Tag Archives: Protection

No Protection without Participation: The Responsibility to Include Displaced Women

On October 28, 2014, the Security Council held its annual open debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) focusing on women as refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The urgency of this matter cannot be understated, as the world reaches a grim milestone.

Security Council meeting on Women and peace and  security

Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Security Council meeting on Women and peace and security. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Currently, the global population of displaced sits at approximately 50 million people – the largest number since the Second World War. What’s more appalling is that an astounding 80 percent of this population consists of women and children.

It was noted throughout the debate that in this context, women are at risk of a range of human rights abuses. These include gender-based discrimination in access to economic resources, education and employment, poor reproductive health care, and exclusion from decision-making and participation in most peace processes.

Furthermore, women are particularly vulnerable to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). Recalling Security Council Resolution 1820, rape and other forms of sexual violence are recognized as a threat to international peace and security, as well as serve as indicators of and/or constitute potential genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, making this an important issue for both the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) and WPS.

The debate was part of the ongoing effort to evaluate implementation of Resolution 1325, a landmark Security Council decision that followed many incremental precedents in the advancement of women’s human rights, and subsequent resolutions that make up the WPS framework. The discussions held at this session made it clear that, while progress has been made with regards to upholding women’s rights and ensuring equal participation, there is still much progress to be made, especially as it concerns women who are refugees or IDPs.  The experience of women IDPs in countries plagued by atrocities such as Syria, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan demonstrate the stunning lack of progress, as well as a failure of national authorities to uphold their primary responsibility to protect displaced persons within their borders.

 

Horrifying Conditions for Displaced Women

The latest Secretary-General’s report on Women’s Peace and Security takes special note of the plight of displaced women. The report explains that driving factors such as discriminatory gender norms, a lack of access to livelihoods and basic services, as well as unequal citizenship rights leave women and girls especially vulnerable to a range of rights violations.

Among the risks mentioned are exposures to sex and labour trafficking, SGBV, and early and forced marriage. In addition, women are experiencing a curtailment of their rights in relation to dress, travel, education and employment – particularly in areas where extremism is rampant.

The Secretary-General’s report notes several countries as being particularly affected, including atrocity-ridden Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Reports emerging from these countries bring the Secretary-General’s warnings to life, and shed light on the dire situations faced by displaced women.

For example, in South Sudan, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence, Zainab Hawa Bangura told horrific tales of sexual violence that will “…haunt South Sudan for generations to come” and include “rapes, gang rapes, rapes with guns and bullets and sexual slavery,” committed by forces loyal to both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar.  Many of these have occurred in the supposed safety of UNMISS Protection of Civilian sites and IDP camps.

In the Central African Republic, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre reports that “where 20 per cent of the country’s population is internally displaced, 68 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18.” They also note that access to education has been severely restricted, decrying that “ In Bossangoa region, education has ground to a halt almost completely, and in the country as  whole more than 70 per cent of potential pupils – at least 450,000 children – are currently out of school.”

Views of the Zaatri Refugee Camp

Syrian Refugees Crossing into the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

In Syria, the Assistant UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that displacement has been “accompanied by gender-based crimes, deliberate victimization of women and children and a frightening array of assaults on human dignity.”

A July 2014 Human Rights Watch report documented the abuses inflicted on women fleeing the frontlines of the country’s civil war. The organization warned that “Women in Syria have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, physically abused, harassed, and tortured during Syria’s conflict by government forces, pro-government militias, and armed groups opposed to the government.”

The examples from these countries are but a sample of the very real dangers faced by displaced women and girls, and the risks that they will become victims of RtoP crimes.

 

RtoP and Women’s Participation in the Context of Displacement

The deplorable conditions facing displaced women in South Sudan, Syria, and CAR represent a wider failure of national authorities to uphold their obligations to adequately protect IDPs and refugees within their borders.

Indeed, the broad range of rights abuses faced by displaced women are identified by the new  Framework of Analysis for the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes, recently published by the Joint Office for the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, as being a precursor to the commission of atrocity crimes.

