Treaties are among the primary sources in International Law. The international community relies on them in order to solve the common problems facing various states or in order to achieve a common goal states have set. In this essay paper, I will examine two major treaties under the human rights issue. They are the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as well as the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child. The essay will focus on answering questions in areas relating to Membership of these treaties, Goals or objectives behind the creation of the treaties and core requirements that member states commit to in order to achieve the goals of the treaties.
In addition thereto, it will further focus on provisions, if any, in the treaties that help monitor the compliance of its members; responses or enforcement provisions in case the treaties want to reward, encourage or punish any violations and finally examine any evidence of success since the adoption of the treaties. In the conclusion, the essay will predict which one of the two should work better and change the behavior of the members, putting into consideration the requirements and structure of both treaties.
1979 Convention on The Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
This 1979 Convention was adopted on 18th December 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly with a main aim of promoting women rights and especially equality rights. This international bill of rights for women, explains how this can be achieved and also what action the member countries take to guarantee the implementation and enjoyment of these rights. Now let’s closely examine this treaty:
Whenever a state expresses interest in becoming a party to this Convention, it is always an indication to both the international community and domestic players that it is fully committed to the attainment of equality between men and women, to the abolition of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, and also the introduction and realization of all laws, policies and programmes geared towards the achievement of these objectives.
In addition, by becoming parties to this Convention states also indicate that they are prepared for any scrutiny by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). This 23 member committee has the overall mandate to check the progress and implementation of women rights by the member countries.
By ratifying or acceding to the Convention, a state becomes a party to it and by doing this the state has an obligation to take all actions to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. The Convention further provides that it open for signature by all States, and subject to ratification.
Goals/Objectives of the Treaty
We can trace the establishment of this Convection back to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was the first international instrument to factor the rights and freedoms of individuals. Some of those rights embedded in the Universal Declaration are the women rights. Since then the United Nations has translated all these rights and freedoms of individuals as found in the Universal Declaration, into international treaties protecting specific rights. A good example of such a translation is the adoption of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by state parties.
The main goal behind the adoption of the Convention was to make sure that the international community was aware of the fact that, considerable discrimination against women continued to exist. There was concern that despite progress in the implementation of other forms human rights, the international efforts to protect and promote women and girls rights in the world was still wanting.
Any state that ratifies the Convention has some core requirements to which it commits to perform in order to achieve the objectives of the treaty. For example, a state needs to endorse new provisions to guard against all forms of discrimination against women, to include protection of the equality rights of both men and women in their domestic legislation. States must also establish national tribunals and public institutions to guarantee that women get effective legal protection against discrimination.
States should take appropriate measures in eliminating discrimination against women by any individual, organization or enterprise. Lastly, states need to introduce legislation measures that will modify or abolish any laws, policies, customs and practices which contribute to the discrimination against women. By fulfilling these requirements, states will be gearing towards the realization of goals set under this treaty.
In order to monitor the compliance and implementation levels by the member states, an expert committee was established in 1982 under article 17 of the Convection. The committee is called the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).It is made up of the 23 experts on women rights issues and whom despite being nominated and elected by the member states to the Convention, the members serve in their personal capacities as independent experts and not as delegates or government representatives. Their term of office is four years after which elections are held and the members can be re-elected.
Within one year of ratifying or accessing to the convection, member states are required to submit national reports to the committee. These reports should highlight the administrative, legislative and judicial actions a state has adopted towards the implementation of the rights enlisted in the Convention and any other efforts towards the improvement of these rights. The Committee then reviews these reports submitted by the States and they can make suggestions and recommendations based on the examination of the reports, a mandate stated in article 21 of the Convention.
Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention which came into effect in December 2000, the Committee has the mandate of receiving and taking into consideration individual petitions as well as investigating any indications of serious violations of the rights enshrined in the Convention by a State member, signatory to the protocol.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women organizes a forum for countries to address women’s rights issues especially based on the recommendations they make in the reports submitted by the state parties.
