Smokes and mirrors at the United Nations’ universal periodic review process

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In 2006, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council was tasked to establish a new human rights monitoring mechanism: the Universal Periodic Review Process. The purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of discussions held in the process, over the two cycles of review in relation to women’s rights to access health care services.
Design and Methodology: This investigation is a documentary analysis of the reports of 193 United Nations’ state reports, over two cycles of review.
Findings: The primary findings of this investigation reveal that despite an apparent consensus on the issue, a deeper analysis of the discussions suggest the dialogue between states is superficial in nature, with limited commitments made by states under review in furthering the protection of women’s right to access health care services in the domestic context.
Practical Implications: Considering the optimism surrounding the UPR process, the findings reveal that the nature of discussions held on women’s rights to health care services is at best a missed opportunity to make a significant impact to initiate, and inform, changes to practices on the issue in the domestic context; and at worst, raises doubts as to whether the core aim of the process, to improve the protection and promotion of all human rights on the ground, is being fulfilled.
Originality/Value: Deviating from the solely technocratic analysis of the review process in the existing literature, this investigation has considered the UPR process as a phenomenon of exploration in itself, and will provide a unique insight as to how this innovative monitoring mechanism operates in practice, with a particular focus on women’s right to access health care services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-322
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

© Emerald Publishing Limited, 2017.


  • Access to health care service
  • Human rights dialogue
  • Universal periodic review
  • Women’s rights


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