In a bid to improve the protection of human rights across the world, once every four years the UN Human Rights Council holds a public review of each of the 193 member states of the UN to examine where they are doing well and where they can improve. This is the second such review for the UAE since the process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was instituted in 2006.
The UAE government accepted thirty six recommendations stemming from its 2008 review, including measures aimed at reinforcing protection of the rights of children, women and workers. In addition, the UAE made nine voluntary pledges of its own.
In a formal presentation about the UAE’s progress in implementing the recommendations from the first review, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, informed the Human Rights Council about the steps the UAE government has taken to further enhance the protection of human rights.
“While we recognize that the UAE will continually need to review and enhance its efforts to protect human rights, the level of protection of human rights already achieved represents a significant success”, said Dr Gargash in his statement.
Referring to the UPR process, he said: “The dialogue we are having with the international community in Geneva today represents an unparalleled opportunity for our nation to bolster efforts to promote transparency and inclusion in our approach to promoting human rights. It is an opportunity we fully embrace and value.” Outlining the work that has been done in various areas, Dr Gargash pointed to a number of key laws the UAE has adopted in recent years to safeguard the rights of women, children, contract workers and people with disabilities, noting that additional and significant legislative changes are currently being prepared.
During the interactive session, ninety UN member nations welcomed the positive progress that has been made and asked questions regarding the protection of human rights in the UAE. They also made a series of recommendations on possible further action to enhance human rights protection.
Among the most prominent issues raised in questions to the UAE delegation was that of labour and the expansion of rights for the UAE’s large community of contract workers.
The UAE delegation reaffirmed its commitment to uphold the rights of workers and noted numerous steps taken by the government in this respect, from overhauling health care to enacting legislation guaranteeing the protection of domestic workers against mistreatment or abuse.
In his statement, Dr Gargash also dedicated significant time to human trafficking, noting the government’s pledge to strive vigorously to build the capacity of law-enforcement workers to tackle this crime.
Dr Gargash commented that: “While there is still much more to do, the UAE possesses one of the strongest human rights records in the region. We intend to build on it and use the UPR process to set milestones and a roadmap for us to achieve an ever higher standard.” Following the review the Human Rights Council will present the UAE with a formal set of recommendations on how to further promote human rights. The UAE will then study these recommendations and in due course outline which of the recommendations it has chosen to accept and how it intends to implement them.