CEDAW: The Optional Protocol on the Right to Petition
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A Brief Introduction *
What's in it?
The draft optional protocol incorporates the features of existing UN
complaints procedures. It also incorporates some of the practices of other
UN treaty bodies that have developed as their complaints procedures have
The preamble is the introductory part of the Protocol which sets out the
object and purpose of the Protocol. It refers to the principles of equality
and non-discrimination as embodied in the UN Charter, the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, and other international human rights
instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women. It reaffirms the determination of States
parties which adopt the protocol to ensure the full and equal enjoyment by
women of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and to take effective
action to prevent violations of these rights and freedoms."
Establishes that States who become parties to the optional protocol
recognise the competence of the Committee to receive and consider
communications under the protocol.
Provides a Communications Procedure which allows either individuals or
groups of individuals to submit individual complaints to the Committee.
Communications may also be submitted on behalf of individuals or groups of
individuals, with their consent, unless it can be shown why that consent was
Establishes that a communication will only be considered by the Committee if
it concerns a acountry that has become party to the protocol. In addition, a
communication must be submitted in writing and may not be anonymous.
Stipulates admissibility criteria of communications. Before a complaint is
considered, the Committee must determine that all available domestic
remedies have been exhausted and the complaint is not, nor has been examined
by the Committee or has been or is being examined under another procedure of
international investigation or settlement. In addition, a complaint will
only be admissible provided the complaint is compatible with the provisions
of the Convention; is not an abuse of the right to submit a communication;
the claimants' allegations can be substantiated, and the facts presented
occurred after the State party ratified the Protocol.
After receipt of a communication and prior to its final decision, the
Committee has the option of contacting the State Party with an urgent
request that the State Party take steps to protect the alleged victim or
victims from irreparable harm.
Establishes the communications procedure. Where a communication has been
found admissible, the Committee will confidentially bring a communication to
the attention of the State Party, provided the complaint has consented to
disclosure of their identity to the State Party. The State Party is given
six months to provide a written explanation or statement to the complaint.
Outlines the process of complaint consideration. The Committee will examine
and consider all information provided by a complaint in closed meetings. The
Committee's views and recommendations will be transmitted to the parties
concerned. The State Party has six months to consider the views of the
Committee and provide a written response, including remedial steps taken.
The Committee may request further information from the State Party,
including in subsequent reports.
Establishes an inquiry procedure that allows the Committee to initiate a
confidential investigation by one or more of its members where it has
received reliable information of grave or systematic violations by a State
Party of rights established in the Convention. Where warranted and with the
consent of the State Party, the Committee may visit the territory of the
State Party. Any findings, comments or recommendations will be transmitted
to the State Party concerned, to which it may respond within six months.
Establishes a follow-up procedure for the Committee. After the six-month
period referred to in article 8, the State Party may be invited to provide
the Committee with details of any remedial efforts taken following an
inquiry. Details may also be provided in the State Party report to the
Committee under article 18 of the Convention.
Provides an opt-out clause. At ratification of the Optional Protocol, a
State Party has the option of refusing to recognize the competence of the
Committee to initiate and conduct an inquiry as established under articles 8
and 9. However, this declaration may be withdrawn at a later time.
Requires a State Party to ensure the protection of those submitting
A summary of the Committee's activities relating to the Protocol will be
included under article 21 of the Convention.
Establishes a requirement that States Parties widely publicize the
Convention and its Protocol and provide access to the views and
recommendations of the Committee.
Requires the Committee to develop its own rules of procedure when dealing
with communications and inquiries considered in accordance with the Optional
Governs eligibility for States to sign, ratify or accede to the Protocol.
Any State Party that is party to the Convention may become party to the
Establishes that a minimum of ten countries must have ratified or acceded to
the Protocol before the Protocol enters into force. The Protocol will enter
into force three months after the 10th ratification or accession.
Provides that there shall be no reservations to the Protocol.
Establishes procedures for amending the Protocol. Any State Party may
suggest amendments to be sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations
to be communicated to all States Parties to the Protocol. If requested by a
minimum of one-third of States Parties, a conference may be convened to
discuss and vote on any amendments. With the support of a two-thirds
majority and the General Assembly, an amendment comes into force and is
binding on States that have accepted the amendments.
Provides for a State Party to withdraw from the Protocol by written
notification to the Secretary-General. Withdrawal will not impact any
communications submitted prior to the effective date of withdrawal.
States that the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall inform States
of signatures, ratifications and accessions, the date the Protocol comes
into force and any amendments and withdrawals.
Provides that the Protocol will be deposited in the United Nations archives,
made available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish and
sent to all States Parties by the Secretary General.
* from WomenWatch
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