R2P and Gender: the Marginalization of Responsibilities

Sara Davies

Piece originally appeared in E-IR.  Thanks to Hannah Partis-Jennings for the invitation.

In 2012, Sarah Teitt and I wrote an article titled ‘Engendering the Responsibility to Protect’.[1] In that piece we explored the potential for shared advocacy between the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agendas.  We agreed that prior critiques of R2P as ‘gender blind’ were fair.  However, we were concerned that most of this critique focused on the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) which had originally coined the phrase ‘R2P’.[2]  We argued that while the ICISS report did adopt a problematic stance on gender, there was a need to update the gendered analysis of R2P to take account of developments since its adoption at the 2005 World Summit. We also questioned whether R2P was necessarily gender blind and suggested that problems could be addressed by understanding areas of potential symmetry between the two agendas.

In that article, we emphasized that, today, discussion of R2P must start with the definition of the principle that was laid out in paragraphs 138-140 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document,[3] passed at the 2005 United Nations General Assembly.  This is the authoritative version of R2P, which all UN member states have affirmed and which they recognize and debate in the UN Security Council and General Assembly, to this day. In this definition, which was further clarified by the first report of the UN Secretary-General on the subject, released in 2009, we observed an approach that emphasized prevention over reaction, participation at the local level over intervention from the international level.  In his 2009 report, the Secretary-General was at pains to emphasize three pillars that were fundamental to the realization of R2P: the enduring responsibility of the state to protect people (prevention), the responsibility of the international community to assist the state with meeting their obligation; and, only in light of state failure or unwillingness to prevent crimes against its population, the situation would be referred to the UN Security Council.  There was no obligation laid out concerning humanitarian invention, protection at any costs, nor indeed, was the view expressed that protection would always be achievable – an understandably honest concession given the political history of the UN Security Council when it came to effective and timely deployment of action to protect civilians and the complexity and intractability of some conflicts which give rise to genocide and mass atrocities. 

The enduring focus of the R2P principle, encapsulated by the now five reports that have been published by the UN Secretary-General to date, is on mobilizing state authorities to fulfil their primary responsibility to protect through the prevention of these crimes. As Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon noted at the 2013 UN General Assembly “Let us…remember that the responsibility to protect seeks not only to protect populations at the eleventh hour but, first and foremost, to prevent crises from erupting at all’.[4] 

The WPS agenda, laid out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000),[5] has a three pillar framework that identifies women as specifically threatened and excluded from political processes that give rise to conflict and exacerbate their insecurity in a way that is gendered and distinct from a man’s experience of war.   The 1325 WPS three pillar framework (prevention, protection and participation) underlines the responsibility of states, regional organizations and international organizations to commit to action the addresses the three pillars. Specifically, it calls for women’s participation in preventative diplomacy and equal representation in political processes; recognition of the particular protection needs of women during conflict; and calls for women’s participation in the political and peace building processes.

What was striking was the shared interest between the two agendas on the benefit of preventive diplomacy, first and foremost.  In our observation of both the WPS literature and the R2P reports that were coming from the Office for the Prevention of Genocide, as well as its key New York civil society advocates (the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect, Global Action to Prevent War and Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect), it was clear that both agendas were unanimous in the view that protection entailed much more than simply waiting on UN Security Council action to end mass atrocities. This, the two agendas agree would be too little and too late.  As such, we sought to clear misconceptions concerning R2P as much as address its problematic history of perceived gender blindness – and the risk that these would impinge on future engagement between R2P and WPS advocates.

The R2P definition and implementation agenda discussed at the UN Headquarters by civil societystates and UN good offices sometimes sounds quite different to the one most popularly portrayed and discussed in sections of the academic literature. Interestingly, this has not remained the case concerning engagement with gender engagement and discussion concerning potential of R2P principle.  Eli Stamnes, Jennifer Bond and Laurel Sherret, amongst others, [6] have noted that the post-2005 R2P principle departs from the 2001 ICISS definition quite radically. As such, opportunities for gender specific understanding and implementation of R2P at the state, regional and international level are evident – and are complementary to Resolution 1325’s (2000) three pillar framework – in ways that would not have been possible without the UN Secretary-General’s focus on R2P’s preventive dimensions.

