2.3. Review Process

1. Submit the Draft for Internal Review

Share the first draft with the steering committee, the advisory committee, other advisors, the authors of background papers, stakeholders and other experts involved in the creation of the draft. One goal is to check for the appropriate use of data and the quality of the analysis. A stakeholder workshop may also be useful.

The resident representatives and regional directors of the United Nations Development Programme are responsible for protecting the public perception of non-partisanship that should be associated with UNDP and the United Nations, as well as the standard of quality that HDRs should exemplify. They should ensure that HDRs comply with the core principles outlined in the HDR quality assurance guidelines (on the POPP) and the procedures and standards detailed in the most recent UNDP publications policy . They should gauge the quality of the data; the soundness of the analysis; the openness, fairness and impartiality of the arguments; and the coherence and consistency of the recommendations.

HDRs must achieve high standards in the quality of the content, writing, editing, translation, design and printing. The UNDP publications policy describes the standards that all UNDP products and publications should meet to maintain the external image of the organization. The policy is therefore not restricted to HDRs. We highlight here selected points that may be relevant to an HDR. (For more detail, see the full description of the policy.)

Organizational identity

While creativity in the design of UNDP publications is encouraged, it is essential to retain a consistent organizational identity. Thus, all units should comply with the following:

The UNDP logo should appear on the front cover of print publications. The policy on the use of the logo can be found at:

  • Policy on the use of the logo (available for UNDP staff)
  • UNDP logo (available for UNDP staff)
  • In a publication with other partners (such as other United Nations agencies, government institutions, civil society organizations, or private sector entities), all logos should be placed on the same line at either the bottom or the top of the front cover. All logos should be visually equal; no single logo should take precedence.
  • The standard description of UNDP should appear at the beginning or end of each publication. The standard description is available in English, French and Spanish (available for UNDP staff).
    The back cover should list the date of the publication and the contact address for copies and information. Generally, this will be the postal address, phone and fax numbers, and email and website addresses of the UNDP unit.
  • Units should also seek an ISBN or ISSN number. As a rule, all publications for sale should carry an ISBN number.
  • Any maps used in publications should be obtained from the United Nations Cartographic Unit and must carry the following disclaimer:

The designations employed and the presentation of material on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations or UNDP concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

The quality assurance procedure

The quality assurance procedure (available for UNDP staff) has been established to safeguard the quality, relevance, consistency and impact of UNDP products and publications and to promote the corporate identity of UNDP. It is also designed to help raise the visibility of UNDP in donor and programme countries so as to generate support for UNDP.

Each Regional Bureau or Regional Centre is responsible for implementing the quality assurance procedure and for the day-to-day management of quality assurance in the production of publications (such as regional HDRs) and is accountable to the UNDP Administrator. All major UNDP publications, including global and regional HDRs, must be endorsed by the Executive Office before they are published.

Country Offices are expected to apply the quality assurance procedure as well. UNDP resident representatives are responsible for national HDRs and are accountable for the quality of the final product. Key elements of quality assurance include that the report is nationally owned, that the analysis is impartial and high quality, that the preparation was inclusive, and that reports are designed to have an impact.


An effort should be made to produce publications in the working languages of UNDP: English, French and Spanish. If, owing to budget constraints, UNDP publications cannot be translated, offices are encouraged to produce summaries in the appropriate UNDP working languages.

Units should explore the sales potential of publications, drawing on experience within and outside UNDP.

All published reports should be made available online to facilitate advocacy and outreach. This should occur in advance of the launch date for secure and embargoed media outreach, as appropriate. The web posting of each publication should include the following: complete bibliographic information and a note on the languages available, where to obtain the publication, and price, where applicable.

Units should produce a short description of the publication for use in UNDP public information efforts in catalogues and on UNDP websites. Units should also update or revise this information on their own websites.

2. Prepare and Submit a New Draft for External Peer Review

An effort should be made to take on board all reviewers’ comments. If the authors disagree with the comments then they should respond to those who have commented explaining why their comments have not been taken on board.

