The purpose of Shadow Reports is to supplement (or "shadow") the report of the government of a particular nation, either to the Treaty Body Committees or to the UPR as “additional information”. In addition to the government report, the treaty bodies may receive information on a country’s human rights situation from other sources, including non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, other intergovernmental organizations, academic institutions and the press. In the light of all the information available, the Committee examines the report together with government representatives. Based on this dialogue, the Committee will publish its concerns and recommendations, often referred to as “concluding observations”.
When a State makes its report, NGOs can submit written information directly to the committee in the form of a ‘shadow report’ (also referred to as a ‘parallel report’ or ‘alternative report’).
The CERD, CESCR and HRC have started to examine the situation in states whose reports are seriously overdue. In these cases, where there is no state report to guide the committee, NGO information is even more important and provides an ‘unofficial’ evaluation of the country situation. NGOs should look into questions such as: are there any gaps in the official report; are there misrepresentations; and are the assumptions, the analyses and the emphases correct?
NGOs can submit information to the committees alone or as part of a coalition of NGOs. The latter can be more effective. Committee members are more likely to read one coordinated NGO report than many reports from different NGOs; further, several NGOs speaking with one voice adds strength to the arguments being presented, and avoids duplication of work.
Such critique can be directed either at the entire report from the government – this would often be the result of a collective and coordinated undertaking by many civil society organisations – or at just one specific right or article. Shadow Reports can emphasise the prevalence and magnitude of certain critical issues which a government has downplayed or failed to highlight. The Committee reads all reports submitted and uses them for validation during the sessions with respective governments.
Here are some example shadow reports from the topic of women/girls:
Thematic shadow report to CEDAW (On violence against women and girls in the UK)
Amnesty International USA
Women UN report network
Shadow report for CEDAW 2007
Report on women’s human rights in the United States under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Shadow Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for the Slovak Republic
Shadow reports on the Stop violence against women website