Such endorsement of R2P does not mean that the R2P agenda is not at risk of being gender blind. It must not be forgotten who is responsible for the implementation and enduring obligation to fulfill R2P – states, regional organizations and international organizations.  In light of the horrific tragedy in Syria, the ‘failings’ of R2P are arguably not located in the principle itself but those invested with the responsibility to fulfill their protection obligations.  R2P is not a person or an institution, but the obligation to prevent mass atrocities and protect all people from mass atrocity crimes is to be realized by people and institutions. As such, I will detail some observations on the actors who I identify as having obligations to advocate for gendered approaches within R2P implementation framework, and to reach out to the WPS agenda.

As noted in the 2013 report of the UN Secretary-General Report on the Responsibility to Protect, gender discrimination gives rise to specific acts of violence based on sex and sexual identity, it also gives rise to the normalization of violence and legitimatization of excluding some members of society from equal access to political, social and economic opportunities.[7] It is imperative that states are reminded of their responsibilities pertaining to gender inequality. Yet, at present, there remain few opportunities outside of the UN Security Council to understand how situations of gender inequality may enhance the risk of mass atrocities or to direct preventive diplomacy to those situations.

One option is to bring the WPS and R2P communities of activists, primarily located in New York, together to discuss shared areas of focus and cases of mutual concern.  This could be facilitated as a working group on women and R2P – a suggestion put forward by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.

Similarly, there must be deeper engagement with gender inequality, gendered discrimination and the role of the R2P principle in assisting states to address these human rights violations. It would be an important step forward for R2P friendly states to specifically address this issue at their annual Ministerial Meeting of the Responsibility to Protect, organized by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.[8]  To date, there is no record of such a discussion.

At the same time, the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser of the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect could detail an exploratory paper on R2P and WPS. One that, specifically, provides deeper analysis of the state, regional and international level responsibilities to address the relationship between gender inequality and human rights atrocities noted in the 2013 report of the UN Secretary-General on R2P.  Of course, such a report would need to be written in consultation with the UN Secretary-General Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, and WPS division of UN Women.

Such cross-institutional collaboration would likely be welcomed by (at least, some) member states if delegates’ statements at the 2013 United Nations General Assembly Informal Interactive Dialogue on R2P, are any indication. Delegates from Brazil, Cote D’Ivoire, United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand[9] all specifically referred to the importance of prevention action that is gender sensitive; and emphasized the relationship between R2P and WPS in noting that sexual and gender based violence in armed conflict are R2P crimes.  Indeed, the 2013 Informal Dialogue had the highest number of references to WPS and gender to date, since these dialogues began in 2009.

It is not enough to say R2P must have a gendered approach without identifying who is responsible for taking forward this approach and identifying what we think such an approach should look like.  Refusal to see potential for cross-cutting issues in these agendas limits the capacity of both agendas to achieve their common goals.  The WPS community has a vital role in contributing to this debate. The WPS agenda has a longer history at the state, regional and international level that is of value to the R2P community to progress mutual agendas, particularly the prevention of mass atrocities.  Mutual engagement does not deny or undermine WPS’s broader agenda beyond mass violence; but it could potentially deepen the commitment of states and international organizations if the forces of responsibility to protect and women’s peace and security combined on areas of mutual concern.


[1] Sara E. Davies and Sarah Teitt, ‘Engendering the Responsibility to Protect’, Global Responsibility to Protect4 (2) 2012, p. 198-222.

[2] International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001).

[3] United Nations General Assembly, 2005 World Summit Outcome, A/60/ L.1 (15 September 2005).

[4] Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, ‘Opening Remarks, UN General Assembly Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect: State Responsibility and Prevention (13 September 2013). http://www.globalr2p.org/resources/471

[5] United Nations Security Council Resolution ‘Women, Peace and Security’, S/1325 (31 October 2000).

[6] See contributors in Special Issue: R2P and Sexual and Gender Based Violence, Global Responsibility to Protect, 4 (2) 2012.

[7] United Nations General Assembly, ‘Responsibility to protect: State responsibility and prevention. Report of the Secretary-General’, A/67/929–S/2013/399, 9 July2013, p.5, 7-8.

[8] See Summaries of Previous Annual R2P Ministerial Meetings, Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect. http://www.globalr2p.org/our_work/annual_r2p_ministerial_meeting

[9] See ‘United Nations General Assembly holds fifth informal, interactive dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect focusing on the theme of state responsibility and prevention’, Overview and Statements Delivered, International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/index.php/component/content/article/35-r2pcs-topics/5004-united-nations-general-assembly-holds-fifth-informal-interactive-dialogue-on-the-responsibility-to-protect

Australia poised to break its promise to women of the world

This blog is reposted from http://wpsac.wordpress.com/blogs with kind permission.

