Make IPs voices heard everywhere

What is UPR?

The UPR (Universal Periodic Review) is a peer-review process before the UN Human Rights Council, where each UN Member State is examined every 4 to 5 years123. The review is based on three documents: a report by the State, a report by the UN, and a report by other stakeholders3. The State receives recommendations from other States and has to report on their implementation24. The UPR aims to improve the human rights situation in each country and foster cooperation45.

UPR Timeline((Universal Periodic Review | OHCHR))

Cambodia’s Indigenous Peoples Engagement with UPR

Indigenous communities and organizations in Cambodia, represented by the Cambodia Indigenous Association (CIYA)((Cambodia Indigenous Youth Assocation (ciyanet.org))) and the Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Alliance (CIPA), have submitted their recommendations alongside NGO partners, namely the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)((upr – Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (aippnet.org))), for the third cycle of the UPR during the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council in 2019.

UPR Review Process:

Land rights and justice, democracy, the rule of law, and indigenous human rights defenders, discrimination, poverty, and basic social services (rights to health, education and livelihood) are highlighted as key areas of focus in the review. These areas have each issued the following recommendations:

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Land Rights and Justice

  • RGC should respond to the joint communication of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia (OL KHM 6/2017) regarding the “current slow pace at which indigenous land titling is currently taking place.” Highlighting the recommendations in this joint communication,
  • RGC should simplify the collective land title application process, including by reducing procedural requirements such as preliminary mapping and the number of ministries involved.
  • RGC should revoke the limitation of indigenous peoples’ sacred forests and gravesites (seven hectares respectively) in their collective land title applications.
  • RGC should ensure that indigenous peoples have the necessary technical support, including for cadastral surveys of their community, recognition of their legal status and completion of the necessary procedures once they have submitted their applications.
  • RGC should work with indigenous peoples in sensitizing the ministries involved to indigenous rights and ensure a non-discriminatory treatment and service provided.
  • RGC should ensure that their Environment and Natural Resources Code of Cambodia and associated guidelines and Law on Agricultural Land that are being drafted, including its 2001 Land Law correspond to RGC’s international human rights obligations – in particular with regard to procedural safeguards including consultation and consent – and its recognition of indigenous peoples’ land rights.

Democracy, Rule of Law, and Indigenous Haman Rights Defenders

  • RGC should take further measures to proceed with its judicial reform, to address land issues and to combat corruption, as these are important for the promotion and protection of human rights as well as the consolidation of democracy.
  • RGC should ensure a clear-cut separation of power and the rule of law and follow through with the commitment toward the continuation of implementation of its reform program in all sectors in a more in-depth manner, particularly – individual rights, collective rights, and multi-party system and pluralism.
  • RGC should respect the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent as per UNDRIP, in particular regarding management of their LTR, including any development initiative that will impact their lives and overall wellbeing.
  • RGC should ensure that IPHRDs are not criminalized and ensure access to justice for all IPHRDs.

Discrimination, poverty, basic social services (right to health, education and livelihood)

  • RGC should legally recognize all indigenous peoples and work with indigenous organizations in other indigenous communities that are currently not in the Government’s list. It should uphold UNDRIP, including all the international human rights instruments it has ratified.
  • RGC should demonstrate its tolerance to diversity through declaration of the International Day of Indigenous Peoples commemorated every 9 August as national holiday.
  • RGC should implement their 2030 Agenda in cognizance of indigenous peoples situation and rights, including ensuring disaggregated data by ethnicity are put in place when monitoring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
  • RGC should consider reviewing the bilingual education programmes in consultation with indigenous peoples, and in line with CERD and UNESCO recommendation, to ensure a method that will improve the learning environment for indigenous peoples.
  • RGC should provide particular assistance to indigenous women and girls and ensure full support to achieve proper education until tertiary level.
  • RGC should ensure full and equal access to public health and education services for indigenous peoples through increasing the number of health care and education facilities that sensitive to indigenous peoples culture and rights.

Why is the UPR process important for Indigenous Peoples in Cambodia?

