The Procedures

 

The procedures of each peer review are outlined in documents adopted by the responsible subsidiary body. The level of procedural detail provided can vary widely, with certain reviews relying more on well-established practice than on formally adopted rules of procedure.

Although each peer review has its own procedure, it is possible to identify a common pattern, consisting of three phases:

The preparatory phase

The first phase of the review often consists of background analysis and of some form of self-evaluation by the country under review. This phase includes work on documentation and data as well as a questionnaire prepared by the Secretariat. The questionnaire, which can be a sophisticated instrument, is sent to the country for responses by the competent authorities or as an agenda for a dialogue in the next phase.

The consultation phase

The examiners and the Secretariat conduct the consultation with a division of responsibility which depends very much on the practice of the body and the topic under review. During this phase, the Secretariat and the examiners maintain close contact with the competent authorities of the reviewed country, and in some cases, they carry out onsite visits. The examiners and the Secretariat are also free to consult with interest groups, civil society and academics.

At the end of this phase, the Secretariat prepares a draft of the final report, which usually follows a standardised model comprising an analytical section, where the country performance is examined in detail and individual concerns are expressed, and an evaluation or summary section setting forth the conclusions and recommendations.

The Secretariat, in most peer review processes, but not always, shares the report in draft with the examiners and with the reviewed country and may make adjustments it considers justified before the draft is submitted to the members of the body responsible for the review.

The assessment phase

The draft report is discussed in the plenary meeting of the body responsible for the review. The examiners lead the discussion, but the whole body is encouraged to participate extensively.

Following discussions, and in some cases negotiations, among the members of the body, including the reviewed State, the final report is adopted, or just noted, by the whole body. Generally, approval of the final report is by consensus, unless the procedures of the particular peer review specify otherwise.

In some cases, the procedures may call for the final report to state the differences among the participants. In some cases, non-governmental organisations also have the opportunity to influence the discussion by submitting papers and documents.

As already mentioned, the final report and particularly its recommendations form an important basis for follow-up monitoring of the performance of the State and, ultimately, for a subsequent peer review. Often, the final report is followed by a press release, which summarises the main issues for the media, and press events or dissemination seminars are organised to publicise the findings of the review.