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State Reporting Project: Understanding State Reporting

The process of satisfying a state’s international reporting obligations must be seen as an occasion for achieving a variety of objectives. Ideally it should be considered as an integral part of a continuing process designed to promote and enhance respect for human rights rather than an isolated even meant merely to comply with the requirements of an international treaty. The process should thus be treated as an opportunity rather than as a chore or a formality. It is an opportunity for a government to reaffirm its commitment to respect the human rights of its own citizens and to reassert that commitment in the domestic political forum. It is an opportunity for domestic stock taking and for the adoption of measures to remedy any shortcomings which have been identified. It is also an opportunity for the government concerned to proclaim to the international community its seriousness about human rights standards.

State reporting serves a variety of functions among which are the following: 

  • An avenue for constructive dialogue: Arguably the main purpose of state reporting is to establish the framework for constructive dialogue between the state concerned and the monitoring body. This means that state reporting must never be construed as a confrontational process between the state and the monitoring body concerned. It is an opportunity for the state and the monitoring body to constructively explore avenues whereby the state can better implement a particular treaty.
  • The monitoring function: Reporting also enables the performance of monitoring a state’s compliance with its human rights obligations under a specific treaty. This means that in preparing a report states must go beyond describing the legal formalities and also properly articulate the situation in practice. Reports must thus strike a balance between the situation in theory and that in practice.
  • Public scrutiny: State reporting also helps in conducting public scrutiny on a state’s performance with respect to its human rights obligations. The preparation of a state report must thus be seen not only as intended for an international forum but also the domestic audience. This is because most human rights instruments seek to promote and enhance both the international and domestic accountability of a state.
  • Acknowledging problems: State parties to particular treaties are not required to report only on the progress that they have made. They must also make a frank concession about the factors that make the implementation of rights difficult within their jurisdiction. It is erroneous for states to focus merely on conveying the ‘good news’ about the situation of rights in their respective countries.


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