WPSN-C Testimony to the Senate Committee on Human Rights

Senate Committees Directorate

Three WPSN-C members presented to the Senate Committee on Human Rights regarding Canada’s implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Monday March 24, 2014.

The initial presentations by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and Department of National Defence focussed on Canada’s National Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security and its implementation.

Following this, Marilou McPhedran, Member of the Board of Directors for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, spoke about women’s human rights and women’s human security as essential elements of Canada’s law, policy and actions in a global context. She also made four recommendations including the development of a new gender equality policy with an entrenched funding and reporting mechanism for DFATD; the appointment of a high-level champion on women, peace and security in Canada; an investigation on the impact of Canada’s restriction on full-range of reproductive health care provided during conflict and humanitarian crises by the Senate Committee on Human Rights; and the regular collection and dissemination of statistical information on gender and violence against women. To read her full comments, please click here.

Next, Liz Bernstein, Executive Director of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, discussed the impact of sexual violence in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the exclusion of women from peace talks in Syria and Burma. She introduced the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict – particularly the key principles of prevention, protection and prosecution – and called on Canada to take leadership on these issues, including at the Global Summit that will held in the UK in June 2014. To read her full comments, please click here.

After this, Jessica Tomlin, Executive Director of MATCH International Women’s Fund, introduced the WPSN-C and offered an analysis of the Canadian NAP reports. She then encouraged the Government of Canada to ensure that women’s rights are supported by investing resources, strengthening policy commitments, and putting the rights of women and girls at the centre, rather than the margins, of Canada’s policies and actions. To read her full comments, please click here.

These comments were well received from the Senators, several of whom asked for additional insights on Canada’s consultation with civil society, funding for women’s organizations, women’s participation in the Syrian peace talks, and the involvement of men and boys in women, peace and security efforts.

In the last set of presentations, three international speakers – including Nahla Valji from UN Women, Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini from the International Civil Society Action Network, and Jacqueline O’Neil from the Institute for Inclusive Security – gave overviews of where we are at now on UNSCR 1325 globally and some suggestions for Canada. Among the highlights were:

Global Context

  • There is a normative framework for improving WPS efforts, but now the implementation needs to catch up;
  • 2015 will be a crucial year for WPS efforts as a global review of UNSCR 1325 implementation will be carried out;
  • It is important to recognize that when women are involved, peace negotiations and settlements are more sustainable;
  • We must remember this is a security agenda, not just a “women’s agenda,” and that we are doing this work because it will contribute to lasting peace;
  • The WPS agenda should not be reduced to just sexual violence, as women’s participation in national and international discussions are crucial and transformative. Sexual violence is symptom of women’s inequality, not a cause; and,
  • Though Canada was a leader on women, peace and security 10-15 years ago, this leadership is not as evident now.

Recommendations for Canada

  • Support the global study on UNSCR 1325 implementation in 2015;
  • Ensure consistent  messaging on WPS issues;
  • Provide direct funding for women’s organizations; and,
  • Demonstrate that women, peace and security is a clear foreign policy priority for Canada through external actions and statements, and through internal messages to staff.

Overall, this consultative meeting provided a welcome opportunity for the WPSN-C to engage with members of the Senate of Canada and to share the knowledge and expertise of Canadian civil society.

If you’d like to watch a recording of the meeting, the webcast is available here.

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