– The UPR process is a peer-review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council that examines the human rights situation of each UN member state every four to five years.
– Indigenous peoples in Cambodia utilize the UPR process to address their concerns regarding land rights, cultural identity, education, health, and participation.
– Engaging in the UPR process allows indigenous peoples to provide alternative information, advocate for specific recommendations, monitor the state’s progress, build alliances, and raise awareness of their issues.
– In previous UPR cycles, Cambodia accepted recommendations related to indigenous peoples’ rights, including land titling, free prior and informed consent, cultural diversity, and indigenous women and children’s protection.

Context

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, conducted by the UN Human Rights Council, serves as a crucial mechanism for assessing and addressing human rights issues in member states. In the context of Cambodia, previous UPR cycles have highlighted the importance of indigenous rights, land rights, cultural identity, education, health, and participation. Indigenous peoples are the original inhabitants of specific regions or territories with distinct cultural characteristics. The UPR recommendations accepted by Cambodia in previous cycles have focused on areas such as land titling to recognize and protect indigenous land ownership rights, free prior and informed consent to ensure their involvement in decision-making processes that affect their lands and resources, cultural diversity preservation to safeguard their unique identities within society, and protection measures for indigenous women and children.

Looking ahead, it will be crucial to monitor the implementation of these recommendations to assess progress made in areas such as land titling processes that secure indigenous land ownership rights. Additionally, evaluating whether free prior and informed consent is effectively integrated into decision-making processes will be essential for ensuring meaningful participation of indigenous peoples. Furthermore, attention should be given to preserving cultural diversity among indigenous communities while addressing challenges related to education and healthcare access.

Civil society organizations play a vital role in supporting indigenous peoples’ engagement with the UPR process. They work alongside grassroots groups advocating for social justice issues while promoting the interests and rights of individuals and communities. As Cambodia moves forward with its human rights commitments under the UPR framework regarding indigenous peoples’ concerns specifically related to land rights struggles or cultural identity preservation efforts will require continued attention from both national authorities as well as international stakeholders.

In conclusion,the UPR process provides an opportunity for member states like Cambodia to address human rights concerns through peer-review mechanisms. The focus on themes such as indigenous rights highlights important issues surrounding land ownership recognition,cultural preservation,and inclusive decision-making processes affecting these communities.The future outlook involves monitoring implementation efforts, paying attention towards civil society organizations’ roles, and assessing progress made towards protecting these vulnerable populations’ fundamental human rights((https://uprdoc.ohchr.org/uprweb/downloadfile.aspx?filename=6380&file=EnglishTranslation)).

Counterarguments

While the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process is intended to promote human rights, it has been criticized for its lack of enforcement mechanisms and reliance on voluntary participation. This raises questions about the effectiveness of the UPR process in addressing human rights concerns, particularly for marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples. Even if recommendations related to indigenous peoples’ rights are accepted by a state during a UPR cycle, there is no guarantee that they will be fully implemented or lead to significant improvements.

Furthermore, the UPR process may not adequately address the concerns of indigenous peoples, as it covers all human rights issues in a country and may not prioritize or fully consider the perspectives and experiences of marginalized groups. The process may also be biased towards states and lack inclusivity for remote or resource-limited communities. As such, alternative approaches should be considered alongside the UPR process to ensure that indigenous peoples’ voices are heard and their rights are protected.

In conclusion, while the UPR process can provide a platform for addressing human rights concerns at an international level, its limitations must be acknowledged. It is important to continue advocating for more effective mechanisms that prioritize marginalized communities such as indigenous peoples and ensure their full participation in decision-making processes related to their own lives and well-being.

Useful Links

UPR

  1. https://www.unicef.org/media/75361/file/Engagement-Toolkit-UPR.pdf []
  2. https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/issues_development-enjeux_developpement/human_rights-droits_homme/upr-epu/process-processus.aspx?lang=eng [] []
  3. https://www.state.gov/universal-periodic-review-process/ [] []
  4. https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/upr/basic-facts [] []
  5. https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/upr/upr-main []

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