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Dear Gerard, Yves and all,
Your contributions and questions regarding the collection and verification of data is of tremendous importance to the dialogue. This issue is critical for building credability.
The data that has been collected provides the foundation of a shadow report. If data is found to be unreliable, the credibility of the entire report and the recommendations being advocated may not only be called into question along with the credibility of those involved in the report, and far worse, the credibility of those who risked telling of their experiences of abuse.
When Gerard stated,
My background is as a lawyer,
and my training has taught me that such serious allegations [regarding the ill treatment, abuse and torture of children] must be
supported by the evidence - you can't just make these allegations
without reasonable proof.
Based on the above, we drafted the reports on the basis that every
serious allegation had to be supported by a number of sworn affidavits.
Further, each allegation was also referenced to other reports prepared
by Israeli, Palestinian and International NGOs supporting the
NGOs can fall into the trap of wanting to show how dire a situation is and think that the larger the numbers the better.
Gerard, your point regarding the need to support such allegations with resonable proof is critical. It would be very helpful to get your thoughts - and those of others - regarding Yves question about the dilemma posed by areas [such as the DRC, as one example] where collecting data may be very difficult for both the victims as well as the NGOs.
I know of a form of "data collection" - it was a kind of documented incidence of rape based on women's group story telling that was used in order to determine the prevalence of rape that had occured in Liberia. However, the purpoase was not for developing a "shadow report". The process was used in order to develop health and psychosocial programs to foster health care and healing in communities. This "data" did not need to come under that kind of scrutiny required by a UN Committee because the PURPOSE was to provide care to women in need.
Gerard and others, would you recommend submitting ONLY those cases that can be substantiated by reasonable proof? Do you know of or use other alternative forms of data collection besides "sworn affidavits" that still
provide the level of reasonable proof to ensure credibility of the data you are presenting in your shadow reports, particularly when making allegations of particular abuses?
Thank you all so much for sharing such helpful and insightful comments and experiences.
Nancy Pearson, New Tactics in Human Rights Program Manager
Gerard Horton, of the Defence for Children International - Palestine Section
Dear Yves, Nancy and All,
I shall try to respond to the issues you raise as best I can. Please let me know if I miss something.
I should preface what I am saying with the caveat that there is no one way to prepare a shadow report. How we present our reports will depend on our resources, objectives, and above all perhaps, the circumstances on the ground, which will vary from place to place.
Ultimately the report must be credible. Sworn affidavits are at or near the top of the evidentiary tree. However, if you can't obtain affidavits for whatever reason, you should:
It may be that the best you can do is to say something like - "We have received xx number of reports of xx. We have been unable to verify these claims because xxx.' It is then up to the relevant committee to decide what weight can be given to these claims.
The more professional your report is, the more likely it is that your recommendations will be included in the Concluding Observations, which is one of the primary objectives of the process.
I hope that answers your questions - if anything is not clear, or you have further questions, please let me know.
Elma Tershana, program director "Children Today Center", local Albanian NGOs.
Dear member of this network,
I would like to share with you my experience in preparing the up-coming alternative report for Albania about the "Convention on the Right of the Child". Albania is in process of preparing its second report, since the convention was signed by Albanian State. I have read the first shadow report prepared by Albanian Civil Society, and now I was part of this second Alternative report. (p.s.: Referring to previous explanation of this discussion, I'm referring to Alternative and Shadow report, frame use).
This second report, took for us around 8 months, and was made by organizing a national network of NGOs working on the ground, by using international NGOs (operating in the country), alliances and individuals interested.
The methodology that we use was:
Based on all this data, a layer and statistical data company took the initiative to prepare the draft and last version of the report.
For making this report visible, transparent and representative for the main civil society of the country, we have organized information- awareness round tables in the main cities of the country (when the questioners were distributed also), and we have organized two conferences in Tirana (Albanian Capital).
For me this was the second time being part of Alternative report, but it was the first time that we have organized it in such professional and intensive way. Now, on November this year, a group of Albanian civil society (rep. people being part of this report), will present the report in Brussels.
Hope that this experience could be useful to any one interested for realizing a report based not only on papers and government decision, but also on filed, - how much the strategies and policy taken over by the State are in use/ in proper way established on the field and targeting individuals are profiting from them?!
Thanking "New Tactics" for organizing such intensive, global and professional debate, best and nice week work,
Jovana Vukovic of the Regional Centre for Minorities, Serbia
Many thanks for sharing your experience. You have mentioned that you organized awareness raising round tables which contributed that the process was more transparent and representatives. Can you tell us more about it?
I have already posted my concerns that sometimes due to lack of resources we end up with the process being not open and inclusive enough. For whom this round tables were intended -- those that will submit their shadow reports to coordinate their activities or to encourage organizations who didn't pariticipate previously? Did you organize some trainings too?
