1. The Committee on World Food Security (CFS), at its Twenty-third Session in April 1997, in connection with its request to the Secretariat to prepare a standard reporting format that could be used for monitoring implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action, also asked the Secretariat to provide information on experiences with reporting mechanisms and formats in follow-up to other conferences and conventions.
2. This document provides information on experiences with reporting mechanisms and formats in follow-up to thirteen conferences and conventions.
3. There are wide variations in the programmes of work undertaken to implement the recommendations of the different conferences and conventions, and the institutional arrangements for monitoring and reporting by governments have varied, correspondingly. In some cases, such institutional arrangements are still to be developed. In most cases, governments and international organizations and institutions are expected to provide reports on progress made annually in implementation; reports on emerging issues, trends and new approaches; and an in- depth review and appraisal of implementation every five or seven to eight years. In some cases, there is a provision for the preparation of country profiles or summaries based on national plans of action or measures taken to implement the outcomes of the conferences/conventions.
4. The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGFRA) monitors the implementation of the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources (GPA). The reporting mechanisms for implementing GPA are yet to be developed, although the Technical Working Group of the CGFRA on GPA, at its first meeting in early 1999, may develop a reporting format for consideration at the Eighth Session of the Commission.
5. Follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action is managed by the Commission on the Status of Women. No formal reporting has been established, but all states are required to develop a national Plan of Action. Some 91 national and five regional/sub-regional action plans had been received by the Division for Advancement of Women (DAW) of the United Nations Secretariat by the beginning of March 1998. These have been compiled into one-page summaries and circulated to the Commission members. It is expected that additional action plans, as well as revisions to existing plans and reports on the status of their implementation will be received in the run-up to the review of the Beijing conference which will take place in the year 2000. Preparations for the review are expected to gain momentum in 1999 but at present it is not known whether a standardised format for the review process will be agreed upon.
6. No established format was provided for governments to report on their implementation of the Commitments of the Social Summit. However, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has invited Heads of State and Government to share actions taken in this regard with the Secretariat. About 110 countries have responded, using varying formats, lengths and details. The United Nations General Assembly has decided to hold a Special Session in the year 2000 for the overall review and appraisal of the outcome of the Summit. A Preparatory Committee has been established, which is scheduled to hold an organisational session in May 1998. At this session the Secretariat will make proposals on a format for national reporting on the implementation of the Commitments.
7. The Convention to Combat Desertification came into force on 26 December 1996. At its First Session held in September 1997, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention adopted "Procedures for the Communication of Information and Review of Implementation". Each Party is required to report on the measures taken towards implementing the Convention; affected country Parties are required to report on strategies established and programmes implemented, including at the sub-regional and/or regional levels. The developed country Parties, and relevant bodies of the United Nations system as well as other inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations are expected to report on their activities in support of the Convention.
8. Reports on national action programmes are expected to include information on strategies and priorities, measures taken and financial and technical assistance received or given.
9. Reports on joint, sub-regional and regional action programmes are expected to provide information on areas of cooperation under a programme and measures taken or planned.
10. Reports by affected developed country Parties not preparing action programmes are expected to include information on strategies and priorities for combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought and relevant information on their implementation.
11. Reports are submitted to the Permanent Secretariat at least six months
prior to the session at which they are to be reviewed. The Conference of
the Parties is scheduled to review the reports of affected African country
Parties at its Third Session, and of affected country Parties in other regions
at its Fourth Session. Such rotation would also apply to subsequent sessions.
Developed country Parties would report at each session on measures taken
to assist action programmes of those affected developing country Parties
reporting at the session. Relevant funds and programmes of the United Nations
as well as other inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations would
be invited to do likewise.
12. The Permanent Secretariat is expected to compile the summaries of reports submitted and, at each ordinary session of the Conference of the Parties, summarise the conclusions of the review process.
