The Temporal Ontology of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review


This article explores the relationship between the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council and temporality. In contrast to dominant understandings that view time as an external constraint or pressure acting on the system—the UPR existing in time—I argue that internal temporal logics underpin the UPR in important and constitutive ways. In other words, time is an ontological feature of the UPR. This internal temporal ontology is multiple, complex and often paradoxical. It includes cyclicality, linearity, discontinuity and duration. Rather than threatening to undermine the UPR process, I argue that the tensions and paradoxes of these coexisting temporalities actually work to maintain its operation. This way of apprehending time and the UPR facilitates fresh insights for scholars and practitioners who wish to understand this monitoring mechanism more deeply as a phenomenon. It offers a new lens through which to read the UPR’s identity and operation.