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3. Opportunities for You to Engage

3.5 Engaging prior to the Treaty Body review

This and the next section provide information and tips on how you can input effectively into the review of your country.

It follows from the section on Periodic Reviews – Why are they useful?

There are several ways you can participate in the periodic review process – you can:

Section 3.5: Engage prior to the Treaty Body review

  • Engage in national consultations in the preparation of the State report
  • Submit written (and sometimes oral) information for the list of issues and questions (LOI), or in the case of the simplified reporting procedure, submit written (and sometimes oral) information for the list of issues prior to reporting (LOIPR)
  • Submit an alternative or shadow report to the Treaty Body

Section 3.6: Participate in the Treaty Body review and post review follow up

  • During the Treaty Body session, provide oral information and meet with Treaty Body members as part of the constructive (or interactive) dialogue
  • Follow up and monitor the implementation of the Treaty Bodies’ concluding observations and recommendations, including submitting written information to the follow up procedure of the Treaty Body

This section focuses on:

Engaging prior to the Treaty Body review

Reporting cycle with stakeholders

To view the Treaty Body Reporting Cycle with Stakeholders, click here

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Before the review (Steps 1, 2, and 3 above)

You can participate in the periodic review of your State by the Treaty Bodies by:

  1. Participating in national consultations preceding the drafting of the State report
  2. Submitting written information to assist the Treaty Body in drawing up the list of issues and question
  3. Submitting an NGO or alternative report of your own to the relevant Treaty Body

and:

  • Meeting and discussing issues with Treaty Body members (whether in Geneva or from home)
  • Organising a public screening of the review if you are not able to attend in person.

Before you begin…

Top Tips

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Periodic reviews – Find out the status of review of your country

To find out when your State is due to be reviewed by a Treaty Body, the history of State reports submitted, information received from NHRIs and civil society in previous reporting cycles, concluding observations, and follow up comments and reports:

  • Go to the individual Treaty Body webpage and click on ‘country specific information’. This box is on the top right-hand corner of the webpage for all Treaty Bodies, and shows information for each country.
Country_specific_information
  • Under the heading ‘Reporting status’ click on the Treaty that you are interested in.

  • You will find a drop down menu which lists the reporting cycles under that particular Treaty. Click on a reporting cycle, and you will find all relevant documents filed, and key dates, including due dates for outstanding documents.

  • For those Treaty Bodies that have adopted the simplified reporting procedure, you can also click on ‘Simplified reporting procedure’ under the heading ‘Reporting to the Committee‘ to get a list of countries and status of reporting.

  • Another way to find out when your country will be reviewed by a particular Treaty Body, is to contact the relevant INGO TB-Net member that works closely with that particular Treaty Body, or the relevant OHCHR Secretariat.

Remember! In practice, the Human Rights Committee is currently the only Treaty Body with a fixed and predictable review cycle, although it is expected that other Treaty Bodies will follow.

You can then participate in the periodic review of your State by the Treaty Bodies:

1. Participation in national consultations

You may be invited to participate in national consultations preceding the drafting of the State report, if the State chooses to organise them.

A number of States involve civil society (as well as National Human Rights Institutions, media, parliament, etc.) at the early stage of preparing their periodic reports to the Treaty Bodies which is a good practice to ensure the report is as comprehensive and inclusive as possible.

During the review, most Treaty Bodies will often ask the State whether their periodic report was the subject of a consultative process.

Unfortunately, not all States make the effort to include the participation of other stakeholders in national consultations, and NGO perspectives and information are often excluded from the State party report. If your State does not organise national consultations, or if you are unsure whether your views will be accurately reflected in the State compiled report, you may wish to submit an alternative or shadow report to the Treaty Body or participate in (and influence) the periodic review in other ways (see below).


Top Tips

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Periodic reviews - Engaging in national consultations in preparation of the State report

  • Engaging in national consultations can be an effective way to strengthen dialogue with national authorities. However, this is only feasible if there is limited or no risk of retaliation for NGOs to speak up with government interlocutors about human rights issues.

  • In many countries, National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-up (NMRFs) coordinate the process of preparing State reports to the Treaty Bodies, including organising consultations with civil society. In many countries, NMRFs benefit from UN support to prepare periodic reports to the Treaty Bodies.

  • The OHCHR provides support to States to uphold their reporting obligations to the Treaty Bodies. You are entitled to request to be involved in such activities as well, which can be requested through OHCHR or relevant contacts in your government.

  • When participating in national consultations, you may choose to disclose your intentions to submit an alternative or shadow report. This is all the more relevant where the information provided by the State in its report fails to address comprehensively the challenges in fully complying with treaty provisions.

Examples of NGO participation in national consultations


Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

South Africa – National consultations and submission of NGO shadow report to CESCR

In South Africa, NGOs participated in consultations for the State’s initial report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in 2017. The initial report of South Africa to the CESCR noted that extensive consultation with civil society had taken place and that comments by civil society organisations on the draft report had been incorporated in the final draft.