Goodmorning Jovana and all other on-line collegues,
Thank you for your interest in the Albanian experience for preparing shadow report. In fact in my first message, I wanted just to present my experience without to much details.
Regarding to your questions about:
1. Information and awareness event organized on the process of preparing shadow report, we organized: - one national conference before we start the process, in which were present all active NGOs (in national or located in Tirana) and international NGOs community (operating in Albania);
- After that, we organized one informative and disscussion round table in each city that we were going to distribute questionary for children. In these meetings/ RT were present teachers, rep. from local municipality (from social department), rep. of school pupils (from pupils School governant), parents, rep. from local education directory and media.
- When the report was in process of drafting, there are organized two other meetings/ RT with all actors (metion in the conference), for making present what the report was about (in draft version) and what could be other contribution in this process. just to make it clear, we made some limitation regarding to contribution, for example, if one NGO had a fact/ statistic (regarding any children issue), it has to be within these 4 years and being published/ or made public as research.
- By the end of report preparing, once the last draft were prepared it was send by e-mail to most active actors/ NGOs of this process for havin any last comments.
Now the report is in process of translation from Albania into English one and is around 100 pages.
2. Regarding trainings we did not organize them, but all these meetings/ RT that we made were consider also as information and capacity buidling event too.
In case taht you may have much more interes on the process or the report, please let me know.
best to all from Tirana,
Thank you so much for outlining these points regarding data collection and creating a credilble shadow report so clearly.
I was particularly struck by these two comments you made:
"Ultimately, one of our key objectives at DCI is accountability. One
day we may litigate and so we need good affidavits. The shadow
reporting process is a good training exercise for us, it shows us our
strengths and weaknesses.
Another advantage of aiming to obtain
affidavits is that whether or not you ever litigate, you can have
greater confidence that what you are saying is true and can be
supported. This will enhance your reputation and credibility. With a
reputation for accuracy, you will gain greater access to the media and
other outlets to spread your message."
The long-term goal of possible litigation and the additional benefits (training ground for the litigation process, building reputation and crediblity with the public and media) highlight that it is well worth taking the time and attention to collect credible data.
Your comment reminded me of an example I would like to share from DC CAM (Documentation Centre of Cambodia) that began collecting data many years ago. The incredible data they have collected has served many purposes: helped to reunite families, allowed families to grieve with the knowledge of what happened to their loved ones, and currently is providing foundational information for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal currently taking place in the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia. The accuracy and reliability of their data have indeed provided for a number of the other benefits you have outlined - confidence in their data, both public and media credibility and providing the data that has helped to moved forward the long-awaited (30 years) litigation process.
Thank you for reminding us that there can be many uses for credible data and reports - even when the shadow report process may be slow and arduous.
You clearly higlight some of the benefits of collecting high quality credible evidence. I think shadow reports should be seen as an excellent opportunity for organisations to improve their evidence gathering and presentation skills. The short term advantage of this work is a good shadow report and useful Concluding Observations. The long term benefits can be far reaching and unpredictable. Once you have (and maintain) a reputation for reliability and credibility, you will propbably find that you are approached more and more by the media, governments, diplomats, UN agencies, lawyers and members of the public, seeking your opinions, advice and offers of assistance.
This can be a powerful tool that is worth the effort.
Thank you so much for highligting the benefits that are associated with reliability and credibility. These are invaluable assets. Like trust, reliability and credibility are precious and must be carefully tended and preserved. But you as you said, "worth the effort".
Paul Mageean, Director of Studies of the Graduate School for Professional Legal Education, University of Ulster, UK (Author of New Tactics Tactical Notebook, International Monitoring Bodies)
Nancy, I think these issues are critical to the success of an NGO's interaction with a Committee. As many comments have echoed, the level of trust that Committee members can place in the shadow reports is central to their success. You will occasionally be able to influence one or two Committee members to ask questions that will embarrass the government with little evidence but if you want to have a strategic impact over the long-term you need to make sure the Committee members can rely on what you are saying and that it is based on robust information.
Obviously the level of evidence depends on the circumstances but one example that I think is relevant to this discussion might be helpful to others. In one of our early interventions before the CAT we were complaining about ill-treatment in detention centres in Northern Ireland. The government line of course was that this was simply fabricated and ill-treatment did not take place. What often did happen in NI was that once detainees were released, they sued the government in the civil courts for any ill-treatment they had received. These cases were generally settled by the government without any admission of liability so we could not use court documents to support our assertion to CAT that ill-treatment was taking place and was in fact a regular feature of life in the detention centres because there were no judgments. However, when we realised that the government line to the Committee was simply to deny that ill-treatment was taking place, we were able to persuade one of the lawyers for the detainees in the civil cases to come with us to Geneva and take his files with him. He was able to show (with his clients' permission of course) CAT members the medical reports etc from his cases, and statements made in custody etc. This had a huge impact on the Committee members, severely undermined the government's credibility and significantly enhanced ours.
