In the context of international processes, “government reports” are documents issued by institutions representing one or more spheres of public administration operating within a territorial state.
In the context of global processes to review states’ performance of a treaty or compliance with other commitments, both the text of treaties and established practice call for states to submit reports on the implementation of corresponding obligations and/or commitments.
For example, the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) refers simply to state party “reports” to be submitted periodically. However, the “Harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties” advise states to involve local governmental departments at the central, regional and local levels and, where appropriate, at the federal and provincial levels in the preparation of periodic reports (para. 50).
The authors of such submissions are the duty holders (committed parties) and, therefore, their submissions are considered “government reports.”
“National reports” are submissions that present the combined views and findings of a broad range of stakeholders, including but not limited to those of government officials and institutions, the private sector, civil society and academia.
In the context of the Habitat III process, for example, states are expected to submit “national reports” as inputs to the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban [Human Settlements] Development, which will take place in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. This reporting practice conforms to that established in the Habitat II (1996) preparation process, as well as fulfills the Habitat II commitment of “assessing progress” in implementing the Habitat II commitments (paras. 51–52, 222, 241).