Thanks to the tireless efforts and insistence of the human rights-related NGOs in Taiwan – especially Covenants Watch – the government was persuaded to install a unique “local model” of the international review process, which not only follows relevant UN guidelines in general but also allows for adaptations.
The review process involves three main actors: international experts, the Government and NGOs. Instead of reporting to the UN Treaty Bodies, the Taiwanese Government invites a group of international experts chosen by the civil society to conduct a review on its state reports every four years. Each review meeting occurs in Taipei and takes approximately five days. In contrast, review meetings in Geneva last only 1.5 days. In addition, NGOs are granted the right to speak in nearly one-third of the local treaty review sessions. Such a thorough and constructive dialogue enables the International Review Committee to carefully analyze the issues and come up with a Concluding Observations and Recommendations (COR) that will be followed up in the next round, which is similar to the UN reporting cycle.
Common Core Document
The Common Core Document provides international experts with basic data of a country on which they conduct the treaty review. The document will include legal and political structure, economic situations, demographic statistics, along others. The first Common Core Document of a country is often reused and referred to during following sessions.
Parallel Reports on the Common Core Document
The Parallel Reports on the Common Core Document are issued by the civil society, especially by NGOs, in order to supplement a country’s information which is not mentioned in the Common Core Document issued by the government.
The State Report is a document by which the government describes the domestic situations. The document will include explanations on the current domestic situations related to the treaty, and national measures and policies taken based on the State Obligations under the treaty. The information will be explained for each article with quantitative data. According to the Human Rights Council, a State is required to report on human rights situations in their territory as well as under their jurisdiction.
Parallel Reports on the State Report
Parallel Reports on the State Report are issued by NGOs and other groups from the civil society. The document will supplement information on national implementation, especially information which is not mentioned in the State Report submitted by the government. Some governments tend not to mention unfavorable information in their State Report, and this parallel report will help enhance the credibility of information presented by the government.
List of Issues
According to the information provided in the State Report and its Parallel Reports, the review committee will raise treaty-specific questions and issue a document called List of Issues (LOIs). In case that a country does not submit a State Report in a review process, this document will serve as a tool of urging the country to report its domestic human rights situation.
Replies to List of Issues
In response to the List of Issues, the government will submit their answers and additional information to the questions raised by the Review Committee. The State may also explain their difficulties fulfilling the obligations under the treaty or their standpoints regarding certain provisions.
Parallel Replies to List of Issues
Just as the aforementioned Parallel Reports, the civil society led by NGOs will submit a list of answers in response to the List of Issues submitted by the Review Committee. By doing so, the Review Committee and the Government will have more accurate and holistic information on how the domestic situations can and should be improved by the next treaty review session.
Concluding Observations and Recommendations
After the extensive considerations by the Review Committee on the domestic implementation of the treaty, the Committee will issue a Concluding Observations and Recommendations (CORs). The document will consist of four parts: an introduction, positive aspects, concerns and recommendations. Although the recommendations by the Committee are not legally-binding, the interpretations and opinions expressed on CORs are often referred to in upcoming review sessions, and therefore, should not be underestimated.