Great example, Paul! Thank you for sharing how you were able to eventually utilize court cases to provide documentation to the Committee Against Torture. Even though you were not able to use any judgements from the court, the fact that the case was heard and documents were collected for the case gave your organization an opportunity to use that information.
This makes me wonder how other organization creating shadow reports have been able to utilize court cases. I know in Uganda, there is no law prohibiting torture, so a person cannot bring an abuser to court. You can, however, bring a case to the Ugandan Human Rights Commission - and I wonder if those documents have been included in shadow reports to CAT. Have others used court cases - be it judgements or documents in files?
Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
Dear Kristin and All,
You asked whether others have used court documents in their shadow reports. The shadow report I have referred to before to CAT prepared by 14 Palestinian and Israeli NGOs annexed some affidavits that were the subject of petitions to the Israeli High Court. In addition, many of the coalition members were legal NGOs that regularly engage in litigation in Israel, usually in the form of petitioning the High Court on various alleged human rights abuses. A spectacular percentage of these cases fail - this failure rate is anticipated in advance. What can be useful to include in a shadow report is this lack of accountability (assuming of course, the litigation was not simply misconceived).
A good example from the UAT shadow report to CAT related to the number of complaints lodged in relation to alleged torture by Israeli Intelligence agents (ISA). Article 12 of CAT stipulates for prompt and impartial investigation when there is reason to believe that an act of torture or ill-treatment has been committed in an area under the state's jurisdiction. From information provided by coalition members, our report stated that: -
'Between January 2001 and October 2008, over 600 complaints were filed against ISA interrogators for alleged ill-treatment and torture. The Ministry of Justice Police Investigation Department (PID), the relevant authority charged with investigating these complaints against ISA interrogators, did not conduct a single criminal investigation.'
This disturbing and compelling statistic was taken up by the Committee in its Concluding Observations.
(See: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/cobs/CAT.C.ISR.CO.4.pdf - paragraph 21)
Thank you, Gerard! This is an interesting thread for me. Each treaty we are discussing in this dialogue includes an article stipulating prompt and impartial investigation of these abuses, just as each treaty requires the domestication of these treaties. I can see how using court documents in this way could be used for almost any shadow report.
I hope Paul Mageean will not mind that I am highlighting some key points that he shared in his tactical notebook, International Monitoring Bodies:Powerful tools for leveraging local change and others have raised during the dialogue.
"While the detail of various mechanisms differs, many of the basic techniques are the same, particularly when one is dealing with the UN system. One key lesson remains at the heart of our work: internationalising a human rights problem, particularly in a society in conflict, helps to resolve it."
"The content of [the Committee on the Adminstration of Justice] submissions, the impact on the government, the relatively easy access to Geneva we had may not always be replicated elsewhere, but the logistical approach may. Certain factors—documenting and writing the submission, submitting it, holding briefings, developing a media strategy, working with international NGOs—all appear to be common aspects of this tactic whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere."
In regard to these last factors, Paul made some recommendations that organizations consider to help maximize their own useof this tactic. A number of these points have been raised and quite wonderfully elaborated upon by others during the course of this dialogue. I thought these points are well worth stressing once more and providing the reasoning provided from CAJ's experience. [Note: the following information is taken directly from pages 14-16 of the tactical notebook]
PLAN ON A LONG-TERM INVESTMENT - This tactic will take time to work. It is unlikely that submitting to the Committee and attending it once will have the desired impact. To be successful, it is likely that it will take at least two hearings, so those considering using this tactic need to think in terms of years of commitment. It is also a good idea if the same staff person could undertake this work and build up personal relationships with Committee members and the secretary to the Committee. There may be budgetary considerations connected to making submissions, but most particularly connected to actually sending someone to Geneva. This person need not be a lawyer, but certainly should be someone who will be at ease with any technical legal issues that arise, because Committee members will often ask for detailed legal information about the domestic system.
INCREASE DIALOGUE WITH GOVERNMENT - One thing we would do differently would be to try to increase the dialogue we had with government in the gaps between hearings of the Committee. We have done this in our work with other UN Committees since, and it has improved our standing when we appear in Geneva. We have, for instance, asked to meet with government officials to discuss their response to various Committee recommendations and also the extent to which they are going to disseminate them to the relevant government agencies. This helps to track the extent to which the government is complying with Committee recommendations. The fact that the government knows we are going to interact with the Committee at the next hearing generally means that we are going to get a reasonable hearing from them.
USE THE MEDIA - In countries that are more immune to such criticism, the tactic may have less impact. However, the key is to realise that no state likes to face criticism at the UN. I have seen states go to extraordinary lengths to avoid such criticism or to limit it. This has included states that might be considered serious human rights abusers and that might be thought to pay little attention to the UN, particularly its human rights arm. However, states are aware of their international image, and effective NGOs working the UN system can wield significant power. It is likely that in other countries human rights activists will be placing themselves in considerable danger by even trying to engage with the Committee Against Torture. This is a serious concern when considering using this tactic.
