Assessing Risk and Opportunities when Using OP CEDAW

The ultimate aim of “going international” is to mobilise support and promote changes that will enable the State to effectively address violations of women’s human rights. For this reason, resorting to international human rights procedures should be viewed in the context of multi-pronged strategies towards the realisation of women’s human rights. It is thus advisable to take the time to reflect on the potential impact international procedures – such as the OP-CEDAW’s communications and inquiry procedures – may have. This would enable them to choose the most effective mechanism available to seek redress.

It may be useful to consider some of the following questions:

National-level Impact

Are human rights organisations and institutions at the national level willing to support the author(s) of the communication or inquiry? Are there any allies? If not, why?

Can the findings and recommendations of the CEDAW Committee be used to strengthen advocacy efforts taking place at the national level?

Can a positive international precedent be used to give “momentum” to related women’s human rights claims and demands taking place at the national level?

What would be the consequences of the CEDAW Committee finding any of the alleged violations to be illegitimate or not well-founded?

How would the government, the media and the general public perceive strong recommendations of the CEDAW Committee in favour of the victims? How would “public opinion” add or take away from potential success?

Are there likely to be political, cultural or legal barriers to implementation of recommendations aimed at tackling particular issues? How can these obstacles be overcome?

What would be the consequences of a backlash on specific women’s human rights issues at the national level?

Compare the government’s willingness versus resistance to implement the views of the Committee. How would this affect the further implementation of the CEDAW Convention at the national level?

How would you publicise the jurisprudence of the CEDAW Committee so that women’s human rights organisations can integrate these into their work? How can this be used in legal initiatives and litigation strategies?

International-level Impact

How would successful implementation of recommendations stemming from any of the OP-CEDAW procedures contribute to strengthening the work of the CEDAW Committee?

How would the issues raised on the communication or inquiry contribute to developing further expertise of the CEDAW Committee on a particular issue?

What issues are likely to be taken up by groups in future communications and inquiries? How would the case fit into larger advocacy strategies by women’s groups in your region?

[1] This section has been developed from a presentation made by Andrew Byrnes. See Report of Workshop on Using the Optional Protocol to CEDAW, Lawyers’ Alliance for Women -Equality Now (2001).