UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
last updated 29 May 2013
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was established to monitor State compliance with obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).[1] The Committee consists of a panel of 23 independent experts on women’s rights from around the world. It carries out its mandate through the reporting/monitoring process, the receipt of individual communications (complaints), and the initiation of inquiries into situations of grave and systematic violations.
States that have ratified CEDAW are required to submit an initial report documenting compliance with the provisions of the treaty within one year of entry into force in that State, and thereafter to submit a periodic report every four years. The Committee currently convenes three times a year (February, July, October) in Geneva, Switzerland, to examine government reports and engage delegates from the State party in constructive dialogue. The purpose of the session is to assess the State’s fulfillment of its obligations under the Convention and determine how the State might address issues of primary concern. A majority of these issues are identified in advance of the session by a pre-session working group of the Committee, which reviews the State party report as well as other submissions to develop a list of issues. The list is transmitted to the State party for its response prior to the session, and forms the basis of discussion. At the conclusion of the session, the Committee prepares concluding observations, which may include recommendations for measures to be taken to improve the situation for women in that particular country.  The recommendations of the Committee may have persuasive value, but are not legally binding. The Committee does, however, request that State parties provide reports documenting steps taken to implement the Committee’s recommendations within two years of their review. The Universal Human Rights Index Database provides country-specific human rights information, including concluding observations by topic.
The Committee relies on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide country-specific information during the review process. NGOs have the opportunity to participate in both the pre-session and session proceedings and are encouraged to get involved early in the process to help inform the working group’s development of the list of issues and questions prepared for State party response. NGOs may submit "shadow" or alternative country reports that elaborate on information contained in State party reports or draw attention to human rights violations the State party does not address. Time is also allotted for NGOs to present specific concerns to the working group during its pre-session meetings and to the full committee during the session. NGOs may also participate in many of the Committee's proceedings as observers. 
NGOs are not limited in the number of UN bodies to which they can submit shadow reports. Thus, for the purposes of advocacy, NGOs are encouraged to bring international attention to issues of violence against women through the monitoring of government obligations under all treaties that protect women's human rights. 
The Optional Protocol to CEDAW allows the Committee to consider individual complaints of human rights violations committed by State parties to the Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol creates two procedures:
(1) The Communications Procedure (Article 7)allows individuals or groups (i.e. non-governmental organizations) to submit complaints of violations of rights protected under CEDAW to the Committee. Under the Communications Procedure, the Committee evaluates the complaint based on information presented by the complainant and by the state party.  The Committee transmits its findings and recommendations to the state party, which is obliged to submit a written reply to the Committee within six months, including  actions taken to remedy the violation.
(2) The Inquiry Procedure (Article 8) allows the Committee to initiate inquiries into reliable reports of grave or systemic violations of women's rights by a State party. After considering the information obtained in the inquiry, the Committee transmits its findings and recommendations to the State party, which is obliged to submit a written response within six months. State parties to the Optional Protocol may "opt-out" of this procedure at the time of ratification.

[1] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted and opened for signature, ratification an accession by General Assembly resolution 34/180, 18 Dec. 1979, entered into force 3 Sept. 1981.