ESTABLISH A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH AN INTERNATIONAL NGO - Establishing a good working relationship with an international NGO that has consultative status at the United Nations or knowledge and experience working with the body that has jurisdiction over your issue is essential. The relationship facilitates access to the buildings (including booking rooms for briefings and so on) the Committee and other types of hearings. Just as importantly, it will afford the local NGO access to the expertise of the international organisation in terms of the actual workings of the Committee or other international body and potential increased credibility.
In many respects I think that much of the most important work in relation to shadow reports takes place after the concluding observations have been published. I would be hesitant about entering into a dialogue with the state prior to submission of the shadow report but I think such a dialogue at the end of the process can be very useful. For instance what we did in Northern Ireland following publication of concluding observations was to use those in lobbying MPs, political parties, and the government itself. With regards to the government it was useful to remind them that if they did nothing in response to critical comments from the relevant Committee, the criticism was likely to become more acute at the next hearing. It was of course also constructive to point out to them that positive action on their part to address issues of concern raised by the Committee would likely result in a less critical report next time around.
This I think leads to another important point which is that NGOs should view this work as long-term because the full impact is often not seen until at least two reporting cycles have been completed. This demands considerable resources but from our point of view it was worth it because it impacted significantly on the human rights situation on the ground and also raised our profile significantly.
It is also important to think strategically about the use of the media in conjunction with the work on shadow reports. In our experience it was worth selecting and cultivating one or two serious journalists on what was happening and keeping them informed about the process.
In terms of participation at a hearing, the experience differed according to the different Committees. The important thing is to develop a relationship with the Committee secretary. They will be able to advise on a whole range of practical issues such as this.
Thanks for these insights, Paul. You bring up many interesting aspects and challenges of using shadow reports in your advocacy work, and I wanted to focus on two of these points. You write,
"This I think leads to another important point which is that NGOs should
view this work as long-term because the full impact is often not seen
until at least two reporting cycles have been completed. This demands
considerable resources but from our point of view it was worth it
because it impacted significantly on the human rights situation on the
ground and also raised our profile significantly."
I would be interested in knowing from you and other practitioners that write these shadow reports, and those that use these reports in their campaigns - how they creatively face this challenge. For example, does collaboration among a number of NGOs significantly reduce the burden of needing to give the report your full attention to utilize the document? I would imagine that there are many levers to pull along the way - can those responsibilities be divided strategically among different NGOs? Can you (meaning anyone!) share examples of how organizations have accomplished this kind of collaboration?
Also, you mention that all the work your organization spent working on and utilizing these shadow reports paid off by raising your profile - and I am curious to know if this had any negative repercussions for your organization. Was there a risk of becoming a target of repression and scrutiny? Was this something that was anticipated and planned from the beginning stages of strategizing?
Kristin, the first point you raise is in relation to how we met the challenge of committing significant resources over a long period of time to this work and whether sharing the burden could work. I think this is a decision for each NGO to make and it will largely depend on local circumstances. In CAJ we almost stumbled into this area of work when a member of our Executive Committee who was an academic lawyer suggested exploring it. We were pleased with the results of our first effort and decided to stay the course because we found this more effective than the purely domestic work we had been doing. It was not really possible in the early 90s in Northern Ireland to share the burden because there were almost no other NGOs working on the sorts of issues we were working on. Complaining about ill-treatment of suspects in detention was not a popular issue. Also, as I think is often the case with small NGOs in conflict zones, an organisational culture can develop which militates against co-operation. This was sensitive work and we would have been reluctant to let it go to others especially as we began to build up relationships with those on the Committees and those who serviced them. The exception to this however at least for us relates to the international NGOs. They helped us considerably in the early days in giving us advice about how to access the Committees and we did work closely with them - particularly Amnesty, Lawyers Committee (now HRF) and HRW.
Also as the situation in NI normalised we did begin to work with lots of other domestic NGOs on these sorts of interventions. However, that co-operative work tended to focus on other committees - for instance CEDAW or the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In relation to your second point, about the risks of raising profile, this is a serious concern. Certainly we received unwelcome attention often in the wake of critical reports in the press on the concluding observations in Geneva. To some extent this goes with the territory and we did not really consider it in advance. In addition, although there were murders of human rights lawyers in NI, this is probably more of a concern in other jurisdictions and there is no doubt that it can be a real risk.
You raise an excellent point - that NGOs need to view this work as "long-term". When you say that the full impact may not be seen before two reporting cycles - that is a time period of 8 years (if I'm not mistaken). That is a considerable investment of time and resources for most NGOs. This is not a tactic that shows quick results.
