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Australia UPR: Unfulfilled Human Rights Promises?

17 December 2015

 Last month, the UN Member States scrutinised the human rights record of Australia under the Universal Periodic Review process. Although Australia had accepted to implement a rather large number of recommendations during the first cycle of the UPR, it appears that it only actually implemented about 10% of these recommendations. 

Asylum seekers, the central concern

About half of the recommendations made by States to Australia dealt with its treatment of asylum seekers. Several States urged Australia to find alternatives to detention in particular for vulnerable groups such as families, children and disabled asylum seekers. Australia was also recommended to close its offshore processing centres of asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG. States also called on Australia to ensure the respect and strict application of the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee law. Finally, Bangladesh stated that Australia has set “a poor benchmark” in terms of asylum policy on the international scene.

Linked to the issue of detention centers, many States urged Australia to ratify the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which would enable independent international oversight of places of detention of asylum seekers.

Indigenous peoples’ rights

Serious concerns were raised by many delegations regarding indigenous peoples’ rights notably regarding violence against indigenous women, the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, including minors, in the criminal justice system. Many recommendations were made in order to enhance indigenous peoples’ access to health, employment and education services.

Women’s rights

Australia was urged by several States to ensure sustained funding and effective implementation of its national action plan on violence against women, especially taking into account the specific vulnerabilities of indigenous women and women with disabilities. Recommending States also invited Australia to take measures to ensure further representation of women in public life, to close the gender pay gap and also to lift its reservations to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Business and Human Rights

A few States called on the Australian Government to adopt a national action plan on business and human rights and to strengthen its legal framework for the protection of human rights in the context of violations committed by Australian enterprises in their territories and in third States.

This is indeed an important issue to tackle for the Australian government in view of serious human rights violations committed by major Australian companies notably in the mining industry.

What now?

Australia has until March 2016 to decide which recommendations to accept or reject. It is up to the international community and civil society to maintain pressure on the Australian government to ensure that recommendations are accepted and duly implemented.

WILPF Australia had advocated for these and many other issues as part of a coordinated report from Australian civil society. They will continue to monitor and demand the implementation of the UPR report.

You may watch the entire UPR review of Australia on the following link:


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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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