What are concluding observations?

Concluding observations and recommendations can be defined as comments and remarks that human rights treaty bodies compile based on the assessment of country reports, dialogues, and any other information received on the human rights situation of a country in question. While the concluding observations are not legally binding, state parties are expected to consider the implementation of these observations in their subsequent reports to the African Commission. Concluding observations usually highlight positive aspects of the implementation of a treaty and where the state needs to improve on and take further action. They also provide a strong basis upon which civil society groups can hold governments accountable for the guarantee of rights.

Concluding observations available by country

What is the role of NGOs and civil society in the state reporting process?

Article 45 (1)(c) of the African Charter grants the African Commission an opportunity to co-operate with other African and international organisations with the mandate to protect and promote human rights across the globe. This opportunity inspired the granting of ‘observer’ status to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations upon due application and consideration. The African Commission’s resolution 30(5) stipulates that an advantage that NGOs and civil society organisations derive from such ‘observer status’ is the preparation of ‘shadow’ reports on the human rights situation in their countries.

A shadow report is usually an organised and independent body of information compiled by NGOs and civil society organisations detailing the human rights situation in a particular country. A shadow report is expected to provide an accurate and comprehensive account of the human rights situation specifically explaining measures that the government has taken but importantly not taken (which it is legally bound by ratification to take) in implementing the provisions of a treaty. The report could be employed as an instrument for monitoring the progress made by governments on the human rights situation of respective states.  

The shadow report could serve two important purposes:

  1. The shadow report provides a means through which the African Commission can get a reliable and impartial picture of the human rights situation in a country.
  2. The shadow report assists the African Commission in its constructive engagement and dialogue with state parties upon consideration of reports.

Shadow and Alternative Reports are often used interchangeably. The distinction is that the African Commission recognises a shadow report when it is submitted as a parallel report to ‘shadow’ or to supplement a state report by providing information that is not reported or under-reported. However, the African Commission is yet to recognise the report as an alternative report that is submitted when/if a particular state party/ government is either late or fails to submit its state report.