The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was created according to Article 17 of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the UN General Assembly. As of June 2015, 189 States have ratified the Convention. The Committee is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the implementation of CEDAW by the Convention’s States Parties.

The Committee is made up of twenty-three independent experts, elected by States Parties. They are elected for four years, on the basis of equitable geographic distribution and with regard for representation of the principal legal systems of the world.


The Committee follows a similar procedure to that of other UN human rights treaty bodies: it makes recommendations based on its examination of country reports, though these suggestions are not binding on the concerned State.

The States party to the Convention must submit a report to the Committee one year after the treaty enters into force for that country and then “at least every four years” (Art. 18.2 of CEDAW).

The Committee meets only once a year for “a period of not more than two weeks” (Art. 20 of CEDAW). To complete the work necessary to examine the reports, the Committee established a working group that prepares a list of issues and questions, which are sent in advance to the reporting States. It also has two standing working groups, which meet during the regular sessions and study ways to expedite and reinforce the work of the Committee. Every year, the Committee submits a report of its activities to the UN General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council.

Article 22 of CEDAW states that the specialized agencies of the UN are entitled to be present at the consideration of the reports, and the Committee “may invite the specialized agencies to submit reports on the implementation of the Convention in areas falling within the scope of their activities.” No reference is made to a direct role for NGOs; however, the Committee has recommended that governments cooperate with NGOs in preparing their reports, and, in practice, information received from NGOs and independent agencies is an important factor in the Committee’s assessment of the condition of women in the different States.

On 6 October 1999, the United Nations adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which entered into force on 22 December 2000. This Protocol, ratified in June 2015 by 106 States, recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and examine individual communications. These communications are subject to two conditions: they must not be anonymous, and the individual or group of individuals must have exhausted all local remedies, except where the application of the remedies has been unreasonably prolonged.

The Mandatory Country Reports

The Committee carries control that is of a non-judicial nature. It is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention. Its mandate is binding on States Parties, which are under the obligation to comply with its procedures (Art. 18.1 of CEDAW).

The country reports submitted by the member States Parties inform the Committee of the measures each State has taken to incorporate the provisions of the Convention into its laws and customs and the possible difficulties encountered.

The “suggestions and general recommendations” made by the Committee after the meetings—generally held in public—are included in the Committee’s report to the General Assembly, along with any comments from States Parties.

Human rightsIndividual recourseWomen

List of States Party to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Conventions (no. 24)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

52 rue Paquis

1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Tel.: (41) 22 917 92 39

Fax: (41) 22 917 90 12

For Additional Information: Cartwright, Sylvia. “The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.” In Women and International Human Rights Law , edited by Kelly D. Askin and Dorean M. Koenig, 165–81. Ardsley, NY: Transnational, 2000.

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