13. No reporting is required by countries under the Plan of Action of ICPD. However, governments are asked to report on population policies every seven or eight years. Governments may also submit voluntary reports as part of the annual monitoring on a special theme carried out by the Commission on Population and Development, and reported to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations General Assembly. The Population Division of the United Nations will prepare a quinquennial review and appraisal.
14. UNFPA, the lead agency for follow-up and monitoring of implementation in developing countries of the ICPD Plan of Action, will organise an international forum of countries receiving assistance in February 1999. The forum will review national and international experience, the results of the country-level operational review carried out by UNFPA, and the key issues emerging therefrom, with an emphasis on analysis of operational experience in implementing the Plan of Action at the country level. Documentation for the forum will be provided by the quinquennial review and by round tables and technical meetings being organised by UNFPA to review programme experience at the national and international levels.
15. In adopting the World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition, the governments of 159 countries agreed to prepare or revise national plans of action for nutrition. By the end of 1994, many countries had provided summary progress reports on the development of national plans of action for nutrition. These were used in the preparation of the follow-up report of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) that was presented to the FAO Committee on Agriculture in 1995. Countries have since been invited to report progress made in achieving all goals of the ICN. An indicator of the kinds of information to be included in the country progress reports was given by FAO and similar requests were made to all agencies and bodies of the United Nations involved in nutrition activities.
16. Responsibility for monitoring UNCED follow-up has been given to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). National reporting is voluntary and related to implementation of Agenda 21. In 1994, 1995 and 1996, the Secretariat of the Commission prepared guidelines for national reporting specific to the agenda of each session of the Commission. Each session reviewed a cluster of chapters of Agenda 21. The information received from governments was used to prepare relevant reports and background documents for the above mentioned years.
17. For 1997, the General Assembly requested Member States, on a voluntary basis, to prepare country profiles providing information on the implementation of all 40 chapters of Agenda 21. For this purpose, the Secretariat designed a common format; analysed and synthesised the information already received from countries in 1994, 1995 and 1996; and prepared draft country profiles based on this synthesis. The drafts were sent to the respective countries for verification and updating. By March 1998, 101 country profiles had been received.
18. While no standardised reporting format has been established, the country profiles in general provided factual information on coordination mechanisms for sustainable development and a status report for each of the 40 chapters of Agenda 21, covering national strategy and activities, decision-making structure, capacity-building and technology issues, information on finance and regional/international cooperation, and statistical data/indicators, and policies, programmes and legislation consistent with Agenda 21.
19. In 1997, the Commission also decided on a new programme of work for the next five years (1998-2002) covering key issues. These issues were discussed at the Sixth Session of the CSD which took place in April 1998. Information provided during the CSD Session is being used to update the country profiles. New guidelines for future reporting have also been forwarded to all Member States. At the same time, a United Nations system-wide Web Site on Sustainable Development has been established. The site organises the country profiles, country-by-country and issue-by-issue, and is updated as national information is received.
20. The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity decided that the first national reports should focus on the measures taken for the implementation of Article 6 of the Convention, "General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use", as well as on the information available in national country studies on biological diversity. Guidelines were suggested for national reporting on the implementation of Article 6; they provide a format for reporting on the development of national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity or the adaptation of existing strategies, plans or programmes, reflecting, inter alia, the measures set out in the Convention.
21. In addition to the national reports, Parties have been requested to provide further inputs on specific areas (e.g. thematic and cross-cutting areas) addressed under the Convention. To assist developing country Parties in the preparation of their national reports, COP has also urged that financial resources be made available for this purpose.
22. The first national reports were due to be submitted not later than 1 January 1998. By the beginning of March 1998, some 70 national reports had been received by the Secretariat. It was planned that the Fourth Session of the COP would decide on the frequency and content of future national reports.
23. Guidelines for reporting by Parties included in Annex I to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and by Non-annex Parties are contained in the "Report of the Second Session of the Conference of the Parties". The guidelines are designed to facilitate the process of considering the national communications, including the preparation of technical analysis and synthesis. Communications are required to address all Convention obligations including those relating to adaptation, research, education and other actions, in addition to those to limit emissions and enhance carbon sinks, and regarding all anthropogenic emissions and removals of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol.
