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Human rights policy in Germany

The United Nations Human Rights Council regularly reviews the human rights situation in all UN member states. April 2013 will be the second time Germany has been the subject of this Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The German Government is producing a report to that end, which it has put up for discussion with non‑governmental organizations and members of the public as part of its preparations. The consultation took place on 5 December and was led by Markus Löning, the Government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy.

Background

Every four years or so, as part of the UN Human Rights Council UPR procedure, the human rights situation in every UN member state comes under scrutiny. Germany underwent the review for the first time in 2009, after it was instituted in 2007, and is due for renewed testing in April 2013.

The public consultation

Markus Löning (second from the left) with representatives of NGOs at the public consultation

Markus Löning (second from the left) with representatives of NGOs at the public consultation
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Markus Löning (second from the left) with representatives of NGOs at the public consultation

Markus Löning (second from the left) with representatives of NGOs at the public consultation

Markus Löning (second from the left) with representatives of NGOs at the public consultation

In preparation for the UPR, the German Government is producing a report outlining the developments of the past four years. A public consultation was planned as part of that process, to give NGOs and members of the public an opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions. This was a first for Germany, as Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning pointed out during the consultation at Berlin’s Humboldt‑Universität. “We felt it was important for the public to take part and be included,” he said.

Alongside various Government Ministries, several NGOs also sent representatives to take part, including Bread for the World, Forum Menschenrechte, Kindernothilfe and the asylum NGO Pro Asyl. One of the appeals emanating from that quarter was for the report’s sections on racism, poverty and human trafficking to be made more nuanced and detailed. Jochen Motte from Forum Menschenrechte and Beate Wagner from the United Nations Association of Germany criticized Germany for its failure to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They described the draft of the report as too vague in its explanation of the reasons for this and of what progress had been made towards possible ratification.

The same procedure for all states

The German Government has to submit its national report by 21 January 2013. Commissioner Löning said that the time between now and then would be used to assess the suggestions made by the NGOs. He also reiterated the fundamental importance of the UPR procedure and the work of the UN Human Rights Council, describing both as “of extraordinary significance” to civil society around the world. The key element of the UPR, he said, was that it treated all states as equals, reviewing big countries just the same as small ones and subjecting the states of Europe to exactly the same scrutiny as those in Africa or Latin America. That was what made it so important that Germany take the procedure seriously, he said, since “other countries are watching what is happening here”.

The next stages of the UPR procedure

After the Government has submitted its national report, which it must do by 21 January, Germany will be on the agenda for the 16th session of the UPR Working Group in April 2013. Germany will have the opportunity to respond to the Human Rights Council’s recommendations in or around September. Incorporating Germany’s response, the report will then be officially adopted at the 17th session of the Human Rights Council in October 2013.

The UPR procedure examines the human rights situation in the country in question with reference to the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the UN human rights agreements the country has ratified.


Last updated 05.12.2012

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