Berliner Seminar Recht im Kontext
Mon 21 May 2012 | 19:00–21:00

Human Rights Monitoring as Public Audit Ritual: Examining the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) within the UN Human Rights Council

Julie Billaud (Rechtskulturen Fellow) / Jane Cowan (Brighton/Geneva)

Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Villa Jaffé, Wallotstr. 10, 14193 Berlin

Prompted by the Human Rights Commission’s alleged “politicization”, the UN human rights system underwent a major institutional reform and was replaced by the new Human Rights Council in 2006. The new system includes an innovative new mechanism, launched in 2008: the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a state-led peer scrutiny of the “human rights performance” of each of the United Nation’s 192 member states. UPR is envisaged as a “cooperative process” where each state is reviewed in "an objective, transparent, non-selective, constructive, non-confrontational and non-politicised manner" that guarantees "universal coverage and equal treatment of all states".  This presentation draws on recently completed research which ethnographically explores UPR as a public audit ritual, constituted through specific encounters, institutional codes, norms and knowledge practices, and documentary processes. Specifically, the focus will be upon the terms through which the UPR describes itself (i.e., the terms used by the architects of UPR and agreed by state parties) and which are being actively promulgated as new norms of international practice. The purpose will be to explore the multifarious effects of these new norms upon the practices surrounding UPR as multiple actors bring their diverse, and often antithetical, goals and projects to this UN process, attempting variously to make it work and to limit or subvert it. In this way, we shall begin to unpack its complex politics, etiquette, civilities, affects and ethics.

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