The framework explains that of particular concern are “violations of civil and political rights” that may include “…severe restrictions to economic, social and cultural rights, often linked to patterns of discrimination or exclusion of protected groups, populations or individuals.”

Furthermore, as noted above, Resolution 1820 recognized for the first time that sexual violence could potentially constitute three of the four mass atrocity crimes and violations under RtoP, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The Framework of Analysis also warns that increasing acts of sexual violence “may indicate an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes, or suggest a trajectory towards their perpetration. “

English classes for displaced women

UNAMID police facilitate English classes for displaced women in Darfur. UN Photo/Albert González Farran.

While a range of actions need to be in focus when addressing these crimes, a partial explanation of the failure to curb these violations is the exclusion of women from decision-making–including on policies regarding IDPs/refugees and peace processes in general. This exclusionary trend is at odds with the commitments set out in the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, and in particular, the Women, Peace and Security agenda, including Resolutions 1325 and 2122.

Resolution 1325 served as a landmark document, marking the UN Security Council’s recognition of the unique effects of conflict on women, and that their voices must be included in all stages of the peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding process. Through the adoption of Resolution 2122, the Council sought to strengthen the WPS agenda by explicitly focusing on the need to take further action to ensure women’s participation in all stages of conflict prevention and response. Without the recognition and inclusion of women, it is widely acknowledged that any strategy implemented will be “faulty” and unsustainable.

Thus, states hosting a displaced population have an urgent responsibility to protect women from these crimes, while the international community has a responsibility to provide assistance when authorities are failing as spectacularly as in the cases above. However, due to the indispensable nature of women’s involvement, protection cannot be fully achieved without their active participation and the facilitation of these efforts.

 

Ending Abuse through Gendered Strategies

Both civil society advocates and member states that participated in the open debate have offered recommendations that could help ensure protection obligations are upheld, and that the voices of women are included in the design and implementation of policies for the protection of the displaced.

In their civil society statement delivered at the WPS debate, the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security called for a comprehensive and gender-sensitive protection effort for women in displaced situations.  They stressed that:

“…women must fully participate and be consulted systematically in decision-making, across all displacement settings, in humanitarian programming, and, of course, in the broader political, security and peace processes.”  To these ends, the provision of political and financial support, as well as specialized training to civil society and women’s human rights defenders were recommended.

The Permanent Representative of Lithuania highlighted  the importance of ensuring personnel involved in the protection of IDPs are well-versed in gender-sensitivity by “providing gender awareness training to peacekeepers, field staff and humanitarian actors, appointing gender advisors, and developing concrete indicators to assess implementation of gender mainstreaming policies.”

Suggesting examples of best practices, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet identified steps that have been taken to incorporate a gender perspective into IDP protection in peacekeeping operations.

UNAMID Civil Affairs Officers Meet IDP Camp Residents. UN Photo/Olivier Chassot.

One such practice was UNAMID’s establishment of a Women’s Protection Network in Darfuri IDP camps to elicit their participation in formulating protection strategies.  Another was the UNMISS advocacy efforts that led to a gendered approach to IDP camp management, including the appointment of female camp managers.

An important recurring theme was the extension of women’s empowerment to the socioeconomic sphere, as horizontal inequalities exacerbated by displacement create the conditions that leave women vulnerable to exploitation. They are also considered a common indicator of atrocity risk under the Special Advisers’ Framework of Analysis.

As the Nordic countries remarked in their joint statement delivered by Sweden, “Gender inequalities lie at the heart of the issue. Gender equality in political, economic, and social life is a goal in itself and also contributes to preventing sexual violence and armed conflict.” Recommendations made by states for reducing inequalities, including by improving access to services and livelihoods, are therefore critical.

No Protection without True Participation

By implementing gendered protection strategies, and ensuring the full participation of women in all matters related to the protection of IDPs, a double purpose is being served. Not only are national and international actors doing their part to satisfy obligations laid out in the WPS agenda, but they are taking steps towards fulfilling their responsibility to prevent and respond to mass atrocities. Furthermore, they are upholding their responsibilities to help improve the capacity of national actors to live up to their primary RtoP obligations.