Foreword to Australia's Candidature Brochure

‘Australia: We do what we say’. During the Labor campaign for election to a two-year term of office as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, this slogan featured prominently on every page of the candidature brochure. This idea of a reliable, no-nonsense, straight-forward, ‘true-blue Aussie’ national character was a cornerstone of the Australian campaign, which proved successful in the first round elections in October 2012. Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs, described the victory as ‘a big, juicy, decisive win’ and ‘the world saying “we see Australia as a good country, a fine global citizen”’.

Sources now suggest that the government is now back-tracking on its stated commitment to making the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) thematic agenda a ‘key priority’ for the Security Council Presidency in September. They speculate that perhaps Prime Minister Rudd, despite his appetite for the world stage, is not as committed to this agenda as his predecessor. It is simply not acceptable to shift the focus at the last minute away from ‘Women’s Leadership in Peacebuilding’ as announced to the world in a UN Women press release. A ‘side event’ on 6 September 2013, which would require no member state attendance or support, is in no way equivalent to pushing forward the WPS agenda within the Council itself.

As a non-permanent member, Australia enjoys a two-year term of office and two periods of holding the Council Presidency, which rotates alphabetically through the 15 member states of the Council month by month. The first Australian Presidency will be in September. During the Presidency, member states can engage the rest of the Council members in open debate, co-ordinate thematic discussions and provide opportunity to move forward issues that are central to their own foreign policy interests and priorities.

One of the things that various Australian government officials said that the country would do at the Council would be to champion the ‘Women, Peace and Security‘ agenda. This agenda is one of the thematic areas of work at the UN SC. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, is often identified as the cornerstone of the WPS agenda at the United Nations. Resolution 1325 was the culmination of decades of activism and advocacy work by civil society organisations aimed at encouraging the United Nations to recognise the gendered impacts of armed conflict and the active roles played by both women as well as men in the pursuit of lasting and sustainable peace.

Since taking up the position in January 2013, Australia’s representatives at the UN and elsewhere have reiterated the government’s commitment to the WPS agenda. Just recently, in a reference paper titled ‘Australia’s Foreign Policy Directions’, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator the Hon. Bob Carr stated that:

A key priority for Australia on the Council — particularly during our Presidency in September — will be to highlight the important leadership role women can play in ensuring long-lasting peace in fragile post-conflict societies.

Initial consultations with civil society organisations in the first half of this year confirmed that Australia was planning high-level interventions at the Security Council engaging the question of women’s leadership in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. During these consultations, stakeholders were led to believe that such interventions would include at least an open debate, hopefully at the Ministerial level, and that the debate would inform a Presidential Statement, if not act as the foundation for a new Security Council resolution.

The Labor government is currently facing significant pressure, both domestically and internationally, regarding its stated policy toward asylum seekers that emanate largely from conflict countries and include sizeable numbers of women and children fleeing political persecution including gender-based violence. With an election imminent, is the Women, Peace and Security agenda going to be another arena in which the government fails to deliver on a promise it has made?

Laura J. Shepherd (UNSW) and Jacqui True (Monash)

Australia’s Presidency and the United Nations Security Council – Sustaining political will to confine sexual violence to the pages of history


Source: http://bobcarrblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/130320-foreign-minister-bob-carr-with-ambassador-gary-quinlan.jpg

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed Security Council resolution 2106 on 24 June 2013. This resolution was successful after much diplomatic work by the United Kingdom, as President of the UNSC in June.  The ambition, as said William Hague, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, is confine rape in conflict to the pages of history.  It was a politically significant outcome in a year where the Security Council has not always been in agreement on the focus and efforts of this institution to the thematic area of Women, Peace and Security (WPS).  Resolution 2106, and the UK-led PSVI, should be viewed as a starting point for a deeper effort to end gender oppression and inequality around the world that Australia can lead with its September Presidency focus on women’s participation and leadership in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding. The exclusion of women from basic rights such as legal equality, property ownership, political representation or representation in peace, reconciliation and transitional processes – some of the basic means of empowerment – is among the primary causes of endemic violence against women and demands further attention in the UNSC in September. In both the April and June 2013 UNSC debates on WPS, Australia declared its full support for the PSVI and WPS agenda. To deliver on this, as Australia’s UN Ambassador Gary Quinlan said in the June debate, implementation requires commitment and political will.  It also requires the highlighting the structural conditions that give rise to violence against women needs to address these structural conditions that give rise to it and recognise women’s meaningful participation ‘as essential in any protection or prevention response’. Given the strong commitment Australia has made to the WPS agenda while a non-permanent member on the UNSC, we suggest three potential areas of WPS focus for Australia to consider in its Presidency, informed by the passage of Resolution 2106.

