An “alternative report” is the technical name given to:
- A country-specific report;
- On the situation of children’s rights as defined under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children (OPSC) and/or its Optional Protocol on Children involved in Armed Conflict (OPAC);
- Submitted by an individual, a group or an organisation, which is independent from the government;
- to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
It is not an official term and children’s rights defenders have called their reports “complementary”, “supplementary”, “NGO” or “NHRI” reports. The only term which should be avoided is “shadow report” as it can have negative connotations and compromise the legitimacy of the report.
Children who act as children’s rights defenders – because they are part of child-led organisations or groups, or act as children’s representatives – can also submit an alternative report, films, studies, photographs, drawings, or use any other means they feel appropriate to express their views. If they cannot – or do not want to – submit a product of their own, they can contribute to an alternative report drafted by adults. Whichever option they choose, their engagement must follow the 9 principles established by the Committee’s working methods on child participation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alternative Reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
1. When can I start preparing an alternative report?
You can start working on your alternative report at any time, provided that it contains the most up-to-date information by the time of the deadline for submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
In fact, the earlier you start, the more time you will have to design and implement an elaboration plan addressing the following questions:
- Which children’s rights will you cover in your report?
- How can you collect data? Is it enough to do desk research or do you need to undertake a nation-wide consultations?
- Which experts and stakeholders do you need to consult or get inputs from
- Will you involve children in the elaboration of your report? If so, which children and why? Do you want to involve them in the design of your elaboration plan? At which level will you involve them?
2. What should an alternative report contain?
Alternative reports must contain information on the situation of children’s rights as defined under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), its Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children (OPSC) and/or its Optional Protocol on Children involved in Armed Conflict (OPAC) in a given country and how that State implements its children’s rights obligations.
Alternative reports are meant to complement States’ reports, which tackle all children’s rights comprehensively. This is the reason why alternative reports should also be comprehensive reports and why children’s rights defenders working on different children’s rights issues are strongly encouraged to work together as national coalitions to produce one comprehensive alternative report.
Alternative reports on one or a limited number of issues are also accepted but their authors are less likely to be invited by the Committee to its pre-session.
- Alternative reports should cover the period from the last Committee’s Concluding Observations until the deadline for submission of the alternative report.
- Even if a State report integrates the implementation of the OPAC and/or the OPSC, children’s rights defenders can decide to submit a separate report on one or both Protocols, if they deem it relevant.
What is the added value of preparing one comprehensive alternative report?
Working together with other children’s rights defenders in your country to produce a joint comprehensive alternative report will:
- Increase the credibility of the report and your organisation;
- Foster the identification of new allies and creation of coalitions;
- Trigger a debate on the situation of children’s human rights in the country;
- Promote a holistic and coordinated follow-up of the recommendations of the Committee;
- Provide solid information to the Committee in preparation of its dialogue with the State
3. How should it be structured?
Since alternative reports are meant to complement State reports, they should follow the same structure, i.e. be organised by clusters of rights and not by article of the Convention or of its Protocols. This will help the Committee to read alternative reports and the State’s report together and check them against the previous Concluding Observations.
Check the official reporting guidelines for States for CRC reports, OPAC reports, OPSC reports, as well as our Guide for NGOs reporting to the Committee and our Guide on Reporting on OPSC and OPAC to learn more about how to structure your own report.
The Committees welcomes and values child participation. We recommend that children present their own report as a submission in itself rather than as an annex to an NGO’s report. It is possible to add a short introduction to explain how the children’s report is complementary to the NGO’s submission, if need be.
4. Which language can I write my alternative report in?
Alternative reports can be submitted in English, French, or Spanish – the three working languages of the Committee. However, in practice, submitting an alternative report in only one of these languages means that not all Committee members will be able to read it (the United Nations do not translate alternative reports).
It is therefore highly recommended to submit a full English version of your report (the most common working language of Committee members), as well as summaries with your key recommendations in French and Spanish (for those who cannot read English), when possible.
5. Can I include photos in my alternative report?
Yes, you can include photos but only to illustrate an issue of concern, such as the conditions of school buildings, classrooms, health centres, alternative care settings, detention facilities, etc., not for shock value. Reports that are submitted for publication on OHCHR’s website should not contain names, personal details, photos or any other information that might identify an individual child or violate the privacy rights of a child in any way. If it is impossible to have a photo illustrating an issue of concern without a child on it, his/her face should be blurred and the child should not be identifiable.
6. How do I submit an alternative report to the Committee?
7. What is the deadline to submit an alternative report?
You will find the official deadlines for the submission of alternative reports on the Committee’s webpage.
Deadlines for submission of alternative reports
8. I have missed the official deadline. What can I do?
You can still submit your report: our secured online platform is always open.
However, please note that only the organisations that submit reports in accordance with the official deadlines can be invited to participate in the pre-session of the Committee.
9. What happens to my alternative report once I submit it? Is it kept confidential or is it made public?
After you submit your alternative report through our secured online platform, the Secretariat of the Committee at OHCHR downloads it and transmits it to the Committee.
Your report is kept confidential unless you agree to have it published on the Committee’s webpage when you submit your report online by ticking the appropriate box. If you did not agree to have it published when you submitted your report but have changed your mind or would like to have another version made public, please send your report directly to firstname.lastname@example.org after your country pre-session.
OHCHR publishes all authorised alternative reports at once after the pre-session. If you have authorised the publication of your report and don’t see it online after the pre-session of the country concerned, please contact OHCHR directly at: email@example.com.
Reports that are submitted for publication on OHCHR’s website should not contain names, personal details, photos or any other information that might identify an individual child.
Tips when drafting your alternative report
See FAQ 2 for more background info on the content of an alternative report.
The report should include:
- A title page.
- A table of contents based on the official reporting guidelines for States (clusters of rights, see the info box).
- The list of authors and contributors.
- An explanatory note on the methodology followed for the drafting of the report.
- A summary of your key recommendations at the end of each cluster.
- The watermark “CONFIDENTIAL”, if necessary.
- Page numbers.
The report should have a maximum of 10,000 words for comprehensive reports, or a maximum of 3,000 words for thematic reports, excluding annexes, even if it covers the CRC and OPAC and/or OPSC.
The report should contain:
- A summary explanation of the main areas of concerns, key issues, challenges and recommendations.
- Objective and evidence-based information on: the national context, the implementation of previous Committee’s recommendations, the main areas of concerns, the State’s report (comments on the information provided, gaps in the State report), legislation, policies, programmes and other relevant actions (gaps and good practices).
- Disaggregated data, statistics and emblematic cases.
- Suggested solutions and recommendations to the State (including existing recommendations to the State by other UN and regional human rights mechanisms, when relevant).