At the same time, shadow reports can be seen as a critical aspect of a NGO's long-term strategic advoacy plan to create systemic and policy changes. While an organization is working on the day-to-day aspects of how these systemic problems and polices are negatively affecting people - the shadow reports work from the "macro" level. For example, as Committee for Adminstrative Justice (CAJ) in Northern Ireland was working with prisoners on a day-to-day basis regarding the detention conditions and practices that were taking place, providing the research information needed for the shadow report - CAJ also had their sights on precisely what systemic changes were needed and advocated for the British government to implement, not waiting for the review committees but being able to use the review committees as an additional "stick" to demand the needed changes. This provides a great example of using tactics that concern both the immediate and future goals.
I want to be sure that the people in the dialogue have a chance to see the great tactical notebook that you wrote regarding CAJ's successful use of shadow reports - International Monitoring Bodies: Powerful tools for leveraging local change
It's available in English, Russian and Bangla!
The effort put into preparing an alternative report yields more results if it is part of a long-term strategy. Persistence and repetition are features of effective advocacy. In Canada the Coalition for the Rights of Children has focused attention on follow-up to the Concluding Observations of the second report, in the lead-up to the Third Report. We have managed to raise the profile of some major areas needing change, and we plan to follow that through the Third Report process, and then follow it up again. Without that kind of follow-up, governments can easily ignore a review before UN body.
This requires some selectivity and setting priorities, which can be difficult in a broad-based coalition. There are tensions between selecting priorities and the value of comprehensive approaches based on the principles of the indivisability and interdependence of all rights. If we can make progress on a few of the concluding observations from the previous review, it will reinforce the process. One of my fears is that the third review will need to repeat the same themes as the second review. If this happens too often, faith in the whole process will erode.
Thank you for sharing this aspect of your experience. You raise a very critical point regarding the need to maintain commitment to the process while being selective and settting priorities for where to focus time, attention and resources. I especially appreciate that you raised two important aspects to success in using shadow reports for advocacy:
in order to address that danger of losing the momentum for the long-term strategy as well as faith in the process, it seems critical to highlight the gains being made.
Can you - and others in the dialogue - share how you have highlighted the gains you've made? How do you celebrate the small successes - within your organization and among the coalition members? Is this enough to maintain momentum or do members of the organizations feel that this recognition of gains needs to go beyond to larger society?
I would like to share an example of how shadow reports can advocate an issue outside of the traditional practice of submitting the report to UN committees. I recently wrote my undergraduate thesis on advocacy tactics employed by torture treatment centers. My research took me to CVT in Minnesota, USA, the Berlin Treatment Center for Torture Victims in Germany and the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) in Nairobi, Kenya. IMLU had recently published a shadow report to the Committee Against Torture in response to Kenya's country report.
IMLU's shadow report proved to be one of the most valuable resource tools available to me. The document gave responses to each of Kenya's claims and challenged many of the state's assertions article by article. The information-dense report provided a clear and concise picture of the status of torture in Kenya. The report helped me understand the gravity of the situation and the indifference of the government. The collection of detailed case studies and examples of state abuse were invaluable to my understanding of the issue.
I believe shadow reports are not only useful for drawing international attention to the state's behavior, but also by educating the public. Kenyans are able to educate themselves by reading this accessible report. The availability of the report provides a credible voice that can counter the narrative of the Kenyan government. If shadow reports are accessible, both in terms of physical access and language, they can be tools in recruiting civil society to the particular issue.
In this particular case, IMLU's shadow report provided me with a critical tool for my research. Shadow reports can also go a long way in recruiting young academics to dedicating their careers to human rights.
Lisa Myers, Coordinator of NGO group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Switzerland
Each treaty body has a different process for NGOs. Some have a joint meeting for all NGOs for all the countries being examined, others only have meetings during the lunch breaks and others have pre-sessions. The treaty body with the most time for NGOs is the CRC. They have a 3 hour meeting per country for non-governmental actors (including Unicef, Ombusdspersons, etc). These are private and confidential meetings (to ensure an open discussion and ensure that NGOs and other organisations feel safe to talk freely) and are based on invitation only. To attend, NGOs need to submit a comprehensive report on the CRC or its two Optional Protocols, ideally produced by a coalition of child rights NGOs. Requests for participation are sent to the Committee via the NGO Group for the CRC. If the Committee secretariat issues an invitation, the NGO Group then facilitates the process for the national NGOs, so that they can effectively engage in the process.
Reports For Advocacy
reports are a critical advocacy tool, they ensure states comply to realization
of rights for their citizens, commit to provide the necessary resources to
facilitate enjoyment of rights and due to states being signatories to various
human rights conventions such as CERD, CEDAW, ICESCR, and shadow reports ensure
international monitoring. States being the major duty bearer has the capacity
and resources to enable realization of various rights.
The purposes of state reporting
Right to adequate standard of living: where the
National Rainbow Coalition promised upon election that it would create 500,000
jobs annually- this is a declaration which has turned out to be a populist
policy since the promised jobs have not yet been realized.
