Since January 1, 1959, Cuba has been committed to ensuring its people enjoy as many rights as possible. Photo: Endrys Correa Vaillant
Cuba will be conducting its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights for the third time on May 16, when it will have the chance to show progress made in this field over the last five years.
Despite attempts to use the issue to attack governments that refuse to follow Washington’s dictates, the international community recognizes the Revolution’s historic efforts to defend the rights of the Cuban people ever since January 1, 1959.
Granma International provides readers with five basic questions to understand the importance of Cuba’s Universal Periodic Review.
1. WHAT IS THE UPR?
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is one the main mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council, responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.
The UPR, created in 2006, is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States.
Unlike other structures – particularly the former Commission on Human Rights, exploited by the U.S. and its allies to single-out certain countries – the UPR is a key instrument meant to ensure equal treatment for every country when their human rights situations are assessed.
2. HOW MANY REVIEWS HAS CUBA CONDCUTED?
The UPR must be conducted by all UN member-states every four and a half years. Cuba underwent this cycle in February 2009 and May 2013, and is set to present its report for a third time this May 16.
The first stage of the review lasts three and a half hours, during which the state under review is given 70 minutes to present its report, as well as answer questions made by other states and present concluding remarks. The remaining 140 minutes are allocated to states participating in the review to ask questions, make comments and recommendations to the state under review.
The second stage of the process will be take place during the Council’s 39th period of sessions in September 2018, at which time the final report will be presented.
3. HOW DID CUBA FAIR IN ITS 2013 REVIEW?
Cuba’s report is among those that arouse the most interest in the Human Rights Council, of which the island is a founding member.
Over 100 nations made statements supporting Cuba’s report.
Countries from across the world highlighted initiatives such as Operation Miracle which by that time had provided free eye surgery to over three million people in more than 30 nations; as well as the Yo, sí puedo (Yes, I can) Cuban-developed literacy method through which nine million individuals learned to read and write.
They also noted the tens of thousands of Cuban health collaborators offering services in various countries around the world.
The island also presented examples of participative and democratic process within the country, such as popular debates to discuss the Social and Economic Policy Guidelines of the Party and Revolution.
Modifications to Cuba’s Migration Law, progress toward achieving gender equality, prisoner reentry programs, and attention to the needs of disabled persons, were all highlighted during the review.
Meanwhile, countries reiterated the fact that the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed on the island by the United States, continues to be the main obstacle preventing the Cuban people from enjoying the full spectrum of their human rights.
The island received around 290 recommendations in its 2013 UPR, the majority of which were either acknowledged or accepted. Only 20 were rejected citing that they were of an interventionist nature, and at odds with the political and social order of the country.
Cuba’s successful UPR record is unequivocal proof of the government’s willingness to discuss any issue with all member-states, on the basis of mutual respect, sovereign equality, and the recognition of every state’s right to self-determination.
4. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FORMER HUMAN RIGTHS COMISSION AND THE CURRENT COUNCIL?
Founded in March 2006 by the United Nations, the new Human Rights Council faced the challenge of overcoming the selectivity and hypocrisy which characterized the former Human Rights Commission, used by the U.S. and its allies to attack other nations who failed to fall in line with the new world order established after the fall of the socialist camp in eastern Europe.
Despite pressure by Washington to exclude Cuba from the new body, the island was elected as a full, founding member of the Council in 2006. Cuba’s membership exposed many of the accusations made by the former commission to be false, and did away with the image of the island that enemies of the Revolution wanted to impose.
The country served two consecutive terms (the maximum permitted), and after a brief interlude, was reelected as a member for the 2014-2016 period during the 2013 plenary, and for a second time in October 2016, for the 2017-2019 cycle, thanks to the support of 160 countries in the United Nations General Assembly.
While some continue to maliciously single out Cuba on the issue of human rights, the majority of the international community recognizes the scope of the social transformations initiated in January of 1959, and Revolution’s solidarity efforts in various countries across the globe over the last half a century.
Although attempts to highjack the Human Rights Council and undermine its founding principles continue, the majority of members are committed to fully reflecting the diversity of political systems, cultures, and ethnicities that exist in the world, and putting an end to the mistakes of the past - such as stigmatizing or condemning countries which refuse to adopt the definition of democracy and human rights imposed by powerful nations.
5. WHAT DO HUMAN RIGHTS LOOK LIKE IN CUBA?
The triumph of the Revolution marked the beginning of a process of political, economic, and social transformation focused on ensuring the wellbeing of the population, and that they enjoyed as many rights as possible.
Since then, and despite continued pressure from abroad, Cuba’s results in the fields of education, access to healthcare, culture, and sports, are more akin to those of industrial countries.
Citizen security, respect for life and equality of opportunity for all – regardless of skin color, gender, or sexual orientation – are other mainstays of contemporary Cuban society.
Meanwhile, the island is currently in the process of updating its socio-political model characterized by high levels of citizen participation and effective and functioning democratic institutions, as seen in the results of the most recent general elections.
Cuba is one of the UN member states to have signed the most international human rights instruments, endorsing 44 of the 61 accords.
However, the United States, the self-proclaimed global defender of human rights with a history of pointing the finger at other countries, has only signed 18.
In its last UPR, in May 2015, Washington received harsh criticism for being the only state which has not yet ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and Rights of Persons with Disabilities.