S/Res/2106 (2013) builds on the five previous resolutions that constitute the WPS thematic agenda since 2000.[1] It prioritises the implementation of legal justice and gender training for all pre-deployment and “in mission” peacekeeping to end the tactical use of – and pervasive impunity for mass sexual violence in conflict, post-conflict, and other situations of relevance to the Security Council (as earlier agreed to in S/Res/1888 [2009]). To date, in addition to annual reports on WPS, the UNSC has tabled reports on situations of civil unrest, conflict and post conflict where sexual violence is widespread and documented as being used to intimidate, humiliate, torture and displace populations – i.e. Central African Republic, Darfur (Sudan), Mali, Sri Lanka and Syria State and non-state perpetrators of sexual violence may be named and listed – and now under S/Res/2016 – face the Sanctions Committee for their crimes.  Moreover, the new resolution reaffirms that widespread and systematic sexual violence is indeed a war crime, a crime against humanity, an act of torture, or genocide that threatens international peace and security.

While applauding the attention of states, especially the UK government, to end sexual violence crimes in conflict situations, WPS advocates have voiced concerns that while the Security Council’s recent focus on sexual violence in conflict is politically expedient and uncontroversial for the Council membership, it risks ignoring the root causes of sexual violence and the responsibility of both states and UNSC to prevent gender-based and sexual violence.

First, in their call for improved early warning of sexual violence in conflict, Resolution 2106 and the UK-led Prevention of Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) open a window of opportunity for the UN Secretariat to regularly brief the UNSC on the relationship between egregious abuses of women’s human rights and systematic sexual violence in conflict situations.  Such cases will now be available to report to the UNSC after the passage of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution (A/HRC/23/L.28 [2013]) on 11 June. That resolution called for “Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence”.  Contra UNSC resolution 2106, this HRC resolution adopted by 89 states attracted little international attention. Crucially, however, it empowers the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to require fact-finding missions (e.g. Sri Lanka) or commissions of inquiry (e.g. Syria) to devote specific attention to violence against women and girls in their reports and recommendations, or upon renewal of existing mandates.  Such mission reports could and should be included in the UN Secretariat Women, Peace and Security report and October annual Open Debate in the Security Council. Waiting until sexual and gender-based violence crimes are extensively committed in already existing conflicts only promotes impunity for these crimes and is far too late for discussion of prevention efforts.          

Second, Australia could commission a background briefing paper that explores how, and why, the Council might take a broader perspective. As noted, UNSC resolutions on WPS have increasingly narrowed their potential application away from the broad narrative and operational paragraphs of S/Res/1325 (2000) toward a focus on sexual violence in conflict.  This focus has developed from a perceived political need to maintain consensus on WPS in UNSC.  There is no state willing to argue that widespread and systematic sexual violence is not relevant to the Security Council.  But there is less unity on whether situations outside of armed conflict (i.e. Syria, Egypt, Sri Lanka have all been contentious) in the context of elections, political strife or civil unrest should be included on the agenda. The background paper could evaluate how the abuse of women’s human rights in situations ‘outside’ of armed conflict might be legitimately included on the UNSC’s agenda.  

Third, and finally, Australia could take the initiative in calling for the UNSC to evaluate the impact of its own actions and the mainstreaming of gender equality within and across UN missions.  Resolution 2106 has 23 itemised paragraphs that reiterate calls for many items already detailed in earlier resolutions on WPS. As such, perhaps the most important element is the granting of procedural clearance to the Secretary-General to continue with the annual reports on implementation of UNSC WPS resolutions – without first requiring invitation by the UNSC. Now is the time to bring the violence against women prevention efforts within the wider UN system into the UN Secretariat to provide guidance to the UNSC on the institutional mechanisms needed to empower women’s agency and develop their leadership capacity to prevent sexual violence and build lasting peace.

