Parliamentary action for national follow-up
to international agreements and treaties regarding women

Decisions taken by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 162nd session
(Windhoek, 11 April 1998), on the recommendation of women parliamentarians

There are a number of international conventions concerning women, the chief of which is the " Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ". The ratification of treaties implies a number of obligations for States parties, in particular, that of harmonising national law with the treaty provisions and reporting periodically to a competent body on national measures to follow up those provisions.

Furthermore, a number of international instruments which are not treaties but have been the subject of an agreement contain recommendations for action by Governments and national Parliaments. These instruments establish a mechanism for periodic examination of progress made in national follow-up to these recommendations. The principal instruments which are to be examined shortly are (i) the " the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action ", adopted by the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995, and (ii) the " Plan of Action to correct present imbalances in the participation of men and women in political life ", adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Council in March 1994 as a contribution to the Beijing Platform for Action. In both cases, the first periodic examination will take place in the year 2000; as far as the United Nations is concerned, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a Special Session from 5 to 9 June 2000 to examine and evaluate steps taken by States to follow up the " Beijing Platform for Action ".

In the spirit of the co-operation agreement signed in 1996 between the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Council decides to take the following measures, aimed at:

  • strengthening the synergy between the two organisations to give the aforesaid instruments greater effect, and
  • encouraging Parliaments to exert greater influence on their national follow-up.


The " Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women " (CEDAW) has been ratified by 160 States: the box on the following page contains the ratification status for this instrument. According to Article 18 of the Convention, " States Parties undertake to submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for consideration by the Committee, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which they have adopted to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention and on the progress made in this respect: (a) Within one year after the entry into force for the State concerned; and (b) Thereafter at least every four years and further whenever the Committee so requests. ". Among the 160 States which have ratified the CEDAW, 56  have never submitted a preliminary report on the follow-up action they have taken, and some 30 States are very late in submitting the subsequent periodic reports:

  • STATES THAT NEVER SUBMITTED THEIR INITIAL REPORT ON THEIR FOLLOW-UP TO CEDAW  (members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in bold character) : Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Bahamas, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominica, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Gambia, Georgia, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India, Kuwait, Latvia, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Moldova, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Suriname, Tajikistan, The F.Y.R. of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.
  • STATES LATE IN SUBMITTING ONE OF THE SUBSEQUENT REPORTS (members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in bold: Angola, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Iraq, Jamaica, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mongolia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Sri Lanka, Togo, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Yugoslavia.


1. Having the above information before it, the Inter-Parliamentary Council urges the MPs of States that have not yet submitted an initial report or one or more of the subsequent reports to the CEDAW Committee:

  1. To enquire about the reasons for this delay;
  2. To arrange for the Government to present the report as soon as possible in the coming months;
  3. To ensure that the Government's report is detailed and complete and complies with the standards laid down by the CEDAW Committee.

2. Of those States which have ratified the Convention, many have expressed reservations. Considering that such reservations considerably limit the scope of the Convention, the Inter-Parliamentary Council urges MPs of States having expressed reservations at the time of accession to CEDAW to enquire about the continued validity of those reservations and, if need be, endeavour to have them lifted.

3. In general, parliamentarians from States which are parties to CEDAW could, as part of their role of overseeing Government action, draw on some recommendations made in 1993 on the occasion of the IPU Symposium on " Parliament: Guardian of Human Rights ". Those recommendations, which the Inter-Parliamentary Council endorsed, are the following:

" Parliaments should be more diligent in ensuring that the Executive submits to the international treaty bodies the requisite reports, including references to the work and observations of MPs. If Parliaments are not consulted when these reports are drawn up, they should receive them for information, together with the opinions, decisions or recommendations of the committees to which they were submitted. "
4. Considering that an Optional Protocol relating to CEDAW and establishing an individual complaints procedure is being prepared within the United Nations, the Inter-Parliamentary Council invites Parliaments to support the adoption of the Protocol and take the necessary steps to secure its earliest possible entry into force.


The " Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action " covers twelve critical areas of concern. By adopting these documents in September 1995, the Governments undertook on behalf of States to give effect to the recommendations they contain by adopting national plans. In March 1998, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women recommended that the United Nations General Assembly hold a Special Session from 5 to 9 June 2000 in order to review and evaluate steps taken by States to follow up the provisions of the Platform for Action.

The " Plan of Action to correct present imbalances in the participation of men and women in political life " solely concerns the question of women's participation in political life. It was drawn up in 1994 as a contribution to the preparation of the Beijing Platform for Action and can be considered as an extension of Section VII (women in power and decision-making) of the Platform for Action. Section E of the Plan of Action is entitled " Mechanism for the follow-up and evaluation of the implementation of the Plan of Action ", which reads as follows :

The implementation of this Plan of Action should be evaluated periodically. Such evaluations should be carried out at five-yearly intervals in the light of national reports. Within the Inter-Parliamentary Union, responsibility for examining these reports will be entrusted to a Parity Working Group set up specifically to this end. The views and recommendations formulated by this Parity Working Group will be examined by the Inter-Parliamentary Council and transmitted for action to the Parliaments of the countries concerned. "
In accordance with these provisions, at its first session of the year 2000, the Inter-Parliamentary Council should have before it a report on the measures taken in the different countries represented in the IPU to give effect to the Plan of Action. This implies that a questionnaire regarding this subject be addressed to all IPU members in 1999 and also that the Parity Working Group mentioned in the Plan of Action analyse the replies to the questionnaire in 1999 or, at the very latest, in the first few weeks of the year 2000.


In view of the foregoing, the Inter-Parliamentary Council decides to take the following measures to strengthen the synergy between the IPU's action and that of the United Nations with regard to the follow-up to these documents:

  1. Co-ordination regarding the contents of the Union's questionnaire on the follow-up to the Plan of Action and the subject-matter of the requests of the United Nations with reference to Part VII of the Beijing Platform for Action (women in power and decision-making process);
  2. Contribution of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the preparatory process (prepcom) of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly;
  3. Co-ordination with regard to the reports on national action which will be presented, on the one hand, at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly and, on the other, to the Inter-Parliamentary Council in the year 2000;
  4. Participation of a parity delegation (two persons) of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Special Session of the General Assembly;
  5. Inclusion of MPs in national delegations to the Special Session of the General Assembly;
  6. Holding of a UN/IPU joint meeting on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly, on the theme " democracy through partnership between men and women in politics ", in which government and parliamentary representatives will participate;
  7. Providing the United Nations (which is due to publish by the end of 1999 statistics and indicators on the situation of women in the world) with statistical and other data concerning women's participation in political life;
  8. Co-ordination regarding follow-up to recommendations emerging from the General Assembly and the Inter-Parliamentary Council.

* 1. Women and poverty; 2. Education and training of women; 3. Women and health; 4. Violence against women; 5. Women and armed conflict; 6. Women and the economy; 7. Women in power and decision-making; 8. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; 9. Human rights of women; 10. Women and the media; 11. Women and the environment; and 12. The girl child

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