In 2018, when the initial State report was reviewed by the CESCR, a group of three NGOs submitted a joint report which focused primarily on the situation of human rights defenders of economic, social and cultural rights, including those in the mining sector. The text of this NGO report contributed to a dedicated paragraph in the CESCR’s concluding observations, including three focused recommendations on the situation of human rights defenders in South Africa.

2. Submission of information for the LOI / LOIPR

Prior to the formal review, all Treaty Bodies (except SPT) prepare a detailed list of issues and questions (LOI) for the State reviewed, for State response. You can submit written information to assist the Treaty Body in drawing up the list of issues for your country.

This process is similar for those Treaty Bodies who offer the simplified reporting procedure, in which case you can submit information to assist the Treaty Body to draft the list of issues prior to reporting (LOIPR).

Inputting into the LOI / LOIPR is a valuable opportunity for you to influence and highlight specific human rights issues in your country, as these lists have a direct influence on the content and focus of the country review. Your input also ensures that the Treaty Body will ask all the relevant questions ahead of the review, which may not be addressed in the State report (LOI), or in the absence of a State report entirely (LOIPR).


Top Tips

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Periodic reviews – Submitting information to the LOI / LOIPR

  • Your suggestions to the Treaty Body for the LOI/LOIPR should highlight questions that the Treaty Body should ask of the State party.
  • As the list of issues and questions primarily follows the structure of the relevant treaty, your submission should ideally (and helpfully for the Treaty Bodies) follow the same structure.
  • You can look at previous submissions to the LOI/LOIPR, submissions from partner NGOs and seek advice from international specialised NGOs for inspiration.
  • In developing your submission to the LOI, you can refer to the State report, or previous State reports, previous concluding observations and recommendations of the Treaty Body, and other UN and NGO reports.
  • You can use as a basis previous concluding observations adopted by the Treaty Body as well as other available information including UN and NGO reports.

Remember! Some Treaty Bodies won’t raise questions in the dialogue during the Treaty Body session that are not included on the LOI or LOIPR, and won’t issue recommendations on topics that were not raised during the dialogue. It is therefore crucial that NGOs submit information on topics they would like addressed in the Treaty Body recommendations at the LOI/LOIPR stage.

See also below the TOP TIPS under General Information for NGO Submissions to a Treaty Body for a periodic review

Example of NGO input to LOI / LOIPR


Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

China – Joint NGO submission to CERD on list of issues and questions (LOI)

During the review of China by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 2018, a group of NGOs including Chinese Human Rights Defenders, made a joint submission to the Committee for its consideration in preparing the list of issues and themes to be sent by the Treaty Body to China. The NGO submission included a range of suggested issues and questions relating to the situation of ethnic minorities in China, including Tibetan and Uighur minorities. These submissions were integrated in the list of issues which were adopted by CERD and presented to China.


Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Philippines – CEDAW Committee inquiry findings used in NGO input into list of issues (LOI)

The CEDAW Committee’s summary of inquiry findings (see Defender Story in ISHR Academy: Inquiries - Why are they useful?) was used as a basis for an NGO submission in the periodic review of the Philippines by the CEDAW Committee. The joint NGO submission Supplementary Information on the Philippines was considered by the Treaty Body in its drafting of the list of issues and questions for the Philippines during its Pre-Sessional Working Group.

3. Submission of NGO alternative or shadow report

Whether or not you are involved in the preparation of the State report, you can submit a report of your own to the Treaty Bodies, based on your findings and views on the national implementation of the relevant treaty. Such alternative or shadow reports from national NGOs are of particular value to the Treaty Bodies in examining State reports, as they provide an alternative source of information on the human rights situation in a particular country.

Information submitted by NGOs will be included in the relevant country file prepared by OHCHR for the Treaty Body members prior to the review of the concerned State.


Top Tips

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Periodic reviews – Submitting an alternative or shadow report

  • Your report can be:
    • long documents ‘shadowing’ the content of the State’s report
    • short comments addressing one right
    • simple letters expressing a point of view on certain issues
    • Your alternate (or shadow) report should focus on themes or issues that are relevant to the particular convention or treaty and ideally within your or your NGO’s area of specialisation.
    • The alternate report should ideally follow the format of the State report and, where possible, provide in-depth and comprehensive information on each article of the relevant treaty. This makes your report easy to follow and a useful tool for Treaty Body members, who can cross-check and compare information with that supplied by the State party.
    • Your report should include objective and evidence-based information on: the national context; implementation of the Committee’s previous recommendations; your main areas of concern; the State’s report (comments on information provided, gaps in the State report, etc.); national legislation, policies, programmes and other relevant actions (gaps and good practices). Disaggregated data, statistics and emblematic cases as relevant are useful.
    • You may refer to recommendations from other international or regional human rights mechanisms (e.g., the Universal Human Rights Index is a good resource)
    • If you do not have the time or resources to submit a comprehensive report before the relevant Treaty Body session, you can send a brief submission highlighting key issues that deserve the attention of the Committee.
    • Your report should contain suggested recommendations that the Treaty Bodies can use in their examination of the State report and to assist them in developing their own concluding observations and recommendations.
    • It is advisable to provide a quick snapshot of the main points given that Committee members may not have the time to read through lengthy reports.
    • For the CRC, children can also submit films, studies, photographs, drawings, or use any other means they feel appropriate to express their views.