In September, Australia has the opportunity to promote a nuanced perspective on sexual violence as an endemic continuum of violence which facilitates and exacerbates conflict.  Australia has a crucial role to play in being able to push the Security Council to think creatively about its role and relationship with UN partner agencies and the UN system to address the root causes and risk factors for sexual violence. 

Sara Davies, Griffith University and Jacqui True, Monash University

[1] S/Res/1325 (2000), S/Res/1820 [2008], S/Res/1888 and S/Res/1889 [2009] and S/Res/1960 [2010].

Political Will to confront Women’s Security Concerns at the 57th CSW


As the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women dedicated to the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls begins, the political climate around the United Nations Headquarters in New York is focused on assessing the possibility of reaching agreement on key issues.

The CSW is one of the main UN processes mandated to make policy specifically on the advancement of women’s rights.[i] During the yearly two-week conference, “Member States gather…to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide,”[ii] focusing especially on social, political, civil and economic barriers.[iii] The objective of the process is for member states to agree on a set of conclusions on the thematic discussion; this year’s theme is on the elimination of violence against women and girls. The recommendations are made to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the six principal bodies of the UN and the body mandated to address social, environmental and economic concerns.[iv] 

The political pressure around CSW57 to reach agreement is especially high after member states were not able to reach agreement during last year’s session on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. Additionally, the last time that the Committee addressed the elimination of violence against women and girls, during its 47th session in 2003, agreed conclusions were also not reached.

As the Center for Women’s Global Leadership notes, challenges blocking meaningful conclusions at the CSW47 included issues of religion, sexual and reproductive rights, and ending impunity (especially impunity for violence suffered during armed conflict).[v] Some other issues in dispute included development rights and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).[vi] Additionally, those following the CSW47 were not only discouraged by the lack of political will to reach agreed conclusions, but also were somewhat at a loss about the purpose and significance of proposed resolutions and follow-up mechanisms.[vii]      

Ten years later, in the margins of the 57th session, issues of religion, sexual and reproductive rights, and impunity continue to remain relevant. In November 2012, the 67th session of the General Assembly Third Committee adopted a resolution on the Intensification of Efforts to Eliminate All Forms of Violence against Women where references to impunity, the ICC, and the role of tradition, customs and religion, resurfaced.[viii]   Additionally, the two-day Stakeholder’s Forum hosted by UN Women in December 2012 reinforced the role of CEDAW as an instrument to combating violence against women; raised questions about more complementary between CEDAW and the work of the Commission; and highlighted issues like combating impunity, the challenge of religion, increasing safety for victims of sexual violence and improved judicial systems for women.  

But among all these issues and challenges, from our perspective, the security component is essential to eliminating violence against women and girls, whether in a pre-conflict, conflict, or post-conflict setting. At Global Action, we promote a robust, stable and reliable security sector where the flow of illicit arms is eliminated, instances of mass atrocity crimes are detected and addressed at early stage, gender-based violence is prevented and/or rigorously prosecuted, and women’s participation is promoted at all levels of society. With that in mind, we recently organized a two-day workshop in Guatemala City addressing Security and Justice for Women in Guatemala, where the recommendations on prosecuting cases of violence against women, establishing adequate measures to ensure women’s access to justice, and addressing how international instruments can play more effective roles in the advancement of women’s rights at the local level were core aspects of our workshop agenda.

Continue reading “Political Will to confront Women’s Security Concerns at the 57th CSW”

Access to Justice in Guatemala

Source: http://www.trust.org/alertnet/multimedia/pictures/detail.dot?mediaInode=b5a9180a-426b-4471-8540-a30495671f53

Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict Written Statement on Proposed Recommendation on Access to Justice, 54th CEDAW Session

Access to justice remains a delicate concern among communities worldwide, especially in postconflict societies where equal access to justice for all members of the population is imperative in ensuring for a long-lasting and effective reconstruction and reintegration process. Access to justice remains a particular challenge for women, especially indigenous or disadvantaged women, whose rights are often undermined by political regimes or patriarchal norms.

