#16Days: Overview and Summary

As this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence comes to an end, we take a look at some of the in-person ways that WPSN-C and its member organizations and other interested parties marked the campaign.

Women in International Security (WIIS) Canada took the lead in organizing Canadian programming around the campaign and began with a campaign launch at Ottawa City Hall that included speakers representing WIIS Canada, Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW), UNHCR Canada, the Ottawa Police Service, and the Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC). There were spoken word poetry and musical performances, as well as the launch of the campaign video. Representatives from partner organizations, including WPSN-C, took part in a candlelighting ceremony. Photos and more details of the launch, as well as from the many other events held by WIIS-Canada and partner organizations, are available on the WIIS-Canada website.

Continue reading “#16Days: Overview and Summary”

#16 Days: Progress on Women, Peace and Security Issues

“UN Women for Peace” march marking International Women’s Day in 2013. Photo credit: Mark Garten / United Nations.
“UN Women for Peace” march marking International Women’s Day in 2013. Photo credit: Mark Garten / United Nations.

Report Review: Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security (2014) by Security Council Report

Security Council Report, an independent non-for-profit organisation that provides “information about the activities of the UN Security Council and its subordinate bodies” for the stakeholders and the general public, published the 4th Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security in April 2014. This and preceding cross-cutting reports on women, peace and security specifically deal with women, peace and security issues and the way the Security Council addresses them. In general, the reports track the new work of the Security Council as it relates to women, peace and security matters, analyze relevant statistical information, and highlight relevant trends.

The fourth report is quite comprehensive in nature even though it focuses mostly on the developments in the last year. It starts by discussing and analyzing key developments at the thematic level in the following areas: Security Council activity on women, peace and security; “Arria-Formula” meeting on women, peace and security; field perspectives from gender practitioners in peacekeeping operations; and the work of the Special Representative on sexual violence in conflicts. Next, it dives into a cross-cutting analysis for 2013 by looking at Security Council resolutions, country-specific presidential statements, Secretary General’s reports on country-specific situations, and UN Mission mandates. Furthermore, it analyzes the application of UN’s Zero-Tolerance policy and the work of the several Security Council Sanctions Committees. Lastly, it briefly discusses Security Council’s dynamics as they relate to women, peace and security agenda. Continue reading “#16 Days: Progress on Women, Peace and Security Issues”

#16Days: South Sudan, Women and Demilitarisation

Dec5 image
Soldiers of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) redeploy to form a new Joint Integrated Unit (JIU) battalion with the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), under the terms of the agreement of the Abyei road map in 2008. Photo credit: Tim McKulka / United Nations.

 In 2001, in his discussion paper “Demilitarising Minds, Demilitarising Societies”, Howard Clark suggested that demilitarisation should be viewed at two different levels, the surface level and the deep level. The surface level demilitarisation concerns the actions taken to put an immediate end to the fighting, such as “disbanding forces, surrendering arms, implementing ceasefire agreements”. It is the effort of diverting the conflict and pushing “the personal, political or other agendas… from the military to the political arena”. It does not, however, require fundamental attitude changes. On the other hand, deep demilitarisation “seeks to address the roots of militarisation and undo the legacy of war and militarisation as part of an effort to reconstruct society on a different basis”. It requires “social struggle” and seeks to “address causes of violence and offer alternative, non-military approaches”. It must be led by the communities in conflict and cannot be forced by international community.

It is useful to apply this distinction to South Sudan’s case. The protracted war with Sudan has entrenched militarisation in the society with great ramifications for the people. As a result, the people are more likely to resort to violence instead of discussion in order to solve political and/or everyday disputes. Transparency is reduced and military needs trump over civil rights. Moreover, divisions between different ethnic groups are widened as suspicion and intolerance of the Other grows. Although the international community is working hard on the surface level demilitarisation, South Sudan surely needs deep level demilitarisation if it wishes to find sustainable peace.

Continue reading “#16Days: South Sudan, Women and Demilitarisation”

#16Days: Peace Talks, Peacebuilding and Women

Women peacebuilding
UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, inducts Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Wangari Maathai, as UN Messenger of Peace. Photo credit: Mark Garten / United Nations.