Right to water and sanitation
Right to housing and the appalling conditions in which
people in informal settlements live
In our views, Shadow reports enhance advocacy through:
the CSOs, objectives of shadow reports include:
Cheruiyot, Leonida Odongo and Peter Matheka
Youth and Orphans Support Initiative Kenya
The media is a very important tool in advocacy as issues highlighted in shadow reports can reach audiences that NGOs and civil society could not reach without their (media) help. Thus the need of establishing some sorts of collabaration between the media and the civil society for effective advocacy. There are, however, some challenges in relying on the collaboration with the media. As many traditional media (TV, radio, newsletters, magazines,...) become more and more commercial driven, it becomes hard for civil society to have their stories given a space because they (NGO' stories) are not "selling".
Many newspapers prefer to publish pieces of news that will attract readers such as divisions among cabinet members, some corruption scandals, soccer matches etc and overlook human rights abuses. Organisations like Fahamu and FEMNET have been working with community radios so that they could help to popularise the Protocol on women's rights. This requires some planning and funding and the cooperation with media has to be included in the long advocacy plan.
Fortunately, the internet (though it is still a challenge in Africa where in some countries the percent of the population who have access is something like 3 per cent) offers a wonderful opportunity to disseminate and share information. During the last period that we have been working with community radios, my experience is that NGOs need to discuss with media owners how to package human rights related news in "an attractive way" for the media to maintain their market share.
I would be glad to hear some others have been working with the media.
We very much appreciate the comments that have been posted to this thread so far. Our general observation with regards to shadow reports is that the impact of NGO engagement (including shadow report writing)
generally has long term effect where the engagement with the CEDAW
review process has been consistent and rigorous. The shadow report in
and of itself is not the ‘end product’ of women’s engagement -- the writing and preparation of the shadow report is one part of the larger process to bring about change.
In the process of preparing the shadow report, where NGOs have engaged
in a national process which is inclusive and collaborative, networks
and coalitions are built and strengthened (for example, the experience of NGOs in Brazil). Such processes ensure that
there is a sense of ownership by the groups and helps mobilise women
and create a movement towards the claiming of their rights. It cannot
be denied that such a process leads to a lobby group that has a large
base and a strong voice.
Shadow reports on State action also help reveal why women’s rights
commitments often remain de jure commitments rather than representing
de facto change. Such alternative reports help experts within the
Committee to raise certain controversial issues that may not at all be
raised in the official report, or to check on the validity or veracity
of government reports, given the alternative information provided them
NGO interventions and advocacy in relation to specific processes of the
Convention can have several spin-off effects. At the international
level, NGO involvement in the Convention reporting process can help to
feed important information to other bodies of the UN and ultimately
influence international processes, policies and programmes. Involvement
in the reporting process can also have an influence domestically, where
it helps to bring NGOs together to discuss important aspects of State
action, emphasise collaborative work in expanding ideas and activism
around rights, create greater media awareness, and ensure that State
interventions are being monitored and assessed for effectiveness. NGOs
can also publicise State reports and the Committee’s observations to a
wider national audience, where States may avoid doing so. At the local
level, discussions around concepts and practice of women’s rights can
provide a very sound basis for influencing policy and creating spaces
In this regard, a key role NGOs play in this process is to plan for
monitoring the implementation of the Concluding Observations.
Monitoring structures need to be established by NGOs. The alternative
information that NGOs have generated also enables them to identify
areas for intervention where the State may not be able to intervene
effectively, and where NGOs may provide support services to create
enabling conditions for women’s rights to be achieved.
It is the experience of IWRAW Asia Pacific that bringing women in to observe the CEDAW reporting process has brought positive changes. Knowing the reporting process better and how their States are being held accountable for its international obligations, has given women NGOs a better understanding of the significance of reporting and a confidence in working with the CEDAW Convention.
(Some quotes sourced from IWRAW Asia Pacific's Global to Local training kit (2009))
Lisa Myers, member of NGO group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Switzerland
For the CRC, NGOs often organise workshops for national NGOs to try and get them involved in the reporting process. They often ask the NGO Group to come and share information on the preparation of alternative reports, the pre-session, and follow-up the concluding observations. In quite a few cases, many participants have not worked on a previous report, they might not work from a rights-based approach and they might find the process irrelevant to their daily work. However, when they take part in the process and the Committee listens to them and uses their information, they find it useful to participate in the process.
The NGO Group has guidelines for preparing a report and it uses that during the trainings. Otherwise, there is the video 'Treaty bodies - bringing human rights home' (a second edition is being prepared). It provides information on the human rights system with some specific examples. We are also developing a guide at the moment to facilitate the preparation of alternative reports by children, as more of them are getting involved in the process.
Thanks for sharing this resource, LIsa! I'm happy to hear that you are working on develoing a guide to facilitate the preparation of alternative reports by children!
