History of the Optional Protocol



During the drafting of CEDAW, a complaints procedure was suggested, but this was not taken up. Some delegates argued that complaints procedures were needed for "serious international crimes" such as apartheid and racial discrimination, rather than discrimination against women.

June 1993 - The World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna

The Conference acknowledged the need for new procedures to strengthen implementation of women's human rights and called on CSW and the Committee to "quickly" examine the possibility of introducing the right of petition through the preparation of an Optional Protocol to CEDAW.

September/October 1994 - The Maastricht Draft

An independent expert group met at the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights and adopted a draft Optional Protocol. Participants came from all regions and included members of CEDAW, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other experts in the field of international human rights and the human rights of women.

January/February 1995

The CEDAW adopted Suggestion No. 7 setting out the desirable elements of an Optional Protocol.

March 1995

Governments, inter-governmental organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), at the request of CSW, were invited by the Secretary-General to submit their views on an Optional Protocol ( Report E/CN.6/1996/10, Corr.1 and Add.1 ).

September 1995 - Beijing

The 4th World Conference on Women called on UN member States to support the elaboration of the Optional Protocol.

March 1996

CSW established an open-ended working group on the Optional Protocol. The group discussed the idea of the Optional Protocol and some of the main issues raised by it. CSW recommended that the group continue its work in 1997 and requested two reports from the Secretary-General:

March 1997 -- The Open-ended Working Group of the CSW on the Elaboration of an Optional Protocol to CEDAW

The Working Group discussed a draft Optional Protocol prepared by the Chairperson, Ms. Aloisia Wörgetter, of Austria, in informal meetings. A member of the CEDAW, Ms Cartwright, participated as a resource person. Representatives of NGOs made statements about some issues relating to the violation of women's human rights.

The Working Group:

  • completed a first reading of the Chairperson's draft,
  • agreed to the text of some articles of the draft Optional Protocol,
  • refined and amended alternative formulations for the outstanding articles.

For a full report on what happened at the Working Group including the arguments made for and against provisions in the draft Optional Protocol see Chairperson's summary E/1997/27, Annex III (Report of CSW at its 41st session)

March 1998 -- The Open-ended Working Group of the CSW (42nd Session)

The Working Group resumed its deliberations on the draft Optional Protocol during the 42nd Session of CSW. Ms Aloisia Wörgetter of Austria continued as the Chairperson of the Group. In addition:

  • Ms. Silvia Cartwright, CEDAW member, participated as a resource person,
  • a member of the Human Rights Committee was present to provide information on the practice of the Human Rights Committee under its first Optional Protocol,
  • a representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided information on technical aspects of the work and practice of other human rights treaty bodies with similar procedures to those contained in the draft Optional Protocol,
  • a representative of the Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts (United Nations Secretariat) provided information relating to financial matters and the Protocol.

The Working Group:

  • Completed a second reading of the Chairperson's draft.
  • Agreed that the Optional Protocol should be preceded by a short preamble.
  • Recalled that articles 7.2 and 13 had previously been agreed ad referendum (i.e. agreed but not yet formally adopted). Article 3 which had previously been agreed ad referendum was expanded and agreed ad referendum.
  • Articles 6.2, 7.3, 7.5, 15, 17, 21, 22, and 24 were agreed ad referendum.
  • The Secretary-General had prepared one report to support the negotiations containing an annotated comparison of the draft Optional Protocol with the provisions of existing international human rights instruments (E/CN.6/1998/7).
  • A full report on the outcome of the Working Group's efforts of March 1998 is contained in the Chairperson's summary (E/1998/27, Annex II).

March 1999 -- The Open-Ended Working Group of the CSW (43rd Session)

The Working Group continued its deliberations under the Chairpersonship of Ms. Wörgetter. Ms. Victoria Sandru (Romania) also acted as facilitator for informal consultations. The Working Group adopted the optional protocol, as did the Commission, which also adopted a draft resolution for the Economic and Social Council.

The Economic and Social Council adopted the draft resolution of the Commission in its resolution 1999/13.

October 1999 -- The Fifty-Fourth Session of the General Assembly

The General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on 6 October 1999 in its resolution 54/4 (A/RES/54/4), without reference to a Main Committee. The Optional Protocol was open for signature on 10 December, 1999, Human Rights Day. On 22 December 2000, following receipt of the tenth instrument of ratification, the Optional Protocol entered into force.