Document Type


Publication Date



Human rights treaty bodies have been frequently criticized as useless and the regime’s self-reporting procedure widely viewed as a whitewash. Yet very little research explores what, if any, influence this periodic review process has on governments’ implementation of and compliance with treaty obligations. We argue oversight committees may play an important role in improving rights on the ground by providing information for international and primarily domestic audiences. This paper examines the cumulative effects on women’s rights of self-reporting and oversight review, using original data on the history of state reporting to and review by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CmEDAW). Using a dynamic approach to study the effects of the periodic review process, we find that self-reporting has a significant positive effect on women’s rights. We explore three clusters of evidence for the domestic mobilization mechanism: information provision through domestic civil society organizations; publicity and critique through the domestic media; and parliamentary attention, debate, and implementation of recommendations. This is the first study to present positive evidence on the effects of self-reporting on rights and to describe the mechanisms that link Geneva bodies with local politics. Our findings challenge the received wisdom that the process of reporting to these treaty bodies is basically useless.


International relations, international law, human rights treaties, treaty compliance & violation, self-reporting procedure, periodic review process, compliance with treaty obligations, discrimination against women, women’s rights, mechanisms that link Geneva bodies with local politics

Publication Title

Law & Contemporary Problems

Publication Citation

81:4 Law & Contemp. Probs. 31 (2018).