  • Prepare the text for review by incorporating the feedback from the consultations on the first full draft, adjusting the analysis and sharpening arguments and the principal messages as needed.
  • Share the draft with key outside experts so as to check the analysis and the use of data and to test messages.
  • Every national and regional HDR should be peer reviewed. If relevant, organize a statistical review with technical experts to control for accuracy and methodological rigour. Other experts, including foreign consultants, might also be engaged in the review process.

The review might even be conducted by a peer committee composed of, for example, representatives of partner organizations, the private sector, academia, civil society and policy makers.

The external peer review should be designed to contribute to the impartiality of an HDR. It is therefore fundamental in ensuring the quality and credibility of an HDR, and, for this reason, the peer review process should be described directly in the HDR.

UNDP offers assistance in conducting peer reviews.

3. Prepare and Submit the Final Draft for Executive Review

  • Incorporate feedback from the peer review and related consultations, as appropriate, into the final draft.
  • Summarize the recommendations in one or two locations in the text, usually in front or back, but also in strategic locations within the relevant chapters. Group the recommendations appropriately, but also with a view to drawing the attention of an audience that may not always be willing or able to read the report from cover to cover. Certainly, the chief recommendations should be provided, along with brief, but cogent analysis, in the introduction, overview, or executive summary, whichever of these is available and suitable. Use the introduction, overview, or executive summary to target especially the busy reader who has time only to digest the principal points. For this reason, brief chapter summaries might also be added.
  • Formulate the main messages and position them in a highly visible part of the report. The main messages may encompass the recommendations, but they should also include significant findings and noteworthy data that have proven important in the analysis, particularly new data. Seek the assistance of the follow-up group in identifying the main messages that will be highlighted during the implementation of the media and communications strategy at launch and during follow-up. The follow-up group should play a role in sharpening these messages.
  • Prepare front and back matter. Include the following:
    • Title page and back cover, copyright page, table of contents, foreword (optional), abstract (optional), preface (optional), acknowledgements (optional), list of contributors (optional), list of abbreviations and acronyms (optional), and introduction, overview, or executive summary
    • A description of the HDR preparation process and methodology; this should appear in the introduction
    • Footnotes or endnotes
    • Appendices or annexes (optional): A non-statistical annex contains materials that support an argument, but would encumber the main text if it were added there; examples include summaries of theoretical perspectives, summaries of qualitative data and the related collection methodology, anecdotal material, additional exposition of points in the report, and the text of relevant legislation
    • Glossary of statistical or technical terms (optional)
    • A complete bibliography or reference list of all source material, including data sources (which may be included in the footnotes or endnotes)
    • Index (optional, but recommended)
  • Undertake an executive review. In line with UNDP publications policy, before they are published, national HDRs should be reviewed and endorsed by resident representatives, and regional HDRs should be reviewed by the Office of the Administrator of UNDP. As a practical matter, it is therefore important to keep the Country Office, Regional Bureaux, Regional Centres and the Human Development Report Office informed at critical points throughout the HDR process.
  • The chief statistician at HDRO should be consulted on engagement with national statistics agencies, as well as on the agreement on HDI-related indicators with the United Nations Statistical Commission. HDRO is also often available to review draft HDRs to assess the rigour with which the human development approach and statistical methodologies, particularly the measurement of the HDI and other human development indicators, are applied.
  • In the case of reports deemed politically sensitive, the Regional Bureaux or Regional Centres and HDRO may advise additional review and clearance by the UNDP Office of the Administrator. Political sensitivity can be determined by country-specific circumstances and visibility in international debate. The early distribution of a concept note is critical in managing such a situation in a timely manner.
  • Despite these necessary burdens of review and endorsement, national and regional HDRs should contain a standard disclaimer wherein the authors take full responsibility for the contents of the reports and UNDP, its Executive Board and its member states are disassociated from any responsibility. The disclaimer might take the following form:
  • The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations generally, or United Nations Member States.
  • Author names should not appear on the front cover; they may appear on the inside title page.

