Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A modest proposal for state reports & lists of issues

The UN human rights treaty bodies receive and review about 150 reports per year from governments, on their human rights compliance.  There are a few new items that could be added to those reports that would greatly aid in evaluating the system. I would encourage each treaty body to add
these items in their reporting guidelines and/or in each list of issues submitted to the state party whose report is to be reviewed:

1. An index or table of the prior recommendations

The state report or associated materials should contain a table or index showing where each of the Committee's prior recommendations has been answered.  This will assist in evaluating the state party's level of implementation of its human rights obligations.

2. Government website link

As part of its dissemination of information to its stakeholders, each state party should be asked to create and maintain a government-sponsored website where information about that state's treaty body obligations are described. The website address should be included in the report or in the response to the list of issues. I've written on this topic before. Here is my suggestion for the minimum content of such a website: 

    the human rights treaties to which the state is a party
    a link to each of the UN treaty body websites for which it is a party
    the latest reports submitted to each treaty body
    the latest common core report submitted to the treaty body system
    the latest concluding observations of each treaty body
    the schedule of next appearances before each treaty body
    upcoming deadlines for submitting next reports or follow up information
    progress toward implementation and consultation opportunities for civil society
    information about the live and archived treaty body webcasts of appearances of the government
    the site should also be disability accessible in its design
    the content of the site should be regularly updated; the site should indicate when the content was last revised and the government's policy on how frequently it intends to update the site in order to keep the information current 

Once a state party creates such a website, the link should be added to the treaty body pages that describe that state's human rights activities.


3. Compliance with word limits

Each report should indicate in its introductory remarks the number of words contained in the report, to indicate whether the suggested word limits have been complied with.

4. National implementation mechanism

Each report or response to list of issues should indicate whether the state has established a national mechanism for treaty body reporting and follow up, as recommended in the High Commissioner for Human Rights' recent practical guide on this subject.  

If no such unit has yet been established, the state should be asked to indicate whether there are any future plans to do so and the anticipated timeline for creation of such a unit. 

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