National Reporting & Shadow Reporting - what does it involve?

Although States are to submit their national periodic report, NGOs are also invited to make submissions in what's known as "shadow reporting" where they may highlight key issues or seek clarification on certain areas.

National reporting obligations


Ireland has undertaken a range of international human rights obligations by ratifying a number of UN international human rights treaties. Under these treaties, the State has the responsibility to ensure its compliance with the provisions of the treaties by implementing pertinent domestic measures and legislation. The State is reviewed periodically by a body of international experts associated with each treaty.

The review involves the submission of a national report by the State which is then discussed at the review by State representatives and Committee members. Areas of particular concern to the Committee are identified in advance of the review through a List of Issues. After the review, the body adopts Concluding Observations which documents areas of progress but also those of concern about State measures or the lack thereof. Below is a chart showing the treaties which Ireland has ratified to date and some major treaties that it has not, as well as when it was last reviewed and when it is next expected to be before a treaty body.

What is shadow reporting and why become involved?


While states submit their national periodic report for review to the treaty bodies, NGOs are also invited to make submissions. This is called shadow reporting as it allows NGOs to "shadow" the report issued by the State highlighting points of issue, clarification or concern. NGOs can also take the opportunity to bring attention to omissions from the state report. Any organisation can submit a report. Shadow reporting:

  • provides NGOs the forum to bring their issues to a unique international audience of UN experts. If deemed relevant by the committee, the issue may be presented to state officials at the review for a response. If an issue that is raised is framed carefully and precisely, it could form the basis of one of the committee's Concluding Observations;
  • provides the Committees with independent, relevant, verifiable and reliable information from national grassroots sources. Key to successful NGO shadow reporting and lobbying is working together and presenting a united and organised front. Joint submissions are well-received by committee members as they reduce the amount of time spent reading and thereby increase the amount of time spent on the issues. Reliable information based on solid evidence is crucial;
  • provides the opportunity for NGOs to form alliances with other NGOs to provide support, pooling of resources, emphasis and information-sharing on issues of mutual concern;
  • allows NGOs the opportunity develop skills and best practice mechanisms for international lobbying and report-writing;
  • can be pertinent juncture at which to raise awareness of campaign issues in the media;
  • is a useful "stock- taking" exercise of a government's approach and an NGOs response to an issue at a particular time and shadow reports can be used in the future as a measure of progress or regression;
  • can form the basis of broader international advocacy and lobbying such as at the Universal Periodic Review or before other treaty bodies.

To find out about the shadow reporting experience of FLAC, working with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the Irish Penal Reform Trust relating to the ICCPR, please see the Rights Monitor website.

If your organisation would like to become involved in any upcoming shadow reporting opportunities, and wish to find out more or would like advice about framing issues or recommendations, please contact us.