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The Main Committee of the FWCW held its first meeting on Tuesday, 5 September, to elect officers and adopt its programme of work for negotiations. Two Working Groups were established, which were chaired by Nana Amma Yeboaa (Ghana) and Irene Freudenschuss (Austria).

Working Group I addressed Chapters I (Mission Statement), II (Global Framework), III (Critical Areas of Concern), V (Institutional Arrangements), VI (Financial Arrangements), and Sections C (Health), J (Mass Media) and L (The Girl Child) of Chapter IV (Strategic Objectives and Actions). Following its first day of discussion on the health section, Working Group I formed a Contact Group, chaired by Mervat Tallawy (Egypt), to consider that text. The Contact Group met throughout the first week and weekend, and had removed all brackets by Tuesday, 12 September. Numerous informal groups were required to facilitate drafting for both groups.

Working Group II considered all of the remaining sections in Chapter IV and the Beijing Declaration. After a first reading of the draft Declaration on Wednesday, 6 September, the Working Group formed a Contact Group, chaired by Olga Pellicer (Mexico), to continue consideration of the text. Negotiations on the Declaration continued until the evening of Thursday, 14 September. Numerous informal groups and weekend sessions were also used by these two working groups. An informal group chaired by Patricia Licuanan was formed to consider bracketed titles throughout the text.

During the last week a high-level group was formed. It was originally intended to consist of a small number of delegates to address procedural questions, but the group expanded to include heads of many delegations and other representatives, and took on some of the most intractable issues in the Declaration, including sexual rights, on Thursday, 14 September, the final day of negotiations.