share?

For the next four years, in UPR Info’s digital tools, we are aiming to:

  • Consolidate its components
  • Enhance them
  • Ensure continuity in the digital shift to promote sustainable and meaningful engagement of stakeholders with the UN mechanism.

In the case of our database, let's take a look at how we want to achieve these goals.

On consolidation, UPR Info will implement tools to monitor user behaviour in order to better classify information and present it in a user-oriented manner in the new version of the database (the first version was created in 2008). It is important to clarify that when we talk about user behaviour, we are talking about general usage statistics, not individual user data, via data provided by Google Analytics as a starting point and reference.

Additionally, we aim to develop a clear roadmap for this process and produce trimestral reports to track data usage. Building partnerships and integrating other human rights specialized networks could also enhance the visibility and utility of the UPR Info Database, among other databases focusing on human rights mechanisms, particularly the UPR.

On enhancement, we aim to further expand the database's reach by exploring experiences in monitoring the implementation of recommendations and integrating them into the database as additional tools, or developing dedicated sections for monitoring and/or showcasing good practices.

On sustainability, UPR Info is committed to maintaining a user-friendly experience by continuously updating and developing tools that facilitate learning and research, for example, by creating sections where visitors can learn more about timely issues related to human rights. To achieve this, we will establish a long-term roadmap to better serve UPR Info’s diverse audiences.

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