IPPF in Geneva: Using the Universal Periodic Review to hold governments to account on their sexual and reproductive health and rights

IPPF staff at the inauguration of IPPF office in Geneva.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a UN mechanism that allows for the human rights of every country in the world to be reviewed.

It is unique in many ways. It is a process that is member state and peer led; this means that countries are reviewed and questioned by their fellow member states. There are also opportunities for civil society to participate; we have the opportunity to submit reports that document violations of human rights in our countries, undertake advocacy with member states so that they make the pertinent questions and recommendations in the reviews of our governments, and to make oral statements at the adoption phase of the UPR cycle.

IPPF works to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights are raised through the UPR cycle. We support our member associations in country to document where violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms occur, persistent cases of violence against women and impunity, gaps in provision of sexual and reproductive health lie, where sexual and reproductive rights are violated and where advances can be made by making specific and measurable recommendations for governments to undertake.

This week, IPPF supported four of our Member Associations from Ecuador, Morocco, the Philippines and Tunisia, to undertake advocacy with Missions in Geneva regarding the sexual and reproductive health and rights issues that they believe need to be tackled in their respective countries. We met many Mission staff and shared information on the state of sexual and reproductive health and rights in the aforementioned countries, with the ambition of advancing the agenda through suggesting specific recommendations for change, but also to advocate on IPPF’s key priorities.

What we can achieve through this advocacy, through engaging with the UPR, is real change and a tangible difference to the lives of millions of women and girls around the world.

When we are able to encourage governments to take action on issues such as the decriminalisation of abortion, access to sexual and reproductive health for the most marginalised women, freedom of expression and identity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning (LGBTIQQ) peoples, we can ensure the protection and fulfilment of people’s human rights across the world.

In the same week, we have also officially launched our IPPF Geneva Office. For a long time, IPPF has had a presence in Geneva, however, this new and permanent office signals a step change in IPPF’s work in Geneva. Through this new presence we hope to develop and nurture old and new long-lasting relationships with Missions, UN agencies and civil society organisations.

Looking ahead, we see a world of promise, through partnership building and coalition working, as well as advocacy and engagement with the UPR and UN treaty bodies, and through working at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Together, with governments, UN agencies and civil society organisations, we can progress and advance the agenda on ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, free from discrimination and stigma.

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