by Francisca Ankrah
Programs Manager,
ALEF act for human rights

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has often been criticized by governments and NGOs alike as inefficient, which is certainly the case when states treat it exclusively as an elaborate reporting exercise that repeats itself every five years. The UPR’s purpose lies in its process more than in the review, as it seeks to help states achieve progress in human rights, and not to publish reports and recommendations as an end in itself. This process in fact requires the most effort from NGOs to present objective evidence of human rights performance, and from state authorities to follow- up on UPR recommendations towards their implementation.

One of the most complex challenges that Lebanon faces in improving its human rights record is the protection of migrant domestic workers (MDWs.) The issue falls at the intersection between labour rights, migration, racism, and economic growth. The plight of MDWs is further exacerbated by widespread human rights violations and poor protection caused by immigration and labour policies that link legal residency status with employment by a particular “sponsor”.

Born out of the need to objectively measure progress on the situation of MDWs and victims of trafficking (VoT), and to generate tangible evidence around Lebanon’s progress in achieving its UPR commitments, ALEF created tools to help understand the precise challenges which hamper progress, and the steps that need to be taken to fully realize these commitments. This was achieved with the support of the Regional Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa Region and with the financial support of the European Union.

In designing these tools, ALEF had to strike the right balance between using qualitative measurements not to obscure the subjective nature of human rights, and the need to shift from what is typically normative to more empirical evidence in reporting on these rights. The resulting products were therefore based on a number of indicators derived from key attributes of rights of MDWs per the relevant UPR recommendations.

From these indicators, and following an extensive research process, ALEF produced a monitoring report which establishes a clear and defined understanding of where the country stands in terms of achievement of UPR recommendations on migrant workers and the prohibition of slavery and trafficking, in order to ensure that they are being fulfilled, and that other stakeholders understand the reasons behind its shortcomings. The monitoring report is also essential in defining the strategic areas of intervention which need to be focused on in the upcoming years.  

The report was then simplified into more targeted policy papers on MDW, and the prohibition of slavery and trafficking which both rate key duty bearers on their progress between 2015 and 2018 in achieving recommendations from Lebanon’s 2015 UPR to improve the legal situation of migrant workers and Identify, protect and support victims of trafficking and forced labour, as well as to pursue and enhance efforts to combat trafficking .

In order to systematize this monitoring exercise, a guidebook was developed to support a systematic and comprehensive translation of universal human rights standards on the rights of MDWs and the prohibition of trafficking into indicators that are contextually relevant to Lebanon. This approach favours using objective information for monitoring the national implementation of human rights. CSOs, duty- bearers, advocates, and international partners can use this guidebook’s methodology to organize their own research and advocacy, track progress, or to delve into particular rights areas in depth. The guidebook can also be adopted by National Human Rights Institutions and National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow- up responsible for reporting on the implementation of human rights treaty obligations.

By clearly attributing responsibility for certain rights to specific duty bearers, identifying gaps, and suggesting practical measures to address shortfalls, these tools ultimately help NGOs and state agencies focus in on the real problems. They act as means to carry the conversation on human rights forward. What remains is to effectuate the follow- up process so that human rights issues remain on duty bearers’ agendas and become an integral part of their work, outside of formal reporting frameworks.

The views and opinions reflected in this post reflect solely those of its author and do not necessary represents the views of ALEF act for human rights.