The Danish Institute
for Human Rights
Ministry for Human and Minority Rights
Overview: Reporting and Monitoring
Reporting on international human rights obligations is an obligation for the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro in relation both to the United Nations (UN) and Council of Europe (CoE).
Timely and substantive reporting on relevant conventions to which Serbia and Montenegro is a party, constitutes an obligation which in part dates back several decades, and in part constitutes more recent commitments to the relevant Council of Europe instruments. Monitoring the transformation of Serbia’s and Montenegro’s legislation as well as its implementation allows for the pursuance of effective and meaningful reform, in line with the country’s firm commitment to European integration. Finally, high standards and good practice in human rights constitute an integral requirement for EU membership, in particular, as defined already in 1993 in the Copenhagen criteria and reiterated in accession of future member states.
As part of the European integration, close ties with and membership in the EU, as well as membership of the Council of Europe (CoE) are key priorities of Serbia and Montenegro. Both the 2005 Feasibility Study of the EU Commission and Committee of Ministers Council of Europe Resolution (ResCMN(2004)12E note the significant improvement of the protection of human and minority rights during the past years. The EU and the Council of Europe have also positively noted a number of important legislative reforms in the field of human rights. Although having met many of the key criteria in the field of human rights set by the EU and CoE, Serbia and Montenegro still struggle with a number of structural deficits, especially when it comes to the coordination of actions which are covered by several state institutions simultaneously. The lack of clarity as to their respective competences is seen as one of the main reasons why the implementation of international obligations related to international conventions has been relatively slow in Serbia and Montenegro. Accordingly, the Council of Europe emphasizes the need to address these weaknesses, recommending that governmental bodies react adequately to decisions made by diverse bodies dealing with reports and the reporting system on conventions.
A key step, as noted by the Council of Europe and the EU, has been the lead role taken by the State Union Ministry for Human and Minority Rights in the field of international reporting obligations. At the same time, both the Feasibility Study and the Committee of Ministers Council of Europe Resolution (ResCMN(2004)12E, underline the need for the coordinated support of all actors in the reporting process in order to fulfil the ongoing duties of the State Union towards international organizations. Furthermore, they underline the need for the incorporation of NGOs in this process and the overall transparency of the process. State institutions should see it as their duty to raise the public consciousness on reporting (e.g. by publishing reports and other relevant documents).
Finally, the Council of Europe has noted that the reform of human and minority rights legislation in Serbia and Montenegro is incomplete and thus still changeable. Accordingly, priorities are: to secure the reforms undertaken, prevent decline of the already achieved level of human and minority rights and to complete the reform process.
An effective reporting mechanism is not a one-way street. Reporting is best understood as a cycle which is never complete, but rather a continuous process, which includes the preparation of reports and their follow-up both at the national and international level.
The following cycle illustrates the logic of this approach to reporting and shows the dynamic and importance of a proper follow up mechanism to the recommendations. The cycle may also give an indication of the high degree of responsibility of the different actors both in relation to reporting to the international institutions and the implementation of their recommendations.
The different steps in the cycle are described below.
Implementing Human Rights: An Integrated Reporting and Law Reform System
Step 1. Kick- off document (Plan of Activities)
Every new report or follow up on a report sets out with a kick off document, which is a project plan for writing the report on the treaty in question. It contains: the political input/political guidelines for the work of writing the report, the time schedules, whom is going to be involved, when, doing what, reporting to whom etc.
Step 2. Legal Framework Analysis
The second step of writing a country report is to review the legal framework related to the specific treaty. The output of this review is a situation report and proposals for law review and law reform initiatives. The situation report is forwarded to the relevant Resort Ministries for their consideration and further action if so decided. Within this legal framework analysis statistical data, by which it is possible to follow the implementation of laws, are determined. Based on these data it is possible to develop overall national indicators for the specific areas addressed in the specific treaty.
Step 3. Follow up analysis on previous recommendations
The third step is the follow up on the recommendations from the previous report from the United Nation or Council of Europe treaty body in question. Based on the recommendations from the treaty body, national indicators can be defined for specific areas.
Step 4. Progress analysis since last report
The result of the fourth step is a progress report analysing reform initiatives and other relevant activities, which have taken place in the country since the last report. This progress analysis includes primarily activities undertaken in the Resort Ministries and by Parliament as a result of review and/or reform proposals (step 2 - Legal Framework Analysis). The analysis will also include current and planned activities, as well as initiatives proposed in connection with other treaty reports. In this step, national indicators for follow up on the progress in areas that are not included in the legal framework analysis can be defined.
Step 4a. Consultation with NGOs and other stakeholders
Within the progress analysis it is necessary to establish communication between state institutions and civil society. This mainly refers to the information included in alternative reports of the NGO sector, which has to be considered during the work on the progress analysis.
Step 5. Writing the Country Report
In the next step the country report is written. This step also includes the procedure for governmental approval of the official report. The outcome is the official country report, which is submitted to the respective United Nation or Council of Europe treaty body.
Step 6. The Treaty Body process
Upon reception of the country reports, the relevant treaty body compiles a list of additional questions to which it is necessary to answer in writing or orally during the process where the treaty body considers the report.
Step 7. Feedback Report
The State receives the comments and recommendations from the treaty body, and sends them to the relevant Ministries / institutions with request for feedback on the comments and recommendations as well as the possible implementation of these.
The recommendation and comments can be seen as a ‘to do list’ for improvement initiatives for each ministry and the list will be the point of departure for the follow up component in the next report.
The government will consider the material and give political guidance. Based upon this the State will write separate feedback reports containing specific feedback to all relevant Resort Ministries and other involved operators in regard to the comments and recommendations that the state has received from the treaty body.
The feedback report will include a chapter defining the chosen result indicators needed to deal with the recommendations from the treaty body as well as result indicators needed for the next report. For each indicator there will also be a specification of how to measure the indicator. Furthermore, there will be a specific to do list in regard to the development and maintenance of the indicator system linked to the treaty reporting system.
Step 8. End Report
When the feedback reports are finalised these will be handed over to Focal Point in the reporting procedure, which will write an End Report evaluating the total process used to elaborate the specific country report. The evaluation will include the identification of success and failures and conclude the lessons learned and recommendations for future country report projects. The end report will be the point of departure for the kick off document (Step 1. in the cycle) for the next report. Furthermore, the End Report will consist of a list of all the relevant indicators which will be monitored and measured on before the next report.
Step 9. Monitoring
Step 9 illustrates the monitoring, which will take place as part of the resort ministries and other operators day-to-day operations using the indicator system as a management tool.
In an effective system of reporting, the focal point for each country is responsible for managing the reporting process. There are numerous activities which need to be done before finalizing the report. For each of these activities a timeframe should be set in order for the report to be presented in a timely manner - programming activities. Finally, and maybe most importantly, every activity should be assigned to a specific actor who has the responsibility for delivering the activity within the decided timeframe. When we talk about a big number of activities with many responsible actors, a good way of managing the reporting process is by using tables (Gant Charts/"Gantogrammes") as can be seen in the reporting plans.