Although over past two decades great strides have been made to include women in international, political, and security affairs, recent statistics demonstrate a lot of work still needs to be done. In 2012, UN Women published a report “Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations: Connections between Presence and Influence”, which demonstrates how little women have been engaged in the examined 31 peace processes from 1992 to 20011. It found that in all of these peace processes “only 4 per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators, 3.7 per cent of witnesses and 9 per cent of negotiators” were women. In only five cases, the percentage of female negotiators was above 10 per cent.

Even years after the adoption of Resolutions 1325 in 2000, women are still excluded from peace processes. Indeed, several recent peace processes from 2008 to 2011 (Central African Republic, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Iraq, and Yemen) did not include any women at all. Considering the prevalence of violence against women in these countries, the exclusion of women is a major failure. Their input would have been instrumental in helping to address the effects of the conflicts on women and in devising the most effective ways of including women in the subsequent peacebuilding efforts. Indeed, the lack of women representation in peace processes is a major issue since they map out the way peacebuilding will unfold in post-conflict era. Without an input from women, it is unlikely that women’s concerns will be addressed or their strengths will be properly drawn upon. This is unfortunate because women have much to contribute to the peace processes and subsequent peacebuilding efforts.

In her journal article “A Country of their Own: Women and Peacebuilding”, Theodora-Ismene Gizelis states that “the social roles of women for nurturing interpersonal relationships make them effective peacebuilders”. An examination of women’s contributions to peacebuilding and peace processes shows that Gizelis is correct to make such a claim. Indeed, the Accord Insight documented many roles that women performed in peacebuilding in several countries such Cambodia, Sierra Leone, northern Uganda, Papua New Guinea–Bougainville, Northern Ireland, Angola, Sudan, Indonesia–Aceh, and Somalia. In these countries, women have greatly contributed to peacebuilding by: “promoting consensus and inclusion as a key strategy, advancing broader issues of social justice, and building peace beyond the negotiating table”. At the negotiating table, they broadened the agenda by including issues such as, equality, access to land, and reconciliation. These issues are not of importance to the armed parties that are typically present at the negotiation table, but the solution to them is vital for achieving long-lasting peace. For instance, women in northern Uganda helped to prepare communities for the reconciliation and integration of ex-combatants by using prayer meetings and peace education. Moreover, the Northern Ireland’s Women’s Coalition (NIWIC) ensured that issues of victims’ rights and reconciliation were included in the Belfast agreement. Furthermore, in Somaliland in 1993 and in 1996, women lobbied elders to intervene to end the conflicts and mobilized funds for the peace meetings. Therefore, women have an important part to play in peacebuilding, but the discussion about their potential contribution should being at peace negotiations with proper input from the women themselves.


 

Margaryta Yakovenko is a recent graduate from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. She specializes in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and security sector reform. She is currently interning with Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada.

#16 Days: When sexual and gender-based crimes are committed in the context of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)  UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Sexual and gender-based crimes are difficult to prosecute and secure convictions for under any conditions. When they are committed as acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes — and are dealt with as part of the international justice system — the situation is even more fraught and complicated. However, the past year has seen positive steps taken toward improving the documentation, investigation, and prosecution of such crimes.

When individual countries lack the capacity to do so, the International Criminal Court (ICC).1 investigates and prosecutes sexual and gender-based crimes within the context of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In fact, six of the eight situations currently under investigation at the Court include charges for gender-based crimes. However, there have yet to be any convictions on sexual or gender-based charges (in fact, there has only been one conviction to date on any charges whatsoever).2

The Prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, has previously recognized the importance of appropriately addressing sexual and gender-based crimes — and the challenges involved in the effective investigation and prosecution of them — by making it one of the key strategic goals in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP)’s Strategic Plan for 2012-2015. (It is strategic goal three: “enhance the integration of a gender perspective in all areas of our work and continue to pay particular attention to sexual and gender based crimes and crimes against children.”)

Continue reading “#16 Days: When sexual and gender-based crimes are committed in the context of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”