Remember! You can reference general comments of the Treaty Bodies in your submission to support your legal arguments on how a Treaty should be implemented by your State. Relevant findings contained in a Treaty Body inquiry report can also be referenced.

Examples of NGO alternative or shadow reports

Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Australia – Joint NGO report on torture and ill treatment to CAT

During the fifth review of Australia by the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in 2014, a joint NGO report was prepared by the Human Rights Law Centre, informed by a coalition of NGOs from across Australia and endorsed by 77 NGOs. It addressed key issues related to Australia’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture, highlighted gaps, and identified significant areas in which the Australian government was failing to meet its obligations. Although the report is lengthy (115 pages) and detailed, it contains concise proposed recommendations to the Committee.


Defender Story

Illustration of a women speaking

Burundi – Joint NGO alternative report to CAT

In 2016, the Committee Against Torture (CAT) undertook a special review of Burundi based on widespread allegations of torture related to political unrest in the country. A coalition of national human rights defenders and international NGOs prepared a joint alternative report to CAT for consideration in its review of the State.

After the first day of the review, the government of Burundi stated that the NGO alternative report had not been made previously available and it therefore had insufficient time to review the allegations contained within it. The State made the unprecedented decision to not attend the rest of the review. In its response to the government of Burundi, the Treaty Body stated that it regretted Burundi’s decision to discontinue the dialogue and reminded the government that reviews are based both on the reports of State Parties and information received from civil society. The review was completed without the presence of the Burundi government delegation.

Burundi’s lack of cooperation with the CAT was subsequently noted by the UN Human Rights Council and mentioned as one of the factors evidencing a deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, which subsequently contributed to the establishment of a UN Commission of inquiry on Burundi. The UN Human Rights Council Resolution establishing the Commission of Inquiry condemned the “unprecedented non-cooperation of the Government of Burundi with the Committee against Torture during the review of the State on 29 July 2016, and the retaliatory threat to disbar Burundian lawyers participating in the review”.


General information on submitting information to a Treaty Body for a periodic review

This includes NGO input to the LOI / LOIPR and NGO alternative or shadow reports.

Who can submit information?

Anyone (individuals, NGOs, civil society organisations and NHRIs) can submit information to a Treaty Body in the context of a country review. NGOs do not require ECOSOC status to submit information.

Top Tips

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Submitting information to a Treaty Body for a periodic review

When preparing input to the LOI/LOIPR or drafting shadow or alternative reports, you should consider the following:

  • Include only verified information, that is information which can be easily verified through different sources and provide references to sources. Information that cannot be independently verified should not be provided to Treaty Bodies or specific language should be used to indicate that information is subject to verification or conditional.
  • References should be systematically cited and ideally through the provision of hyperlinks.
  • If your report is to be made public, make sure you receive consent from all individuals, including victims or witnesses, who could be threatened or harmed as a consequence of the publication of the report.
  • Your submission should clearly indicate your suggestions for the Treaty Body to consider (for example suggestions for the LOI/LOIPR, or suggestions for recommendations/concluding observations).
  • Avoid lengthy descriptions of very specific situations that are only distantly relevant to the core arguments in your submission.
  • Your submission can be short and concise, focusing on one issue that is within your area of knowledge or expertise, and directly relevant to the Treaty.
  • Use clear and concise language in your submission.
  • Avoid the use of jargon and acronyms.
  • If your submission is long (more than five pages), it is recommended to provide a table of contents and a short summary of the main suggestions or recommendations.
  • If your submission is in a language other than English, it is advisable to submit a summary (maximum two pages) in English which will facilitate reading of the documents by Treaty Body members.
  • Information submitted to the Treaty Bodies is generally considered public and made available on the OHCHR website. This may be useful as not only the Treaty Body, but also other interested parties may contact you.
  • If you are concerned about potential reprisals, you can also make a request to the OHCHR that your submission and/or your contact details be kept confidential.

Remember! You do not need to be a legal expert or lawyer to produce a submission or report to a Treaty Body.

How do you submit information for a periodic review?

All Treaty Bodies have their own deadlines for the submission of written information to the periodic review process. The deadlines differ depending on whether the information is in relation to the list of issues (LOI), or the list of issues prior to the review (LOIPR), or submission of an alternative or report for the country review.

Periodic Reviews Deadlines for Submitting Information

To view the table on the Treaty Body Periodic Reviews: Deadlines for Submitting Information, click here

Where should information be sent?

Submissions (inputs and reports) should be submitted electronically to the OHCHR Secretariat of the Treaty Body (a hard copy is no longer required).

Note that in the case of submissions to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the INGO Child Rights Connect facilitates NGO participation with the Treaty Body. Thus written inputs from NGOs must be submitted through the Child Rights Connect platform.


Go to the next section for tips on how you can participate in the Treaty Body review and post-review follow up.

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