As Edmond Mulet stated “We have a responsibility to better protect women, but protection cannot exist without genuine understanding of women’s rights and acceptance of their full participation, as demanded by resolution 1325 and all subsequent mandates on women, peace, and security.”

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Filed under Human Rights, Prevention, RtoP, South Sudan, Syria, Women

UN Peacekeeping: New Trends and Implications for Civilian Protection

UN Peacekeeper day Congo

International UN Peacekeeping Day celebration in DR Congo. MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani

International peacekeeping is a vital tool in the United Nations’ proverbial ‘toolbox’ for upholding its Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).  May 29 was celebrated as International UN Peacekeeping Day to the refrain of “Force for the Future,”  kicking off a six-month initiative to raise political support for the modernization of UN peacekeeping with the hopes of further realizing its value and cost-effectiveness, and meeting the present realities faced by today’s ‘blue helmets’.

In the words of the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edward Mulet, “The world is changing. The threats are changing. The levels of conflict are changing in many places in the world…so we have to adapt and we have to evolve and we have to learn how to deal with these new challenges.”

These new challenges are linked to a number of features of modern conflict. Today’s conflicts tend to be intra-as opposed to inter-state, and disproportionately affect civilians populations who are often targeted by armed groups. Conflicts are becoming more complex and multi-dimensional, as are the threats they produce. Furthermore, it is common for operations to be launched in the midst of a conflict, where there is in fact no peace to keep. These developments are challenging the precepts that characterise what has been called the ‘holy trinity’ of ‘classical peacekeeping,’ namely: host-government consent, impartiality, and minimal use of force.

Protection of Civilians (PoC) and Other Evolving Trends

A recent report by the United Nation’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the implementation of Protection of Civilian (PoC) mandates in UN peacekeeping operations touches on an important evolutionary characteristic of “modern” operations. The report notes that to date, thirteen UN peacekeeping missions have included a robust PoC mandate – nine of which are current. In addition, several have included an “all means necessary” stipulation under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The PoC agenda evolved from the same discourse that spawned RtoP and shares much of the underpinning legal and moral justification. Indeed, the two agendas reinforce each other in many ways. However, it is important to note that PoC and RtoP remain separate areas. A crucial distinction is that RtoP is narrowly focused on the four mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. RtoP does not extend beyond these crimes, though it does extend to situations outside of armed conflict. On the other hand, PoC is narrowly focused on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, but applies to a larger range of human rights violations than just the four crimes. For more information on the distinctions and similarities between the two agendas, visit ICRtoP’s PoC information page.

Operation unified Response

Brazilian peacekeeper on patrol in Haiti. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David A. Frech/Released)

Along with the proliferation of PoC mandates and Chapter VII authorizations, developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may be indicative of another new trend. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2098 established the UN ‘Force Intervention Brigade’ (FIB) in DRC, providing MONUSCO with the capacity and authorization to proactively engage in the protection of civilians through disarmament of Congo’s many armed groups, unambiguously approving the use of force with “targeted offensive operations.” The brigade played a decisive role in the defeat of the M23 movement last year. However, as it stands now, this remains an exceptional case and indeed was only agreed to by Russia and China on this condition.

 

How effective have PoC Mandates Been?

While it is important to continuously adapt to new challenges, it is also important to assess how these are being implemented in actuality.

On the issue of civilian protection, OIOS found several obstacles to the effective implementation of PoC mandates. Strikingly, the report found that, for a number of reasons, force is almost never used to protect civilians – even as a last resort and with legal authorization to do so. Such reasons include the interpretive viewpoint of mission commanders, an aversion to putting troops in harm’s way, a shortage of troops and resources, fear of consequence for the misuse of force, and confusion over how the notion of consent applies in instances where government forces appear to be instigating or perpetrating violence against civilians.

OIOS made a number of recommendations for improving this record, importantly pointing to the necessity of bridging operational understanding at all levels to mend the broken “chain” of activities designed to protect civilians. It also recommended reporting to the Security Council in the event that instructions are not fully carried out in regards to civilian protection, along with improved coordination between peacekeeping and humanitarian entities.