The video you mentioned, 'Treaty bodies - bringing human rights home,' is available on request from the OHCHR Publications and Information Desk. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks Lisa for letting us know of this great resource! And thanks Kristin for providing contact. I can't wait to get a copy. :)
Are there any examples out there of how you have implemented a way of measuring the impact of your shadow reports? Is it possible to measure the impact by the quality of the Committee's conclusing observations? Or must the impact be measured by the change in government attitude/policy (which is very difficult!). I am very curious to learn about how the kinds of methods you have used to measure your impact.
Jeanne Sarson, Canada
With a colleague I submitted the following shadow report (http://www.ritualabusetorture.org/tortureofcanadianwomen.pdf) to the CEDAW Committee based on women's testimonies that they as Canadians have/are enduring forms of torture. Although torture is considered a distinct criminal human rights violation Canada, as do other countries, does not have a specific section in its Criminal Code to address non-state actor torture (NSAT). It does however have a section that addresses torture by representatives of the state. Our purpose in submitting this shadow report was to highlight the effect-based discrimination women and girls endure when their torture is miminized to an assault as their option for legal recourse.
As to the effectiveness of our efforts - CEDAW experts generally did not want to address the issue. There was one expert who did ask the question re NSAT of Canada but she told us that there was considerable resistance among the CEDAW Committee members to consider torture of women in the private or domestic sphere. This in spite of the CEDAW General recommendation No. 19(b) that states no one should be subjected to torture.
My colleague and I have been doing this work since 1993, pro bono, and must say when we speak of various forms of NSAT we are commonly confronted with a dual bias. When we speak of torturers that use ritualisms to increase their victims state of captivity a colonial bias that "we" are more civilized than others and must be referring to Africa clicks in. We are not sure if this bias was part of the resistance we met at the CEDAW meeting in Geneva last October.
Emotionally staying present in the roon where the CEDAW Committee meeting occurred was most difficult because I thought a question re NSAT would not be directed to the Canadian delegation. It was one of the final questions of the day. The CEDAW Committee did not ask Canada to consider such a legal change in their report to Canada. Writing shadow reports represent years of work and a committment to, in our case, the women who have shared their ordeals with us; however, I would advise others that there is an emotional committment to seeing such an effort presented to committees. That day was heavy, not only for me but also other delegates who were there were treated disrespectively and some shed their frustation and hurt with tears.
The most isolating aspect of this work is trying to find a group that is interested in addressing NSAT as a distinct human rights offence as the NGO we were with does not want to address violence against women or NSAT. There are horrors around the world that illustrate that acts of NSAT occur in the priavate or domestic sphere; I am asking if anyone knows of any groups that include or would include NSAT as part of their focus and have membership availability?
Thanks for all the interesting comments.
Thank you for sharing this very fine response that outlines key areas and great tips for individuals and organizations to consider and assess whether or not using shadow reports for advocacy regarding their human rights issue is a direction they want to take.
You mention a publication from Frontline called Human Wrongs, Human Rights. I think this is actually published by British Irish Rights Watch in London. It is an excellent publication and BIRW have done a lot of work on Shadow Reports over the years so it reflects the practical experiences of a small NGO dealing with the UN machinery. Importantly for NGOs, their website (http://www.birw.org/Human%20Wrongs,%20Human%20Rights.html) suggests they are giving away hard copy or CD rom versions of this publication free of charge!
Thank you, Paul! You're right -
Human Wrongs, Human Rights is written by Jane Winter, and is jointly published by The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and British Irish RIGHTS WATCH. (Copyright British Irish RIGHTS WATCH 2001)
It's great that they are giving away this publication! You can also access all the content online by going to http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/manuals/human-rights-human-wrongs/cont.... In relation to this dialogue, there is an interesting chapter on 'Resoluitions.'
Writing a Shadow Report and working with a coalition is a very practical strategy to make a shadow report very successful BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights as the secretariat for the Nigeria NGO CEDAW Coalition worked with 50 other Nigerian NGOs and CBOs to produce a shadow report to the Nigerian 6th Country report to the CEDAW Committee at the United Nations in New York. In terms of compilation of reports and statistics, every member of the coalition played a significant role based on their indiviual organisational expertise to facilitate the process.
At the time of writing the report which was a felt need after the reading of the Government's 6th report, there was no funding but each member of the coalition provided human and material resources which helped moved the process forward.
Most of the meetings to follow up were through emails and a few face to face meetings to put finishing touches to the shadow report writing at varios draft stages.
On the whole the fac that a great number of NGOs were part of the process helped to make it a recognised and credible report which was commended by some members of the Goverment team when they met with some of the Coalition members in New York.
It is important to mention that while the coalition was writing the Shadow report a few other organisations also came up with another report. During the reporting time, the key points of the Shadow report of the coalition and the report of the other organisations were harmonised.