4. Establish and Print the Final Product

HDRs range over economic and social issues in detail to frame often complex policy considerations. They therefore do not normally entice a readership among the general public. However, they do seek to draw the attention of busy practitioners, researchers, policy makers and development donors. For this reason, they must stand out within the crowded field of development publications.

To achieve this, a successful HDR should be characterized by engaging language and attractive layout. A presentation that is efficient, but also varied greatly increases the chances that the members of the target audience will pick up an HDR, read it and discover its messages.

Prepare the text. Provide the text to the editor and the translator (if necessary) as follows:

  • Acquire the UNDP style manual and review other national and regional HDRs to determine the appropriate look of the report. Establish a preferred style for report formatting, spelling, references, and so on. Authors, writers, editors and proofreaders should become familiar with the preferred style.
  • Hand the text over to the editor, who should check for consistency and accuracy and ensure that the language and style are tight, harmonious and engaging, conform to the preferred style and the UNDP style manual and reinforce the messages of the report.
  • Assign the copyright owner according to national and international laws and regional practice. Obtain an ISBN for commercial distribution. Ensure that the year of the launch and the year on the cover are the same as the year on the copyright page.
  • Provide information within the text on the method of gaining access to the hard copy and online versions of the report. It has been established in UNDP publications policy that published reports must be made available online prior to media and advocacy outreach. HDRO can assist country offices in posting HDRs online. The existence of the website offers opportunities to use the website as a communication and advocacy tool.
  • Begin the translation of the report, if necessary. The entire report should be available in the main national or regional language and other local languages. An effort should be made also to produce the report in English, French, or Spanish. If this is not financially feasible, key sections and summaries containing the principal messages, findings and recommendations should be translated into local languages and English, French, or Spanish (or all of these).
  • Hand the text over to the designer
  • Turning the elements of an HDR – the analysis, quantitative data, case studies, voices of stakeholders and so on – into a report that is straightforward, but that is eye-catching and stimulates interest requires creativity in layout and design.

The designer should tailor the report as much as possible to appeal to the target audience. The front cover makes the first impression. It should convey the report’s theme in a clear, but intriguing way. Photographs, drawings, maps, or photos can all pique a reader’s curiosity.

If an HDR process has been sufficiently participatory, the points of view of local actors and other people living in communities who regularly come into contact with the themes and issues analysed in the report have been examined. The inclusion of such material lends a fresh, immediate quality that enriches the text and readily draws the attention of readers. (The designer might focus on creating an attractive presentation for this material that resonates with the target audience and adds to the credibility of the report.

The following are some other basic principles:

  • Balance: arrange the page so that the composition of the components – text, tables, boxes, graphics, photos and illustrations, messages and data – appears light and simple, yet varied.
    Consistency: maintain specific presentational styles across like features to help readers recognize and navigate easily through the various components.
  • Contrast: explore the use of size, colour and typeface to add variety.
  • Proximity: present elements close together or far apart to suggest a relationship or a lack of relationship.
  • Judicious use of space: Each design element should have a clear and practical purpose, and contribute to an uncluttered page. Ensure the reader does not become fatigued because pages lack white space and appear crammed with information. Margins can be used to highlight messages or to contain interesting design elements such as titles, photos and artwork.
  • Print the report. In a timely manner, confirm a partnership with HDRO and United Nations publications (see Box 2 below) or a commercial publisher. If an HDR team would like to explore the possibility of relying on a commercial publishing, it should establish the appropriate contacts during the initial steps of HDR preparation. HDRO can offer advice on a publisher and, together with the report team, can investigate using a general commercial publisher, a university press, or a publisher specialized in the social sciences. (Box 2 below provides relevant information from the “HDRO Note on Commercial Publishing”.) Consider proposing the publication to the most prestigious publisher in the country or region. Local publishers likely have better local distribution networks and more experience with local demand. They may offer editing, copyediting, design, production and printing services, along with promotion, sales, copyright registration and reprint agreements. International publishers such as Oxford University Press regularly publish the HDRs of some countries and regions.