To Pressure National Governments to Implement Human Rights Protections
The primary object of creating a human rights report is to exert pressure on the local government to improve its response to human rights abuses. Sometimes government structures can be influenced directly when evidence of systemic human rights problems are brought to their attention. As is more often the case, government change requires pressure from both advocates, intergovernmental organizations, such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe, other States and citizens. Human rights reports are therefore a tool to educate these groups about the existence of specific human rights violations and possible ways to improve the situation.
To Report on (Non)Compliance with International Law
States are obligated to report on their compliance with the treaties they have ratified (i.e. the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination). U.N. treaty-monitoring bodies (committees) review and discuss these reports and then issue their own comments. NGOs can submit alternative or "shadow" reports to these committees, which include information that the government has overlooked or ignored. As a means of exerting pressure on the State, as discussed above, NGOs can use human rights reports as the basis for shadow reports and to demonstrate where the government is not in compliance with its obligations.
NGOs can also provide information from the reports to regional human rights organizations, such as the Council of Europe, on non-compliance with specific regional treaties.
Shadow reports are discussed in more detail in A Note About Shadow Reports.
To Lobby for Legislative and Policy Change
Human rights reports uncover barriers or breakdowns in the overall criminal justice system (for example, in cases of domestic violence, the victim must pay for a forensic examination, or the police delay sending files to the prosecutor).
In many countries the problem is not in the law itself, but in the implementation of the law, meaning that existing procedures and regulations create obstacles to women who try to access the system. Human rights reports can be used as guides to identify exactly which sections of the system need to be improved or corrected.
NGOs can use the information in human rights reports to support arguments for specific changes to the system, both at the policy level and, if necessary, changes to the laws themselves.
More information about developing lobbying strategies can be found in the section on Lobbying and Legal Reform.
A Tool to Raise Public Awareness About the Issues
An important step in addressing violence against women is to raise public consciousness about the existence and the dynamics of the problem.
NGOs can work with local media by providing them with information from human rights reports. Some of the information from the reports (particularly the interviews) can be used as case studies for the media. Of course, issues of confidentiality should be considered before giving the media access to evidence gathered from the research that was not included in the report.
NGOs themselves can publish short excerpts from the reports or base future articles or research on specific parts of the reports.
The findings from human rights reports can be shared with colleagues from other countries. This is a tactic that can also be used to bring international pressure to bear on the government, as mentioned above.
More information about developing public education campaigns can be found in the section on Community Education.
As the Basis for Trainings
The findings in human rights reports can be used to understand which specific members of the criminal justice system would benefit from training and what kind of information the NGO would like them to learn. For example, a report on domestic violence may reveal that (1) health care providers do not recognize signs of abuse and when they do see them, they do not know who to contact or (2) the police are frustrated because they frequently see the same women coming to the police station, but they have never been told that victims typically attempt to seek help many times before they are ultimately ready to leave their abusers.
The stories of victims contained in human rights reports can be adapted as case studies or role-play activities and used in trainings. Of course, issues of confidentiality should be considered before publicizing evidence gathered from the research that was not included in the report.
Facilitators, especially if they have been brought in from outside of the country, can also benefit from reading human rights reports in preparation for the training. Understanding the information presented in a human rights report shows the participants that the NGO/facilitator has become familiar with the limitations of the system. For example, the police in many parts of the world are under-funded, under-resourced and underpaid, so a police training that suggests officers learn to use a sophisticated computer programs to track perpetrators will not be effective. Likewise, if the facilitator does not understand the limits of what can be introduced as evidence in court, it will be useless to instruct police offices, police investigators or prosecutors on how to gather and preserve evidence, interview witnesses etc.
As a Benchmark to Measure Success/ Failures of the Government
NGOs can use human rights reports as a method of comparison. NGOs can conduct follow-on research using the same or similar methodology to show any improvements in the system response.
This is a long-term goal, but even incremental changes can be noted by NGOs and publicized in editorials, television interviews, short reports etc.
Tools for Grant Writing/ Fundraising
Human reports are evidence of problems in the criminal justice system that lead to violations of women's human rights. The reports can thus be used to demonstrate a concrete need to funding organizations/donor organizations. The reports can also function as a needs-assessment with supplementary information provided by local NGOS.
As part of a request for funding, the NGO can show not just a need but also a concrete solution that the NGO will plan and implement, based on information and recommendations from human rights reports.