In an effort to identify a small part of these key challenges, Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict (GAPW) put together and hosted a two-day seminar in Guatemala City on November 2012 on Security and Justice for Women in Guatemala. The purpose of the event was to reflect on how the international community can guide national efforts to ensure that the rights of indigenous women are respected, and  also  to  help promote a culture of participation and accountability which is the essence of the Women Peace and Security agenda established by the UN Security Council. Participation and accountability are also necessary elements for legitimate and long-term sustainable development.

This workshop came as a “follow-up” to the 2012 review of Guatemala by the Human Rights Committee at the UN Headquarters in New York, where the  Committee  posed challenging questions about the government’s commitments under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Similar concerns have also been raised in recent years by the CEDAW Committee, specifically recommending that more attention be given in amending current constitutional provisions that discriminate against women as well as to create civil, criminal and labor obligations in compliance with the Convention.

Reflecting on some of the challenges women face, particularly access to justice, stigmas regarding participation in political and other aspects of public life, and the availability of legal services, our workshop brought together women’s civil society organizations specializing in justice and security, state officials, and representatives from UN entities. The objective of the organizers was to assess the structural and political challenges associated with the judicial and security sectors, placing emphasis on violence against women and access to justice and underscoring the strong links between violence against women and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.

The workshop was particularly significant for the recommendations extracted addressing access to justice, mainly  the ability  to  pursue  criminal prosecutions of acts of violence; establishing adequate measures within a patriarchal culture that promote women’s right to justice; calling for more  transparency in the  judicial and security  systems; and addressing how international instruments can be essential in the advancement of women’s rights at the local level.

In regards to criminal prosecutions, voices of women from rural and urban areas echoed the call in calling for adequate training to be made available to help relevant security and judicial personnel support and respond to the needs of women as victims of violence; to increase awareness around the different types of violence against women; and to collect and record statistics and reports of violence. As it is generally known, such documentation can be necessary and effective evidence for prosecuting crimes in national courts. Going along those lines, it is imperative also to establish measures that promote and allow for the testimony of women survivors to weigh in  as legal evidence, especially for crimes of the past, for which evidence collection can be particularly challenging.

The role of patriarchy in contemporary  Guatemala society was a concern addressed by many participants, especially the challenge in addressing violence against women and in recognizing women’s right to access judicial institutions and processes.  The group of participants also noted the need to remove the stigma that is often associated with women actively pursuing the protections and rights granted to them by relevant international, national and local laws, as well as removing the hesitation that officers of the courts can have with respect to prosecuting cases of violence against women.  Finally, a call was made all throughout about ensuring that women have access to judicial processes in their own native languages, or through the use of translators or interpreters.

Calling for more attention around the work of the CEDAW Committee, especially in making the public aware about the obligations of governments to their responsibilities under the Convention and the Commission’s recommendations, the participants noted that a system should be in place for the systematic evaluation of judges, prosecutors and other relevant officers to ensure more transparency in the system and more effective coordination with complementary institutions.

Overall, the participants called for amending local legislation to include crimes against women, including but not limited to sexual violence and sexual abuse, as well as the appropriate dissemination of such laws to increase awareness. Additionally, educational systems must be amended to reflect women’s needs for increased  access to justice, increase awareness, and provide for necessary training to judges but also to inform and train women on how international instruments, including CEDAW, can be used to promote women’s access to justice as well as participation in social and political life.

Recommendations to the Committee:

As laid out in Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, state parties must pursue mechanisms that eliminate discrimination against women, including establishing principles of equality in national constitutions; adopting legislation that prevents and prohibits discrimination against women; establishing national tribunals that protect women; ensure that public authorities do not engage in any act of discrimination against women; and ensure that national laws, customs or regulations that constitute discrimination against women are either modified or repealed.

Additionally, Article 15 makes special note of the equal capacity between women and men in the practice of law, mainly calling for “equal rights to conclude contracts and to administer property and shall treat them equally in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals.” Furthermore, as it is stated in the concept note, it is the objective of this Committee with this General Recommendation to establish the “concrete framework within which states must exercise the obligation under the Convention to respect, protect, promote and fulfill access to justice for women as a human right.”

With this in mind, we ask the Committee to take special note of the outcomes of our recent workshop in Guatemala reflecting concerns from local communities regarding access to justice, especially among the Guatemalan indigenous community who compose the majority of the Guatemalan population, yet “have been historically underprivileged and marginalized.” Indigenous women are discriminated against because they are women and because they are indigenous. While within the context of a country-specific situation, the abovementioned concerns nevertheless remain critical as this Committee establishes the appropriate framework for women’s access to justice. States must directly address principles laid out in Article 2 of the Convention, including avoiding discrimination and establishing national jurisprudence, both substantive and procedural, that protect women’s rights; lay out measures to ensure that police and judicial authorities do not discriminate against women; and ensure that national laws and regulations that are discriminatory are not only repealed, but amended to reflect advantages in women’s access to justice.