 

Security Council Holds Open Debate on New Trends in UN Peacekeeping

The open debate held on June 11, 2014 brought together troop, police and finance-contributing countries (TCCs, PCCs, and FCCs respectively) to discuss these findings, as well as other recent trends in UN peacekeeping.

12-03-2013Drones_Ladsous

Head of Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous, inspects an Unmanned/Unarmed Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for use in eastern DRC. MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti

A concept note that preceded the debate highlighted technological innovations that have presented the UN with new tools for carrying out their mandates more effectively. This includes the use of Unarmed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UUAVs) and new medical and engineering equipment. Such technological innovation is said to“… contribute to the fuller implementation of mandates by peacekeepers and improved safety and security of personnel, as well as better situational awareness.” 

The note also mentions that missions have become much more multi-dimensional in nature, with military, police and civilian components deployed by various international actors existing simultaneously. This covers the full spectrum of intervention, from the brokering and monitoring of a ceasefire, to disarmament, reconciliation, peacebuilding and statebuilding activities.

Thus far, these have been implemented within a “fragmented policy and legal framework”, making consensus and standard guidance crucial – particularly as the time-honored principles of neutrality, consent and minimal use of force are being challenged.

Different Perspectives on Peacekeeping Developments

While 47 delegates made statements during the debate, a few samples from major TCC, PCC, and FCCs illustrate the scope of concerns.

As the third largest African troop and police contributing country, as well as the current Chair of the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations, Rwandan Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana touched on some key issues. The Ambassador voiced his support for robust peacekeeping mandates stating:

“Given the nature of current threats to peacekeeping, Rwanda believes that the deployment of robust peacekeepers is essential to not only effectively protect civilians but also to protect themselves in increasingly hostile and volatile environments.”

However, he qualified this statement with the warning that:

“…we cannot expect peacekeepers to engage in robust peacekeeping tasks without necessary preparation and resources. If we do not have the ability to insert forces and to conduct casualty and medical evacuations or airlifts, then we have major problems and should not have deployed in the first place.”

On the question of new technologies, Gasana recognized its value as a key enabler, but simultaneously cautioned that, regarding the use of UUAV’s, “Questions still exist regarding control of information collected, confidentiality, and third party impartiality.” The concern over use and legalities were common themes among many member states.

United Nations peacekeeping operations

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers his remarks at the open debate on June 11, 2014. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis of the Permanent Mission of the United States spoke for the world’s largest FCC, and mirrored the concerns of other countries that insist the traditional model of peacekeeping is outdated. Like Rwanda, they were supportive of more robust peacekeeping mandates. The focus of their concern was on ensuring mandates are implemented as effectively as possible, particularly given the bleak findings of the OIOS report. Reflecting on this, the Ambassador lamented:

“At its essence, the report reveals a significant gap that has emerged between the commitments we set down on paper – which constitute a responsibility to act – and the way missions perform in practice. The larger this gap grows, the more vulnerable civilians become, and the less credible this organization and the peacekeepers representing it become.” The Ambassador urged consideration of the report’s conclusions.

Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, the Permanent Representative of India provided a different perspective. A noted skeptic of the expanding role of UN peacekeeping, India was particularly vocal in its opposition to the FIB:

In our view, such a mixing of mandates directly affects the operational effectiveness of the peacekeeping operation, exposing traditional peacekeepers to unnecessary threats from armed internal conflicts which the United Nations has not itself instigated.”  

Furthermore, India bemoaned the lack of funding and resources being volunteered for peacekeeping operations, particularly in complex and multi-dimensional environments:

On the one hand, the new mandates of UNPKOs are ambitiously drafted, running into many pages, as good governance templates. On the other hand, the very same pen-holders drafting these new mandates cavil at having to pay more money for peacekeepers tasked to implement these mandates.”

India’s comments represent a number of states who expressed similar reservations over the use of force and overly-ambitious mandates, seen as threatening classical peacekeeping.

