Watching Iraq talk about Human Rights. Excursion to the 20th Universal Periodic Review in Geneva

I am preparing for a two-day excursion with my Master students to the 20th Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations. The event will take place in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. In advance, we had to register via email, and in order to be allowed to participate, we will need to collect our “badges” on Monday morning at the gate of the palace.

We will be witnessing the Review of Iraq on Monday and the Review of Slovenia on Tuesday. We will hopefully also arrange for a tour around the building — in which the former Völkerbund was housed — and I am personally interested in observing the Distribution of the report on Kazakhstan.

My students’ task is to learn participant observation in an International Organization. That is, to employ anthropological research methods originally designed in and for colonized societies, in a setting that is not only “Western”, but also transnational, bureaucratic, complex, and …. boring? Maybe not. We shall see …

In order to prepare, we have read a couple of anthropological texts, most importantly those by Jane Cowan and Julie Billaud, who carried out long-term field research in the UPR two years ago. But also documentation itself such as

the English version of the National Report on Iraq

the Compilation of UN Information on Iraq

a Summary of Stakeholders’ Information on Iraq

and several sheets of advanced questions prepared by various member states of the UN. The UK, for example, would like to know the following:

“The situation for ethnic and religious groups including Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and others remains deeply concerning. What is being done to protect vulnerable groups from continued attacks and persecution; and also to enable them to return to their homes in areas where they have been displaced – particularly where their neighbours have allegedly been complicit in the persecution?”

I am very much looking forward to hearing how “Iraq” is going to answer that one …