Finally, taking into account the outcomes of our recent workshop and the relevancy of those outcomes to the Committee’s work, as well as GAPW’s mandate focusing on creating secure and stable security sectors, placing full emphases on promoting women’s participation, we make the following recommendations as addendums to the General Recommendation:

  1. The Committee should make a special note within the General Recommendation of the need to provide the space within appropriate national and international legislation to promote a stable security sector to enhance women’s access to justice. Particular attention is needed to ensure that relevant stakeholders provide for a secure and sustainable security sector while women are exercising their right to justice, including prevention of and protection against instances of violence and intimidation against women and their families.
  2. We ask the Committee to place great emphasis, in its General Recommendation, on women’s participation in judicial processes, both in regards to exercising the rights mandated to them by relevant laws and regulations that protect women, but also in a legislative and policy-making capacity where women’s voices can  contribute  fully  to the  design and implementation  of appropriate national rules and procedures.
  3. Furthermore, we recommend that any discussion on institutional reform and building institutional capacity to address and implement women’s access to justice also incorporate strategies for violence prevention.  Measures ensuring that appropriate legislation is in place promoting women’s access to a variety of jurisprudence and that judicial authorities are appropriately trained to address cases of violence against women are not only effective in creating a framework of women’s access to justice, but also in ensuring that future instances of violence against women are reported, detected and addressed at the earliest possible stage.
  4. Additionally, we urge the Committee to reflect in its General Recommendation on the need to increase awareness among women in local, traditional and religious communities about the rights guaranteed to them by national and international institutions. The Committee should take special note on the role of digital media and technology as a tool for increasing awareness by and among such women.
  5. Finally, we request the Committee to address the issue of national reparations as a form of gender-justice. Reparations available to survivors of violence stemming from access to justice and court adjudications of criminal proceedings are imperative to ensuring healing and  the reintegration of survivors, especially in post-conflict settings, but also in  helping  overcome barriers to women’s full access to justice.
Melina Lito
Program Director, Women Peace and Security
Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict

Preventing, Protecting and Empowering: Women, Peace and Security and R2P

Source: http://passblue.com/2012/02/07/for-syria-only-more-questions/hillarysc/

Views and recommendations expressed in this piece are to be solely attributed to Sara Davies.

On Thursday 25 October, Griffith Asia Institute’s Human Protection Hub held a workshop on Women, Peace and Security (WPS): opportunities for alignment with Responsibility to Protect (R2P).  With the assistance of colleagues from the Asia Pacific Centre for Responsibility to Protect (University of Queensland) and the Centre of Governance and Public Policy (Griffith University), this event was among the first of its kind in policy and academic circles.

We were honoured to host distinguished guests including Michael Bliss, Assistant Secretary of International Organizations branch at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with colleagues from the Human Rights and International Law branches; Rosemary Cassidy, Senior Specialist in the Gender Equality Policy Section of AusAID and colleagues from the Humanitarian Policy Section; Assistant Commissioner Mandy Newton, National Manager of the Australian Federal Police’s International Deployment Group; Mairi Steele, Branch Manager of the Women’s Branch in the Australian Government Office for Women, which is housed in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and her colleagues; and Julie McKay, Executive Director of UN Women Australia.   Discussants and presenters also came from Oxfam Australia, the Australian Civil-Military Centre, Office of National Assessments, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Australia, Australian National University, University of NSW, University of Queensland and Monash University.

The dialogue focused on three central themes:

1)   What states should do to realise the goals set out in UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

2)   The advantages and disadvantages associated with the alignment of R2P with WPS in the fields of international policing and peacekeeping, conflict resolution, peacebuilding and transitional justice.

