Short for Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women according to abbreviationfinder, CEDAW is the body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is made up of 23 women’s rights experts from around the world. The countries that have adhered to the treaty (States Parties) have the obligation to submit periodic reports to the Committee regarding the application of the rights protected by the Convention. At its meetings, the Committee examines the reports and makes its concerns and recommendations to each State Party in the form of concluding observations.
Pursuant to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, the Committee has a mandate to: (1) receive: communications from persons or groups of persons who submit complaints about violations of the rights protected by the Convention and (2) initiate investigations into cases of serious or systematic violations of women’s rights. These procedures are optional and are only available if the State concerned has agreed to them.
The Committee also makes general recommendations and suggestions. The general recommendations are sent to the States and deal with articles or topics that appear in the Conventions.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was approved by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1979. This international human rights treaty defines discrimination against women as “all distinction, exclusion or restriction based on sex which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, regardless of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural and civil spheres or in any other field” (article 1). The Convention obliges States Parties to eliminate discrimination against women in public and private life, including what occurs within the family. The 16 substantive articles of the Convention set out the specific areas of discrimination that particularly affect women, and establish the means of eliminating discrimination in said areas. As of October 2007, the number of States Parties to the Convention was 185.
Article 17 of the Convention establishes the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, composed of experts with the mandate to review the progress made in the implementation of the Convention. The Committee has carried out this monitoring function primarily through the examination of reports submitted by States parties (article 18 of the Convention). In its first 25 years, the Committee has considered 401 reports submitted by 154 States parties.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention—which entered into force on December 22, 2000—has added to the other functions of the Committee a quasi-judicial role through a procedure for filing communications by individuals. As of October 2007, the Committee has carried out the registration of 16 communications, in relation to which it has adopted a decision on its merits in five cases and has declared the communication inadmissible in another five cases. The other procedure introduced by the Optional Protocol is the investigation procedure, which allows the Committee to initiate, motu proprio, investigations into cases of serious or systematic violations of women’s rights. So far, the Committee has only conducted one such investigation.
The Committee is made up of 23 experts appointed by the States Parties to the Convention and elected by secret ballot for a four-year term; experts can be reappointed and reelected. The members of the Committee perform their duties as independent experts in a personal capacity. Since the first election held on April 16, 1982, 107 women and 3 men (two from Sweden and one from the Netherlands) have been members of this body. The experts have been nationals of 110 countries: 27 from the Group of Asian States; 24 from the Group of Western European and Other States; 23 from the Group of African States; 23 from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States; and 12 from the Group of Eastern European States. Throughout the 25 years of the Committee’s existence,
Under article 18 of the Convention, the States Parties undertake to submit, within one year from the date of ratification of or accession to the Convention, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or of other nature that they have adopted to implement the Convention, as well as on the factors and the difficulties with which they have faced. Thereafter, they must submit periodic reports at least every four years and also when requested by the Committee. The Committee examines these reports in the framework of a constructive dialogue with the representatives of the State party.
Article 21 of the Convention authorizes the Committee to make suggestions and recommendations based on the examination of the reports and data transmitted by the States Parties. To date, the Committee has approved 25 general recommendations aimed at clarifying articles of the Convention or specific related issues.
Article 20 of the Convention establishes that the Committee normally meets every year for a period of two weeks. An amendment to the Convention intended to extend the meeting period of the Committee shall enter into force as soon as it has been accepted by a two-thirds majority of the States Parties. As of October 2007, 49 States Parties had accepted this amendment. In the meantime, the General Assembly has repeatedly approved the extension of the Committee’s meeting period. Until 1996 (the fourteenth session), the Committee met once a year, usually in January or February. From 1997 to 2005, the Committee held two sessions each year, usually in January/February and June/July (16th to 33rd sessions). In 2002, the Committee held a third session in that year, extraordinary, in the month of August. Since 2006, the Committee has held three sessions each year, in January/February, May/June and July/August (34th to 39th sessions). In 2006, one session was held in parallel rooms, and in 2007 two sessions were held in parallel rooms, allowing the Committee to consider the reports of 69 States parties, as opposed to the 48 reports it would have been able to consider if I would not have used the system of meetings in parallel rooms.
