Reporting and Monitoring Mechanisms
last updated 28 May 2013
Human rights monitoring and reporting is necessary for the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide. There are two primary types of monitoring bodies in the UN system: charter-based bodies, including the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures, and treaty-based bodies, established to monitor State compliance with treaty obligations. Both rely on stakeholders, including government actors and civil society, to monitor and report on State compliance with international human rights law, including obligations under human rights treaties to which the State is a party. When UN bodies undertake monitoring, they create a report on state non-compliance which includes specific authoritative, but non-binding, recommendations. While it is the State’s responsibility to enforce international human rights law, the monitoring and reporting process can be a very powerful tool in promoting and protecting human rights. 
There are two ways that the reporting and monitoring procedure can be initiated:
1. Required state reporting. The Human Rights Council and committees of each of the core human rights treaty instruments (including those covered in this section: the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Committee on Migrant Workers, and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) monitor State party implementation of and compliance with international human rights law. Once a national government has ratified a treaty, it is required to report on a regular basis to the treaty-monitoring body. Because the committees have no power to enforce this requirement, it is not unusual for national governments to miss reporting deadlines or to fail to submit a report at all. In effort to streamline the process and improve reporting compliance, harmonized guidelines for the preparation of a common core document, applicable to all human rights treaties, were developed in 2004. Additionally, some treaty bodies will consider State party compliance in the absence of a State party report. As of 2006, all UN Member States are required to undergo a universal periodic review (UPR) conducted by the Human Rights Council. The UPR involves a review of each State’s human rights record as well as obligations under and compliance with all human rights treaties to which it is a party.
NGOs are encouraged to participate in the monitoring and reporting process and have successfully used the state reporting period as a tool for advocacy. Most commonly, NGOs  submit alternative or "shadow" reports, which offer an alternate view of state compliance with international human rights law and treaty obligations. While NGOs may elaborate on information contained in State party reports, they play an essential role in providing both reliable and independent information on issues, such as violence against women, which is often overlooked in government reports. 
In addition to submitting shadow reports, NGOs are often provided an opportunity to orally brief the Council, Committee, or working group of the Committee during various stages of the review process. NGOs may also participate in many of the formal proceedings as observers. It is generally not necessary for an NGO to have ECOSOC consultative status to participate in the proceedings, but all individuals and organizations wishing to participate should contact the appropriate committee secretariat for the necessary credentials.
At the conclusion of the reporting session, the Council or Committee adopts its concluding observations and recommendations for action the State party should undertake to comply with its obligations under international law. The work of an advocate does not end at this point. NGOs are encouraged to disseminate concluding observations and recommendations at national and local levels, monitor and document State implementation, and report back to the Council or Committee to inform the State’s next review.
More information on both the process of writing shadow reports, as well as strategies to effectively use this mechanism can be found in the Human Rights Investigation and Documentation and the Major UN Enforcement Bodies sections of this website.
2. Committee or NGO-initiated reporting. Some UN monitoring bodies initiate reports on government action outside of the reporting schedule required by a treaty. Both the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Commission on the Status of Women conduct fact-finding studies and issue reports and recommendations independent of the treaty bodies. Both seek and rely on information from NGOs to identify specific instances of and trends in abuse of women’s human rights.