3)   The extent to which the structural prevention ambitions of WPS can be assisted by association with early warning and assessment mechanisms relating to genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

In relation to the first issue, participants found that the promotion of WPS National Action Plans (NAP) offers great potential for raising awareness of the expectations associated with Resolution 1325 among governments.  Measures towards equitable representation in positions of authority, gender equality in legislation and political participation, are measures that contribute to international peace and security.  However, thus far only 37 states have adopted NAPs. Moreover, most of these do not include clear implementation targets or mechanisms to ensure progress can be monitored. In the case of post-conflict states, it was noted that while some may argue 1325 National Action Plans (NAP) are an unnecessary burden on fragile states, the counter-argument was that these Plans open up opportunities for civil society groups and marginalised women in various government positions to ‘push back’ and demand positive action in accordance with the NAP.  When there is no NAP, there are fewer opportunities for women to demand gender responsive policies and action.

Recommendation: specific workshops on WPS NAP best practice should be encouraged at the highest political level, particularly amongst regional organizations with the involvement of civil society organizations.

Women remain under-represented in conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacekeeping missions and policing. The persistent relative absence of women in key positions makes it difficult to know whether female peacekeepers, police, judges and senior officials make a positive difference.

Recommendation: States and international organizations should introduce positive gender discrimination to increase the number of women engaged in conflict prevention, resolution and rebuilding and in senior positions in peacekeeping, policing and special political missions.

This requires new thinking on the training, sourcing and deploying gender responsive policing units from Security Council members and Troop Contributing Countries.  The deployment of such specialists will contribute the evidence base for further positive gender empowerment. Such measures could also assist with the collection of evidence relating to sexual violence and the prosecution of perpetrators, especially in those countries where the lack of female officers and other structural impediments make it difficult for victims to access justice.

Since the passage of the first Women, Peace and Security resolution (1325) by the Security Council in 2000, successive Security Council discussions on WPS have narrowed the focus to sexual violence in armed conflict (Resolutions 1820, 1889, 1890, 1960).  The recent debate concerning the Secretary-General’s latest report on WPS, and the view of some member states that WPS be further limited, is part of this concerning trend.  This concern has raised questions about the political success since 1325 in establishing awareness of the link between armed conflict and women’s daily lived experience, often characterised by domestic violence, inequality before the law, lack of access to education and constrained economic opportunities.  Participants noted that violence against women is more likely in politically fragile situations. The failure thus far to draw links between WPS and R2P raises the likelihood that states and international organizations will continue to fail to prevent sexual and gender based violence, in part because gender-specific considerations have not been built into early warning and assessment mechanisms relating to the ‘R2P crimes’ (genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity). Indeed, it was noted that the academic literature on early warning tended to overlook the role of gender, gender inequality and gendered violence.

Recommendation: there is a need to better understand how the political economy of violence against women is related to R2P crimes, to understand the structural preconditions that make SGBV crimes more likely, and measures that might help reduce those underlying risks.

However, a number of concerns were raised about downside risks associated with the alignment of R2P and WPS:

First, there were concerns as to whether WPS was better understood as a Protection of Civilians (PoC) related agenda. Some participants suggested that PoC was more widely accepted than R2P and that it could be used to facilitate protection and humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict.  By contrast, R2P, they worried, was a controversial concept. Aligning it with WPS might further stymie political progress without adding practical operational value.

Second, some participants worried that the R2P principle effectively reduced women to the status of passive victims in need of protection.  R2P is premised the notion of the state as the primary ‘protector’ of the individual.  However, some states that do a good job of preventing the four R2P crimes do a very poor job of protecting women.  By reinforcing state sovereignty, some suggested, R2P might actually give fresh legitimacy to systems of domination that endanger and marginalise women.  Moreover, this narrative tends to downplay the extent to which women might also be perpetrators of crimes and the measures that women adopt to protect themselves.

Alternatively, a more optimistic view that was expressed sees initiatives such as Resolution 1325, R2P, PoC, the Children in Armed Conflict agenda as well as other initiatives such as MDGs beyond 2015, the evolution of the Human Rights Council, the work of the CEDAW Committee, the International Criminal Court and Peacebuilding Commission as steps towards addressing some of these problems and reconstituting the relationship between states and their female populations.

Clearly, more work is needed to clarify the connections between R2P and WPS as well as to identify and mitigate potential downside risks. As such, this workshop marks only the beginning of a dialogue on this issue. Plans are afoot to publish some of the papers from the workshop with in early 2013 as a springboard for further research and dialogue on these issues.

Sara Davies, Human Protection Hub

Further details on the workshop – program and pictures – will be made available at Human Protection Hub Events page in the coming week.