ERI Puts the Hard Questions to Australia

The day following Australia Day (Jan 26th), Australia faced the Human Rights Council in Geneva on its record on human rights, as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This was a historic occasion, the first time Australia had entered into dialogue with its peers in the United Nations on its overall respect for human rights. Over 54 nations joined in the 3-hour discussion, each limited to two minutes; the Australian delegation had four opportunities to respond and comment.

ERI, together with Franciscans International and Marist Brothers International (FMSI), had made a submission to the Review, and lobbied specific countries on these issues, that came from our grassroots ERN workers. We were delighted to hear recommendations that echoed our concerns being put to Australia by various countries. The rights of Indigenous Australians and those seeking refugee status or asylum in Australia (the first and last peoples) were frequently promoted, in fact by nearly all the countries that spoke.

Australia will announce a decision about which of the one hundred and forty five recommendations it will accept in June, but it has already promised to set up an online database of the recommendations, and has said it will use them in forming its Human Rights Action Plan. Over the next four years, ERI will monitor how grassroots situations improve for those whose rights we are defending.

A full set of the documentation for the UPR of each country (ncluding ERI’s submission), together with a full webcast of the proceedings can be accessed through the UNHCHR website.

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