A celebration to mark the successful conclusion of the first cycle of a universal review of the human rights records of all 193 members of the United Nations was held at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva (October 13) organized by the Geneva-based NGO, UPR Info,

The celebration marked the conclusion of the last country (Haiti) to undergo review of its human rights record by its peers under the mechanism known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).  The review, based on the obligations expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is to be conducted every four years on all UN member countries.

At its inception in 2006, UPR was heralded as the most innovative mechanism of the newly created Human Rights Council, a mechanism, it was hoped, would ultimately distance the Council from the bad reputation of the UN Human Rights Commission it replaced.

The Council chamber at the Palais des Nations was well attended by delegates from around the world below the dramatic domed ceiling painted by Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo. They listened in rapt attention as speaker after speaker lauded what they unanimously agreed was the single, biggest success of  a Council that has been much criticized for having human rights violators such as Cuba and Libya (now suspended) as members.

Council President Laura Dupuy Lasserre called UPR “the jewel of the HRC" since it gave room for open and frank dialogue among states. Others noted that there was 100% participation by UN members, 98% of which voluntarily submitted written reports.

Morrocan Ambassador Omar Hilale, one of the sponsors of the event, did not hesitate to link the Arab Spring with the UPR. “Because of UPR, several countries have adopted more democratic procedures…It has had tremendous impact in the Arab world and on the Arab uprising.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, issued a statement saying, “The first cycle has undoubtedly gone very well but the real test is still to come.” The second UPR cycle begins in May 2012 and will not only be an assessment of what human rights recommendations each country has accepted but there will also be an on-the-ground follow-up.

“The true measure of the effectiveness of the UPR will be in the amount of positive change that it generates on the ground,” said Pillay, “how it improves laws, policies and practices and the enjoyment of human rights by the people.”