Until 1993, the Committee met alternately once a year in Vienna and New York. Since 1994, and following the relocation of its secretariat (the Division for the Advancement of Women) from Vienna to New York, it has met only at United Nations Headquarters in New York. In October 2006, the Secretary-General decided that the United Nations would better serve its common goals if the responsibility for servicing the Committee were transferred from the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in United Nations Headquarters in New York to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. That transfer will take place in January 2008.
A total of 138 experts have served as members of the Committee since 1982. The officials of the Committee occupy a Presidency, three Vice-Presidencies and a Rapporteurship. The appointed holders perform their functions for a period of two years and can be re-elected “provided that the principle of rotation is respected.”
List of Committee members, from January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2022:
- Ms Gladys Acosta Vargas (Vice President), Peru, expires on 12/31/2022
- Ms Hiroko Akizuki, Japan, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Tamader Al-Rammah, Saudi Arabia, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Nicole Ameline (Vice President), France, expires 12/31/2020
- Gunnar Bergby, Norway, expires 12/31/2020
- Ms Marion Bethel, Bahamas, expires 12/31/2020
- Ms Louiza Chalal, Algeria, expires on 12/31/2022. (On November 6, 2014, Chalal was appointed a member of the Committee, following the death of Kheira Mahdjoub-Ouiguini (whose term was from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2018). Ms. Mahdjoub-Ouiguini had been elected a member of the Committee on June 26, 2014, but passed away on September 6 of the same year.)
- Ms Esther Eghobamien-Mshelia, Nigeria, expires on 12/31/2020. (On March 1, 2018, Ms. Eghobamien-Mshelia was appointed to the Committee for the late term of Theodora Oby Nwankwo (i.e. January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2020) who had been re-elected as Committee member on June 21, 2016 and passed away on December 9, 2016)
- Ms Naéla Gabr, Egypt, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Hilary Gbedemah (Chairperson), Ghana, expires 12/31/2020
- Ms Nahla Haidar, Lebanon, expires 12/31/2020
- Mrs Dalia Leinarte, Lithuania, expires on 12/31/2020
- Ms Rosario G. Manalo, Philippines, expires 12/31/2020
- Lia Nadaraia (Rapporteur), Georgia, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Aruna Devi Narain, Mauritius, expires on 12/31/2022. (In a letter dated May 16, 2017, Pramila Patten informed the Chairman of the Committee, Dalia Leinarte, of her decision to withdraw from the Committee. Ms. Patten had been re-elected as a member of the Committee at the 18th Meeting of the States Parties in the Convention, held on June 26, 2014, for a term expiring on December 31, 2018. On May 17, 2017, the President notified the Secretary General that Ms. Patten had resigned. General asked the Government.)
- Ms Ana Pelaez Narvaez, Spain, expires on 12/31/2022
- Ms Bandana Rana (Vice President), Nepal, expires 12/31/2020
- Ms Rhoda Reddock, Trinidad and Tobago, expires 12/31/2022
- Elgun Safarov, Azerbaijan, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Wenyan Song, China, expires 12/31/2020
- Ms Genoveva Tisheva, Bulgaria, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Franceline Toe Bouda, Burkina Faso, expires 12/31/2022
- Ms Aicha Vall Verges, Mauritania, expires on 12/31/2020
The persons elected to the Committee are the candidates who obtain the highest number of votes and an absolute majority of the votes of the representatives of the States Parties present and voting.
The Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is established under article 17 of the Convention. It is made up of 23 experts elected by secret ballot by the States Parties. The Committee’s task is to examine the reports submitted by the States Parties in accordance with article 18 of the Convention.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention, which entered into force in December 2000, empowers the Committee to examine communications submitted by individuals or groups of individuals alleging violations of the Convention by States parties to the Convention and the Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol also empowers the Committee ex officio to investigate serious or systematic violations of the Convention in the States parties, in cases where such a procedure is applicable, in accordance with articles 8 and 10.
