UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women supervises the application of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by ratifying member states as well as the implementation of the convention’s Optional Protocol.

The Committee is made up of 23 experts.  Members are nominated and elected by states party to the Convention.  Officially, they work in a personal capacity and do not represent any country or organization.  The current Committee members can be found here.

The Committee typically holds three sessions a year.  It examines initial and periodic reports by ratifying states on “national action taken to improve the situation of women”.  Before each session it holds a five-day working group in which five members of the Committee decide the issues and questions “with regard to the reports the committee will consider at upcoming sessions”.  At the sessions governments present their reports, and the Committee puts questions to the governments on the implementation of the Convention.  The Committee then issues Concluding Comments on each government’s report, which include positive comments as well as concerns and recommendations.

The Committee considers communications from individuals or groups submitting claims of rights abuses by States that have ratified the Optional Protocol, including failure to protect women from abuses by private actors.  Furthermore, under the “inquiry procedure” of the protocol, the Committee can initiate a “confidential investigation” if it receives reliable information of “grave or systemic violations” of rights under the Convention. 

It also issues General Recommendations which “usually elaborate the Committee's view of the obligations assumed [by governments] under the Convention”.  

The Committee primarily considers governmental action on women’s rights issues, but in some instances also refers to impacts of the private sector and other actors.  Committee reports and other statements relating to the private sector include:

General Recommendation No. 13, Equal remuneration for work of equal value

General Recommendation No. 16, Unpaid women workers in rural and urban family enterprises

General Recommendation No. 19, Violence against women

General Recommendation No. 24, Women and health

General Recommendation No. 25, on temporary special measures

In July 2007, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights prepared for UN Special Representative on business & human rights John Ruggie an “Individual Report on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”.  This report “outlines the nature of States Parties’ obligations vis-à-vis corporate activities under the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women…as elaborated by the Committee…”

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