Since passage of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the U.N. has required mechanisms for reporting on progress Member States are making to eliminate all vestiges of intolerance and discrimination based on its thirty articles. Reporting mechanisms differ depending on whether a human rights document is a binding international treaty called a covenant or convention, or whether it is a non-binding declaration. For instance, Article 40 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCR) says, “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to submit reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognized herein and on the progress made in the enjoyment of those rights.” Article 18 of the ICCPR, “Everyone has a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief,” is included under these reporting requirements.

The 1981 Declaration is non-binding on U.N. Member States. As such, it has no reporting mechanism other than an annual report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. U.N. Special Rapporteurs are non-paid outside experts appointed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, with few staff and even fewer resources with which to write a comprehensive report on the scope and progress of the worldwide 1981 Declaration. The United States of America is the only country that publishes annual reports. The U.S. State Department report on International Religious Freedom reports annually on 192 countries. However, it omits a report on the status of this right within its own country. While an extremely valuable resource, the State Department report shows some bias and does not use the inclusive U.N. phrase freedom of religion or belief.

This makes NGO reports, that use a more inclusive human rights paradigm, all the more important. Citizen reports to the U.N. can make a difference in judging the effectiveness of the 1981 Declaration to promote tolerance and prevent discrimination based on religion or belief. How to Monitor Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief is a model based on community reports, rather than country reports or religious liberty reports that may not reflect inclusiveness. It is based on Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his [her] personality is possible.” The community report thus recognizes the civic responsibility of citizens and the reciprocal relationship between the state, represented by local governments that impact the community, and the religions or beliefs that reside within that community.


To understand the suggested format for writing a community report on freedom of religion or belief under the following four sections:

Community Report Guidelines

  • Section I: The Community Profile
  • Section II: The 1981 U.N. Declaration
  • Section III: Issues and Case Studies
  • Section IV: Proposed Solutions

Following the suggestions of Professor Samuel P. Huntington, the U.N. Community Report uses the 1981 Declaration as a paradigm to order, generalize, understand relationships, distinguish what is important from unimportant, anticipate and at times predict developments, and show a path to achieve a goal. This enables citizens, governments, religions or beliefs and non-governmental organizations from different cultures, countries and communities to dialogue on the specific articles, paragraphs and terms of the 1981 Declaration, and to exchange information on best practices and proposed solutions. And it enables the U.N. to find it more useful in that it follows the exact language and articles of the 1981 Declaration in spite of the lack of a U.N. States Parties mechanism.

1. Community Report Guidelines

The format for a Community Report on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief follows the Shadow Report format for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). A Shadow Report is made by NGO’s in response to treaty-mandated country reports of U.N. Member States who are signatories to CEDAW. They are designed as guidelines to use in evaluating government efforts to meet the obligations of the CEDAW Convention. All Covenants and Conventions that have treaty-based mechanisms follow similar guidelines known as Shadow Reports.

The 1981 U.N. Declaration on Freedom of Religion or Belief, of course, has no report to “shadow” in that there are no country reports by U.N. Member States. And, this is a community report rather than a country report. Nevertheless, it is helpful to follow U.N. procedures in that all community reports will be sent to the U.N. Here is what the International Women’s Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) an NGO in consultation with the U.N. had to say about organizing a Shadow Report:

  • From the CEDAW Shadow Report Guideline: “Organize the report according to articles of the CEDAW Convention rather than according to the issues that most concern NGO’s. However, organizing by article indicates knowledge of the treaty and respect for the Committee’s time. One useful approach is to identify the issues, discuss and prioritize them, and then consider which articles apply. For each issue, it is important to provide examples or evidence of how the issue affects residents of the country and make specific recommendations for addressing the problem.”

Study Exercise: The same format is followed for The UN Community Report Format in Part IV: Supporting Documents. Review it then turn back to this study topic. The format for the report provides the essential information and guidance to the reader. It includes:

1. Title Page

2. Executive Summary

3. Table of Contents

4. Community Report Introduction

5. Section I: The Community Profile

6. Section II: The 1981 U.N. Declaration

7. Section III: Issues & Case Studies

8. Section IV: Proposed Solutions

Following IWRAW guidelines limit the report to no more than 30 pages. The executive summary should include specific language (terms) that the U.N. can use in their studies. It should be no more than three pages and draw attention to particular issues. 11 There should be a brief two or three page introduction to the report explaining how it was written and giving credit to the authors.

Section I: The Community Profile

  • Demographics. The Community Profile introduces the reader to a general picture of what the community is like. Its geography, population, economic indicators, literacy level and political parties. This should include statistics in box form without explanations.
  • Resources. Two or possibly three paragraphs highlighting some of the government and non-governmental contacts that have been made in the research, indicating how some of them will be included in the Global Resources Database and that they are included as important resources for Part IV: Proposed Solutions. The complete community resources list might be included in an addendum.
  • Religion or Belief. There might be a separate section on the demography of religions or beliefs in the community. This would include a list in paragraph form of all the majority and minority religions or beliefs serving the area. One or two paragraphs in the history of religion or belief in the community and any relevant statistics, number of places of worship, religious schools, memberships numbers of the religions or beliefs, etc.