24. The Parties included in Annex I are also required to provide:
25. There are separate guidelines for Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention. These call for a national inventory of anthropogenic emissions by source and removal by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol and a general description of steps taken or envisaged by the Party to implement the Convention.
26. For monitoring and reporting progress on the implementation of the Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children, progress reports are not required from governments but regional mechanisms and arrangements have been established to review progress. Under these arrangements, the national coordinating ministers of concerned countries in a region meet every two years and review jointly the progress. The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) also maintains a central database on the mid-decade and end-decade goals. Once every year, country-specific data is shared with the UNICEF country offices with a request to review and update the data in the light of the latest information available, and on the basis of supportive documentation provided for assessment by the technical staff in New York.
27. In response to the request made in the Plan of Action for a mid-decade review, to be carried out at all appropriate levels, the Secretary-General of the United Nations informed Heads of State/Governments of the review and requested their support in February 1996 to ensure that national reviews be undertaken with the participation of sub-national authorities and NGOs. UNICEF, in collaboration with other partners, has also developed the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) methodology for collecting data on mid-decade goals. About 60 MICSs have been carried out in different regions. The information has been used along with other data for technical reviews of progress together with the World Health Organization (WHO) on health and nutrition goals, and with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on education goals.
28. At the same time, UNICEF sent out a questionnaire in 1996 to country offices to gather qualitative information on support received from other multilateral and bilateral development agencies and from NGOs.
29. To ensure the preparation of the national reports as a follow-up to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is responsible for providing general guidance to the States Parties. Each State Party prepares a report within one year of ratification of the convention, which is called the initial report, following which reports are made every five years.
30. The reports of the States Parties are considered by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, established by the General Assembly. The Committee makes observations and draws conclusions on the progress of the various conventions on the Rights of the Child, and, if necessary, requests the States Parties to examine them and report back at an agreed time. These reports are generally published by the Secretariat of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
31. The Programme of Action of the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) recommended that countries undertake to collect on a regular basis quantitative data, develop appropriate indicators on a number of specific items pertaining to progress on agrarian reform and rural development and report on changes to these indicators at every session of the FAO Conference. Accordingly, FAO prepared guidelines to assist countries in developing indicators for monitoring and evaluation of agrarian reform and rural development. Subsequent activities resulted in improving the scope and purpose of the guidelines, which advocate a practical and cost-effective method for applying key indicators of rural poverty and improving statistical programmes. In 1994, in an attempt to reduce the workload for the reporting countries, a new monitoring and evaluation questionnaire was developed that focused on those areas in which the country information was lacking in existing United Nations reporting mechanisms.
32. The Covenant was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966 and came into force in 1976. Compliance by States Parties with their obligations under the Covenant is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which was established in 1985. Under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant, Parties undertake to submit progress reports to the Committee within two years of the entry into force of the Covenant, and thereafter once every five years, outlining the legislative, judicial, policy and other measures which they have taken. Parties are also requested to provide detailed data on the degree to which the rights are implemented and areas where particular difficulties have been faced. The Committee has assisted the reporting process by providing States with a detailed set of reporting guidelines specifying the type of information the Committee requires in order to monitor compliance with the Covenant effectively. These guidelines are being further revised in order to reflect more fully the issues dealt with by the major world conferences held in recent years.
33. As has been shown above, there are wide variations in the procedures evolved for monitoring and reporting by governments on the national implementation of the outcomes of international conferences and conventions. Based on its experience in organising procedures for national reporting of the outcome of UNCED, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs has made a number of pertinent suggestions. These include the need to establish baseline information and make it accessible, for example on the Internet; update the information on the basis of a multi-year programme of work, so that in, for example, five years, the baseline information is completely up-to-date; and try to minimise the work that countries have to do.