Mufuliat Dasola Fijabi
Women's Rights Advocate, Lagos Nigeria
Thanks, Mufuliat, for sharing this example of a successful and practical use of a coalition of NGOs in Nigeria to collect data for and creating the shadow report that the Nigeria NGO CEDAW Coalition submitted to CEDAW in New York. It is very helpful and interesting to hear of these kinds of stories!
After reading Gerard's comment above, regarding "the importance of drafting your recommendations with absolute precision," I would be curious to find out from you, Mufuliat, what your coalition came up with regarding recommendations - and whether or not CEDAW did, in fact, include these recommendations in their Concluding Observations?
I think that it depends on the issues covered by the shadow reports and what the government has access to. In the case of the CRC, the shadow reports are treated as confidential documents unless the NGO signs a permission letter, so the government does not necessarily know what has been said. However, child rights are often not especially controversial, so preparing shadow reports on the issues is not always a problem. We receive reports from NGOs in around 80% of the States parties. In countries, where governments may over react, the NGOs might write the reports in a different way and they come across as complementary information.
There are quite a few examples of the concluding observations being used, such as in Colombia, Uganda, the Netherlands, the UK. etc...
Dear Kirstin, Linda and Jeanne,
Thanks a lot for your replies!
Concerning the guide on submitting shadow reports to CAT, we are expecting to have it published within the next couple of months. We will make sure you receive a notification when it's out, even if only in electronic format.
Its substantive part is based on OMCT's working guidelines that have evolved throughout the years as we worked with national partners in submitting such reports (and as the Committee's jurisprudence evolved). Although it's only a working document, we could certainly share it with national NGOs who are intending to submit a report to CAT in the coming months while the guide is being finalised and edited.
As for the question of whether individuals can submit information and participate in the sessions of CAT and HRC, the answer is yes. Any civil society member, regardless of whether s/he has any institutional backing, can submit shadow reports and participate in the sessions, including by addressing Committee experts.
However, Jeanne, I don't know of any membership-based organisations that focus on NSAT that also include non-institutional members. But I'll let you know if I come accross any. In any event, there are certainly capacity-building or networking opportunities that are open to human rights defenders regardless of whether they are NGO members, to which you may apply. Also, in many instances you may not need to be an officially registered entity, provided that the two of you make up a team - this can qualify as an NGO in many cases, I guess.
Mariana Duarte, Violence against Women Coordinator, World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
Thank you Mariana for your welcomed response as it gives me hope to know that as individuals Linda and I could participate in CAT and HRC. It gives me hope that we could continue to push for social recognition that NSAT is a distinct and specific human rights violation, distinct from abuse or human trafficking just as state torture is a distinct human rights violation. Do you know how we can connect into such a process?
When Linda and I submitted the communication to the Special Rapporteur on VAW there was another Canadian woman who also submitted her Confidential VAW Information however it was not a present day situation therefore was not addressed. This woman is a published author and highly spoken and has spent quite some years researching the who, what, where, when, and hows of her NSAT victimization. She would welcome a place to speak. She reports that the NSAT victimization she survived includes torturers who had military backgrounds. We have gathered some self-reporting evidence of such interconnections which might be of specific interest to the CAT Committee.
In reference to the usefulness of shadow reports. The reason I specifically mention this person is because she is pursuing her case before a Victim's Compensation Board and our shadow report adds weight to her pursuit. Therefore, this is another way that shadow reports can be used to support an individual who have been so harmed. And sometimes this is what is needed to break socio-cultural denial, ignorance, rejection or disbelief and trigger social-legal transformation.
Mariana thank you also for your insight into other possibilities such as human right defender organizations ... Linda and I keep looking but appreciate your willgness to remember us if information crosses your desk.
And a special thanks for forwarding the OMCT working guidelines for submitting to CAT when it is ready.
Dear Kristin and all,
We wanted to share also some additional resources on writing an alternative or shadow report. IWRAW Asia Pacific has posted these guidelines on our website and they are available in English and Spanish:
* Guidelines in English: http://www.iwraw-ap.org/resources/pdf/Shadow_Report_Guidelines_Oct_2007.pdf
*Guidelines in Spanish: http://www.iwraw-ap.org/resources/pdf/Anexo%2012%20-%20Shadow%20Report%2...
We are currently updating the guidelines to take into account the new reforms that have taken place within the UN, one of which is that States now are required to submit a Common Core Document and Treaty Specific Document. Please do check our website for updates at: http://www.iwraw-ap.org/using_cedaw/sr_guidelines.htm
Through the "From Global to Local" programme, we have also pulled together reports that NGs have submitted to CEDAW over the years. We currently have reports (though not exhaustive) from 2004. The NGO reports can be found here: http://www.iwraw-ap.org/resources/shadow_reports.htm.
Wei San Audrey and Yasmin
IWRAW Asia Pacific
No 80B Jalan Bangsar
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603- 22822255
Fax: 603 22832552