Evidence of Success
By the state members focusing on the implementation of already existing laws like sexual harassment laws, it will be a great chance to deal with issues affecting women. Dealing with matters of equality in states where traditions or religion take precedence will also play a great part in the implementation process.
1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human rights treaty setting out the political, economic, social, civil, health and cultural rights of children that is anyone under the age of 18years in the world. It was adopted on 20th November 1989 by the United Nations General Assembly. The adoption of this Convention was influenced by previous reports of severe injustices suffered by children for example poor health care, high infant mortality, children being overworked, abused and exploited as sex slaves and above all limited opportunities for basic education.
A state becomes a party member by ratify this convention and hence bound by it. Member state compliance to the convention is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Goals/Objectives of the Treaty
This internationally recognized agreement between nations call for the states to ensure the following goals are achieved. They include children’s’ freedom from violence and any forms of abuse, their access to adequate nutrition and health care, and are equally treated regardless of their gender, race, or cultural background. In addition, the treaty wants to ensure that children all over the world have the right to express opinions on matters affecting them. Lastly, all children are entitled to exposure and access to leisure and play and every state should implement these goals.
States parties are required to carry out all appropriate measures such as administrative and legislative, in order to enhance the treaties goals as stated under article 4 of the Convention. State parties may introduce mechanisms at national and local levels to coordinate policies and monitor the implementation of the Convention. Another essential contribution to the implementation of the Convention, is the gathering of consistent and appropriate information on all situations affecting children by each member state is an
An additional requirement towards the realization of the rights enshrined in the Convention is the proper dissemination of the education an obligation stated in article 42. In addition the state parties should roll out training programs for the personnel working with children, for example nursery school teachers, pediatricians, psychologists and other health personnel, the law enforcement personnel and social workers and others.
In 1991, the representatives of the state parties to the Convention elected a monitoring body called the Committee on the Rights of the Child under article 43of the convection. State parties to this Convention are expect to submit regular reports to the Committee, outlining the steps they have taken in implementing the treaty’s goals and on progress they have made in the realization of children's rights in their states.
In addition to this committee, there are a number of international human rights bodies that help monitor the respect for the rights of the children in their particular areas of competence. The bodies include: The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, The Human Rights Committee, The Committee against Torture, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Those state members that comply with the requirements of the Convention get donor support for their projects for example through the assistance of international bodies like the UNICEF and especially in the developing countries. In addition, there is intensified advocacy campaign for example through participation in major international conferences by state members, publications and awareness campaigns.
Evidence of Success
Since the adoption of the convection significant gains have been realized in the area of children's rights. For example the rapid growth of institutions and other organizations specializing in children's rights is an effort that has raised the awareness of children's rights worldwide.
The increase in the adopting of National Plans of Action by the state members as recommended by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Committee, has improved the state's plans to enforce children's rights in areas like education, health and nutrition is yielding positive result.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is likely to promote compliance and behavior change among the state parties, in comparison to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has more enforcement and monitoring mechanisms and the existence of many independent variables as enshrined in this Convention in comparison to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
In the enforcement and monitoring of the treaties I believe that the Convention on the Rights of the Child has a better chance to implement its goals in a limited time. On the other hand the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has only one major committee to monitor the compliance and implementation levels, the Treaty on Children has more than one committee. It has the Committee on the Rights of the Child as the main monitoring group and other international human right bodies that assist to monitor the implementation of particular activities against the children.
In comparing the different reasons for the establishment of these two treaties, I believe that the treaty on Children covers a wide range of issue as compared to the treaty on Women. Under the treaty on Children, four main principles are enshrined in the Convention. The right to life, survival and development, Best interests of the child are the primary consideration, principle of non-discrimination and the right to free expressions of their opinions in all matters affecting them.
On the other hand the treaty on women lacks diversity and the primary principle is the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls’. In addition its gender biased as it only deals with issues relating to women and girls leaving the men and boy child who are also discriminated. In comparison, the Treaty on Children promotes equally both the rights boys and girls.