3. Section II: The 1981 U.N. Declaration

 Section II organizes information according to the articles and paragraphs of the 1981 U.N. Declaration, not by issues which come in the next part of the report. There should be an opening introduction to this standard U.N. recognized methodology, with an explanation this summarizes the most important topic notes recorded in the Community Information Database.

  • Articles: A brief introduction to the article and what the research has found is most important to the intent and use of the article in the community. Include a brief overview of each of the paragraphs of the article. Terms or individual components that were broken down for investigation and research are now built back into the article and paragraph summaries for a more reader-friendly report.
  • Paragraphs: Each paragraph of the 1981 U.N. Declaration has a section summarizing the research to meet Huntington’s criteria for distinguishing what terms are important and what are unimportant in predicting developments and achieving the overall goal of promoting tolerance and preventing discrimination based on religion or belief. It should include a summary of how the paragraph is applied in the community, how it relates to other articles and paragraphs, what resources have been used in the research of the terms, and key points for the next section of the report on issues and case studies.

4. Section III: Issues & Case Studies

Section III re-orders component research information on the articles of the 1981 Declaration by issues and case studies for maximum impact. It is where in a reader-friendly way, the community report clearly demonstrates the relationship between the articles, paragraphs and terms, and distinguishes what is important from unimportant. Section III also predicts the general direction issues and case studies may take in the future. There are two parts, issues & case studies.

  • Issues. The first section identifies general issues in the community that may prevent the promotion of tolerance and prevention of discrimination based on religion or belief. It documents and illustrates the issues, but does not specifically identify perpetrators as do the case studies that follow. Issues may include a general sense of intolerance by a community with a majority religion against people of minority religions. However, documentation of the issues, in addition to a general overview of the problem, can include statistics, news clips, provisions of laws and regulations, etc. The issues are numbered in this section to identify them by the same number in Part IV: Proposed Solutions of the report.
  • Case Studies. The second section identifies specific instances of intolerance and discrimination through community case studies. Case studies use the eight articles of the 1981 Declaration paradigm to construct the problem. Cases may range from acts of intolerance to limits places on worship, teaching, observance, to acts of discrimination in employment, health, housing, zoning, etc. Each case study must identify concerns with documentation to illustrate the case. Through the articles of the 1981 Declaration, the case study identifies when, where, who, what and why an alleged incident took place.

5. IV: Proposed Solutions

Treaty-based U.N. Member States country reports have a section on Concluding Remarks and Recommendations. IWRAW Shadow Reports, likewise, have a Concluding Remarks section that suggests the following, “Identify major obstacles and recommend approaches for removing them. Consider the practical approaches to solving the problem. Recommendations for action should be concrete, suggesting specific action.” This is similar to Huntington’s definition of a paradigm. It should show us a path to achieve a goal. Part IV is titled “Proposed Solutions” to indicate this is an action plan or path more proactive then Concluding Remarks.

  • Issues & Case Studies. In the first section each issue and each case study that are listed by number in Part III, have corresponding numbers with proposed solutions in Part IV. This is where the contacts named in the Community Resource List are used to propose specific community solutions to issues and case studies that will improve the promotion of tolerance and prevent discrimination.
  • Best Practices. The second section lists abstracts for the Global Resources Database, programs worthy of replication in other cultures, countries and communities. For global comparative purposes they are listed under the six civic fields identified in Article 4 as effective measures. Best practices might include new curricula, dialogue between diverse beliefs, economic and social programs to eliminate discrimination, new or rescinded legislation, inter-faith or inter-belief service projects in the community, etc.



1. Section I: The Community Profile

Study Community Report Guidelines in Part IV: Supporting Documents. List the name of a community for a report. Write a short paragraph on where to look for community demographics and resources (you are not expected to have a list for this study topic.)

2. Section II: The 1981 U.N. Declaration

Review the outline for Section II: The 1981 U.N. Declaration in The U.N. Community Report Format. Write a statement for Paragraph 1.2: Coercion and Freedom to Choose. Use the U.N. Afghanistan report and Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, as a hypothetical community for this statement.

3. Section III: Issues & Case Studies

Write a brief one sentence description of the general issue confronting Afghanistan based on the U.N. Report. In the rest of the paragraph, create a hypothetical case study specifically describing the Taliban allegedly coercing Sikhs in Kabul. Refer to Paragraph 1.2 as the basis for the incident and then list what information is missing under what articles of the 1981 U.N. Declaration to complete this case study

4. Section IV: Proposed Solutions

 Write a paragraph proposing a solution to the general issue for Afghanistan that you described above. Complete the paragraph by describing a hypothetical “best practices” program for Kabul, under one of the six civic fields in Article 4: Effective Measures.