The role of civil society

Civil society, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), parliamentarians and national human rights institutions, have an important role to play in the treaty monitoring process. This section focuses on the role of NGOs in connection with the consideration of state reports.

For information on other aspects of NGOs contribution, see: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights's Handbook on Working with NGOs.

The reporting cycle under the core human rights treaties

The reports that states parties are obliged to submit periodically every 2, 4 or 5 years provide information about legislative and practical measures taken to implement the treaty.

As a first step in the review of the state report all treaty bodies, with the exception of CERD, hold pre-sessional meetings, during which they adopt a so-called "list of issues". Such meetings are usually held in private.

The list of issues, which are usually requests for further information or clarification on some areas of implementation of the relevant treaty, are sent to the government concerned in advance of the public dialogue. The list of issues together with any additional written information provided by the government in response will inform the actual consideration of the state report.

The consideration takes place through a public dialogue between representatives of the government concerned and members of the treaty body.

The treaty body then formulates its concluding observations to the government as a collective assessment of the report, listing positive aspects as well as factors and difficulties impeding the application of the treaty, principal subjects of concern and recommendations.

States parties are obliged to implement these recommendations and to report on measures they have taken in this respect - either in the course of a follow up procedure, which some treaty bodies have put in place, or in their next periodic report.

Role of NGOs in the consideration of state reports

When a treaty body is preparing to consider the report of states parties, the experts depend on alternative information that NGOs provide in the form of written and oral briefings. National and international NGOs are often a main source of alternative information to a state party's report.
As the treaty bodies' consideration of state reports culminates in the adoption of recommendations which the state party is obliged to implement, it is important that the treaty bodies are in possession of a range of information which accurately reflects the situation in a country.

NGOs can assist in achieving this aim by:
Preparing a written submission to the treaty body members
Attending the session to brief the members
Following up on the governments' implementation of treaty body recommendations.

How you can help