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UN documents

©Jenny Matthews/ ActionAid
©Jenny Matthews/ ActionAid

The conventions have cyclic systems of reporting: the state submits a report each 4-5 years to the committee of independent experts, which responds with a set of questions issued to the state. A face-to-face meeting in Geneva then takes place and a final set of concluding recommendations or observations on the status and rate of implementation is issued. All this takes place in public. This current system of many different committees and reporting cycles does produces a lot of paper and can be a huge burden on national civil services, and leave much room for deference and delays. But it also provides many opportunities for civil society: either to work with the state, or to produce a critical shadow report which will always be considered by the committee; and to use both the process and the observations to “name and shame”, keeping up and renewing due pressure on the state.

For all UN human rights documents, visit: The Universal Human Rights Index (

The number of UN documents is ever-growing, but many of them can be extremely useful to campaigners. The Right to Education Project cannot keep track of this. So we refer you to the UN’s database for identifying what fits your specific interest or campaigning needs.

The Universal Human Rights Index gives this access. The index is based on the observations and recommendations of the following international expert bodies:

(1) Committees of independent experts of the treaty bodies monitoring the implementation of the core international human rights treaties (since 2000)

(2) Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council (since 2006) – both country and thematic reports, see especially under education, minorities, gender, etc.

Therefore please do take your time to search The Universal Human Rights Index. It is available in 6 languages

Simple searches can be carried out directly on the home page. Documents can be searched by entering a keyword, a country, a body or a right, or any combination of these elements.

The advanced search link makes it possible to refine searches by combining criteria (e.g. several countries, bodies or rights at the same time), combining keywords, using ‘affected persons’ as a criterion, by the year of publication, or by symbol.

What to look for?

We recommend that you look at the references to education/gender/minorities/discrimination etc. made in the concluding observations by the committee, in order to use these views in your campaigning.

Furthermore, you should visit the individual committees, to keep track of when your country is next up for review, whether or not a report has recently been posted and when it is therefore most opportune to produce a civil society shadow report, to counter-balance the official state report.

The major committees dealing with education rights and non-discrimination are:

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

The Human Rights Committee (HRC, dealing with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)

Committee on the Rights of Person’s with Disabilities (CRPD)

If you do not find what you seek or otherwise need further advice on navigation, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will aim to help you as best we can: info[at]

For more information please also visit the pages of the highly useful database.