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Universal Periodic Review: A Window into Human Rights Implementation

5 November 2012

The last two weeks have been all about the Universal Periodic Review, held here in Geneva.

For this session, WILPF monitored the reviews of those States in which we have sections. We also hosted a side-event in response to the Pakistani review, for which we wrote a separate blog.


The Argentinian review focused on a few major issues. These included:

  • The conditions of prisons, including accusations of torture
  • Maternal mortality rates
  • Discrimination against indigenous communities
  • And especially Human Trafficking.

Argentina is a major source, transit and destination location for Human Trafficking.

The UPR brought attention to the recent Argentinian study that observed that forms of trafficking for sexual exploitation are mutating, so as to avoid prosecution. They urged Argentina’s government to react accordingly in its legislature, law enforcement and judiciary.

They further pushed for better protection and care for victims of trafficking. While they acknowledged that Argentina has recently introduced a centre for victims of trafficking and this is a step in the right direction, these centres need to be made more widely available to every victim of trafficking, including those of labour exploitation.

The final report of the UPR including all recommendations made to Argentina can be found here.


The review of Switzerland was very different in tone to that of Argentina, as many States recognised the exemplary manner in which Switzerland protects and promotes human rights in general.

Besides the issue of xenophobia, racism and Islamophobia brought up by several Muslim States, equal pay for women and men, the rights of migrants and domestic violence were major issues.

While it was discouraging to see the increased militarisation in Switzerland not being linked at all with the increase of domestic violence, women’s migrant rights were put together with domestic violence. In particular, the difficulties faced by migrant women who are victims of domestic violence were discussed. As these women often do not report the abuse due to fear of deportation and are equally unable to file for divorce without being deported, the UPR rightly put pressure on the Swiss government to address their appalling situation.

The final report of the UPR including all recommendations made to Switzerland can be found here.


At the start of this UPR, WILPF issued a statement on the use of comfort women by Japan during the Second World War. It advocated for Japan to take responsibility and for a victim-lead recognition and reparations.

Both the Dutch and South Korean delegates made very strong statements and recommendations on the issue. They called for comfort women to be reintroduced to Japanese history books, provide redress to all victims, and recognise their legal responsibility towards these victims.

The final report of the UPR including all recommendations made to Japan can be found here.


Finally, the UPR session of Peru exposed a wide range of issues Peru was called on to deal with.

These issues included prison conditions for women, sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and children, the special vulnerabilities of indigenous and rural women, female representation at all levels of government, the high number of cases of rape, spousal physical and mental abuse, and gender based violence in general.

Most of these issues were found to be closely linked to poverty, highlighting the long road Peru still has in front of it in truly fulfilling human rights.

The final report of the UPR including all recommendations made to Peru can be found here.

UPR: Real Effects?

It is too early to say whether the relatively new UPR process is a successful one. What we can say is that from the over 22,000 recommendations made so far in the entire process, 73% have been accepted by the State under review, according to UPR Info.

This signifies that the State under review agrees to undertake measures to implement certain recommendations made. It is up to civil society to make sure these promises are actually kept, monitored and pushed for during the four years a State has in between reviews.

WILPF therefore, has in the past, and will continue to in the future, hold States accountable for their human rights records.

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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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