The members of the Committee act in their personal capacity and not as representatives of the States Parties that present their candidacy.
The product produced by the Committee in its constructive dialogues with States Parties initially took the form of summaries of the discussions held. Subsequently, the Committee added brief “conclusions” to those summaries. Ultimately, the Committee decided to include “concluding observations” for each State Party whose report was under consideration, with a format and content that has evolved (see sections below). The product of the Committee’s work is contained in its annual reports to the United Nations General Assembly.
The Committee’s concluding observations are country-specific and represent the Committee’s collective views on the status of women and compliance with the Convention in the reporting State. These observations provide detailed guidance on the main areas of concern and on the measures to be taken by the State party to accelerate the implementation of the Convention and promote its compliance. Concluding observations are communicated to the State Party and made public, including in the Committee’s annual report to the General Assembly and on United Nations websites.
- From the second session in 1983 to the 11th session in 1992: the Committee produced summaries of its deliberations with States Parties (so-called “constructive dialogues”).
- 12th session in 1993: the Committee added one or more paragraphs to the summary of the deliberations relating to each of the States parties whose report had been considered during the session. In that section, called “conclusions”, the Committee made general comments on the report of the corresponding State Party and/or on the status of implementation of the Convention.
- 13th session in 1994: the Committee made its first “concluding observations” divided into three sections: positive aspects; main concerns; and suggestions and recommendations. This was added to the summary of the constructive dialogue.
- 14th session in 1995: the Committee added a section, called “introduction”, to its concluding observations. That introductory section contained various elements, such as an assessment of the report and oral presentation made by the State party, the level and preparation of the delegation representing the State party, and recognition of the participation of women’s organizations in the reporting process. A summary of the discussions continued to serve as an introduction to the concluding remarks.
- 15th session in 1996: the Committee added to its concluding observations a section called “factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Convention”. He abandoned the inclusion of summaries of the constructive dialogues. The concluding observations relating to each State Party were preceded on that occasion by a factual summary of the oral presentation made by the corresponding State Party.
- 16th Session in 1997: The Committee decided that its concluding observations would follow the standard pattern that it had established at its 15th Session. The concluding observations would contain the following sections: an “introduction”; a section on “factors and difficulties” to be included only when appropriate; a section on “positive aspects” organized following the articles of the Convention; and a section that would identify the “principal reasons for concern”, described in order of importance in the State Party whose report was considered. The last part of the concluding observations, ie the “suggestions and recommendations”, would include specific suggestions from the Committee in relation to the issues addressed in the concluding observations.
- 19th session in 1998: the Committee decided to streamline the “factors and difficulties” and “positive aspects” parts of the concluding observations. The sections dealing with “principal subjects of concern” and “recommendations and suggestions” were combined into a single section, entitled “principal subjects of concern and recommendations”.
- 27th Session in 2002: The Committee decided that only in very exceptional circumstances would its concluding observations include a section on “factors and difficulties” affecting the implementation of the Convention. Issues such as the persistence of stereotyped attitudes regarding the roles of men and women would not be included in that category. The Committee also decided to include a standard paragraph requesting information on the implementation of aspects of the outcomes of United Nations conferences such as the Fourth World Conference on Women, summit conferences and special review and appraisal sessions.
- 31st session in 2004: the Committee confirmed the following standard format for concluding observations: “introduction”; “positive aspects”; and “principal concerns and recommendations”. A number of standard elements would be included in the ‘introduction’, and a new first paragraph relating to implementation would be included in the section entitled ‘Principal Concerns’. The Committee would also continue the practice of establishing in its concluding observations the date for the submission of the next periodic report, in order to remind States parties of their reporting obligations under article 18 of the Convention.
- Thirty-fourth session in 2006: The Committee abandoned the practice of including a brief factual summary of the State party’s introduction, as such summaries were readily available on the website of the Division for the Advancement of Women. Several standard final paragraphs were also removed, and new standard paragraphs were added. The latter include in particular the paragraphs on the implementation links between the Convention and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Millennium Development Goals.