Enhancing the human rights treaty body system
Harmonized guidelines on reporting to the treaty bodies
Amongst the challenges facing the human rights treaty system are delays in submission and/or consideration of reports, non-reporting, and duplication of reporting requirements among treaty bodies. In his 2002 report, Strengthening the United Nations: an agenda for further change, the UN Secretary-General called on the human rights treaty bodies to standardize their varied reporting requirements. He also suggested that each State party be allowed to produce a single report summarizing its adherence to the full range of international human rights treaties to which it is a party.
The Secretary-General’s proposal for a single report ‘summarising’ a State’s implementation of the treaties was not supported at the Malbun meeting or the fifteenth meeting of chairpersons and second inter-committee meeting. Instead it was proposed to expand of the scope of the current core document (submitted to all treaty bodies containing background information) to include more general information including information relating to substantive treaty provisions congruent across all or several treaties. This core document, which would minimise repetition of information in States’ reports to the treaty bodies, would be updated regularly and submitted to each committee in tandem with targeted treaty-specific reports.
The Secretariat prepared draft harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties including guidelines on an expanded core document and treaty-specific targeted reports (HRI/MC/2004/3), as requested by the second inter-committee meeting, within a collaborative process involving the OHCHR and the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). Interested actors were kept informed as work progressed. The guidelines suggested a systematic approach to reporting focused on the national level. Reports would consist of two parts: a common core document to be submitted to all committees and containing information of relevance to all or several treaties, and a treaty-specific document for each separate treaty.
The guidelines were considered by the third inter-committee meeting and sixteenth meeting of chairpersons in June 2004 and broadly welcomed as a basis for further discussion. Bearing in mind the importance and complexity of the guidelines document, a mechanism for consultations among the committees on the guidelines and other matters relating to harmonization of the reporting guidelines of the treaty bodies during coming year was established, with the appointment of Mr. Kamel Filali, member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, to act as rapporteur on this matter. The Secretariat was requested to continue to work on the draft during the coming year incorporating the comments and suggestions arising during discussions in each of the treaty bodies, as well as those received from States parties, United Nations specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations, with a view to producing revised guidelines for consideration of the fourth ICM meeting to be convened in 2005. The meeting also recommended that any State party wishing to prepare reports using the draft guidelines should be entitled to do so, and encouraged them to seek technical assistance from OHCHR/DAW.
In December 2004, a Note verbale was circulated to States parties requesting their comments on the draft guidelines and asking them to provide additional information concerning the institutional arrangements in place at the national level to support treaty reporting.
In March 2005, in his report In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all (A/59/2005), the Secretary-General requested that "harmonized guidelines on reporting to all treaty bodies should be finalized and implemented so that these bodies can function as a unified system" (para. 147).