The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women states, under article 22, that the CEDAW Committee may invite specialized agencies of the United Nations to submit reports on the implementation of the Convention for its consideration. It does not expressly give NGOs a role in monitoring its implementation.
However, while there is no formal mechanism that allows NGOs to participate in the official CEDAW sessions, the CEDAW Committee encourages direct NGO input, in the form of alternative reports and informal presentations, to bring women's real concerns to national and international attention. Indeed, reports submitted by States Parties do not always accurately reflect the situation of women in the country concerned; they tend to minimize problems and maximize achievements. By submitting an alternative report to complete the record, non-governmental organizations have a major role to play in providing information on the practical implementation of the Convention.
Considering that the CEDAW Committee members have always a limited amount of time, the alternative report should establish a good framework for developing very specific points for lobbying and should be planned for effectiveness with the CEDAW Committee. The reports should, therefore, identify, if possible, the precise articles of the Convention which relate to the problems or issues to be addressed. The government report being the basis of the CEDAW review, some NGOs, effectively, choose to organize their report as a commentary on the government report.
At the official CEDAW sessions, even if there is no formal procedures for NGO intervention, non-governmental organizations may approach the CEDAW members in several informal ways. The process is relatively open and the members welcome working directly with NGO materials. As for the presessional working group, it recently adopted a practice of asking NGOs from countries submitting periodic reports to orally present information during the presessional working group (which focuses only on periodic reports).
For maximum impact of NGO reports, please refer to the IWRAW document: Producing NGO shadow reports to CEDAW: a procedural guide.