Written submission by NGOs
- develop list of issues in the pre-sessional meeting
- put searching questions to the government delegation (during the public dialogue) and
- devise recommendations which are useful and relevant.
Step 1: Find out when your government will present a report
Before preparing a written submission to a treaty body, NGOs should check if a report by the state party is scheduled for consideration by a treaty body.
Information about country status of submission of reports and schedule is available in the OHCHR country pages.
It is important to contact the secretariat of the treaty body concerned to confirm when the pre-sessional meeting and the actual consideration of a state report will take place – and when the deadline for submission of NGO material will be.
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the treaty
First and most importantly, NGOs should familiarize themselves with the contents of the treaty and ensure that the NGOs’ concerns relate to the treaty. Note also if the state party has entered any reservations at the time of ratification which might limit the scope of application of the treaty provisions (although this does not prevent the treaty body from asking questions about why the state party has entered a limiting reservation).
Step 3: Review the state party report
The state party report is usually available at least six weeks ahead of the treaty body meeting or the pre-session. It is posted in the relevant treaty body session webpage. If it is not available contact the treaty body secretariat; it should also be able to provide a copy on request.
Step 4: Obtain previous recommendations and other relevant documentation
It is useful to see what recommendations the treaty bodies have made to the government in previous considerations of their reports. In addition, it can sometimes be relevant to look at the conclusions reached by the independent UN thematic and country mechanisms which report to the Human Rights Council. By performing a simple search on the OHCHR country pages, NGOs can access a range of information from UN human rights experts, together with their recommendations. It is worth checking recommendations from all treaty bodies, as there are many areas of overlap between them.
The country concerned might also be a member of a regional intergovernmental organization and therefore have been under the scrutiny of regional human rights mechanisms. These might include bodies established within regional inter-governmental organizations such as the African Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States. The treaty bodies may refer to recommendations from these bodies.
Step 5: Deciding on content and format
The treaty bodies have established general and treaty specific guidelines for states reports to assist states in preparing their reports, available in each relevant treaty body’s webpage. These guidelines can be useful in demonstrating the type of information the treaty bodies are looking for and how articles might be clustered together for consideration by the treaty body.
Note that NGOs need not provide implementation on the implementation of every article in the treaty. But it is highly advisable that they link the concerns to the relevant articles of the treaty.
NGOs should keep the submission short. Treaty body members may be overwhelmed by a lot of information. If possible, provide an executive summary at the start, and conclude with a list of issues/recommendations addressed to the government.
Ensure that the arguments are substantiated, including by attaching relevant copies of documentation (such as newspaper articles, medical reports, and so on). If you are referring to the contents of the state party report, or any other UN document, make sure to give paragraph references.
Step 6: Submitting information
If this is the first time that your organization is providing information to the treaty body, it is advisable to provide a cover letter explaining what your NGO does and when it was created, in order to establish your credibility.
Note that treaty bodies work in at least three languages (English, French and Spanish) but some members may only speak one of these languages. There are no translation facilities available for NGO reports. It is therefore advisable to consider translating your submission and/or relevant documentation if your organization has capacity to do so.
The treaty body secretariats usually ask for NGO reports to be sent in multiple copies. Check with the secretariat concerned how many copies they require.
Step 7: Publicizing your information
Consider publicizing your report nationally to draw maximum attention both to your concerns and to the fact that the government’s human rights record is about to come under scrutiny from an international body of independent experts.
Consider sending the government a copy of your report in advance of the treaty body meeting. Please note that some treaty bodies send copies of all reports they received from NGOs to the governments concerned. Also some treaty bodies are now posting NGO submissions together with other relevant material and official documents from the session on their websites. If you have information that you would like to keep confidential, please discuss with the relevant secretariat.