Key Recommendations for Improvement

Though an outcome document has yet to emerge from the debate, it is possible to piece together some of the main recommendations to address concerns of TCCs, PCCs and FCCs alike. These include:

  • Inclusive consultations between the Security Council and the General Assembly to derive consensus on delicate issues, such as use of force, equipment and mission costs.
  • Providing clear mandates with standard operating procedures plainly defined.
  • Better communication at command and tactical levels to bridge the gap between planning and implementation.
  • A standard regulatory framework for the use of new technologies, such as UUAV’s.
  • Improvement of inter-mission cooperation to fill logistical and capacity gaps and leverage synergies.
  • Matching ambitious multi-dimensional mandates with adequate resource and funding commitments.
  • Continuing to recognize and create an enabling environment for activities that lead to sustainable peace and development – including incorporating a Women’s Peace and Security lens, security and justice sector reform, and dialogue and reconciliatory efforts.

Steps such as these could help reconcile the need for innovation and adaptability with the concerns of states that are leery of leading UN peacekeeping too far from its roots. Ultimately, this will ensure peacekeeping operations are better prepared and equipped to protect vulnerable civilians from mass atrocities, securing its status as a key tool in the RtoP toolkit and making it a true “Force for the Future.”

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Filed under DRC, Peacekeeping, Security Council, UN

Women and the Responsibility to Protect

In the context of contemporary armed conflict, the general discourse often assumes that women, one of the most vulnerable and impacted groups, are disempowered. Discussion on the role of women in conflict and post-conflict settings frequently reflects this by emphasizing the narrative of women as victims, overlooking the crucial role of women as actors.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, which was celebrated on 8 March, we want to reiterate that women have a critical role – as well as an inalienable right – in the implementation of the full spectrum of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP).

In the norm’s framework, women must be included as equal players in the international community who can contribute to preventing mass atrocities, assisting in protection, resolving conflict, and securing lasting peace and justice.

To date, however, gaps remain as steps have not been taken to truly engender RtoP. This post will expand on the missed opportunities, as well as the challenges ahead for engendering the norm, to ensure the full participation of women in the RtoP’s framework.

Leadership in the Prevention and Resolution of Conflict and Mass Atrocities

The United Nations has increasingly recognized the leadership position of women preventing and resolving conflict. At the 1995 World Conference on Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA) called for the establishment of an “active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective” when addressing armed and other conflict, noting the important role of women “during times of armed conflict and the collapse of communities.”

Furthermore, the UN Security Council has taken up a robust case of work with its Women, Peace, and Security agenda, and with the adoption of notable resolutions, such as Security Council Resolutions (SCR) 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), has reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to the empowerment and protection of women.

SCR 1325 specifically calls for greater participation of women at all levels of decision-making, and stressed the “importance of their (women’s) equal participation and full involvement in all efforts of the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.”

And SCR 1820 was the first Resolution that recognized violence against women, particularly conflict-related sexual violence, as a threat to international peace and security. The SCR also called for the UN and its various peace operations to develop mechanisms to prevent and respond to sexual violence, including through the training of personnel and the deployment of more women in peace operations.

Despite this, the role of women in the prevention of mass atrocities has yet to be formally recognized in the context of RtoP, and is reflective of a broader gap in the number of women participating in prevention, protection, and rebuilding in a conflict setting.

UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, created in July 2010 by the UN General Assembly, cites the percentage of women participating in peace processes remains very low compared to their male counterparts.

In 11 peace processes for which statistics are available, UN Women indicates that less than 8% of participants in and fewer than 3% of signatories to peace treaties are women. Furthermore, no women have been appointed Chief or Lead mediators in UN-sponsored peace talks, and women remain substantially underrepresented in UN peace operations.

Thus, despite the institutional realization of the important leadership role for women, women’s voices are noticeably silent in the context of post-conflict peace processes and reconstruction in any given country-specific situation around the world.

This situation must be remedied. And it must be remedied not only because women have a right to participate, but also because we have seen important examples, like Liberia, where women were crucial actors in peace processes. Civil society organizations like the West-Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), one of our member organizations, mobilized during the Liberian civil wars and played a crucial role in including women in peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction. The world’s first all-female peacekeeping unit was also deployed serve as armed police and assist in stabilizing the country after years of internal strife.

Women and Mass Atrocities

Alongside the recognition of the important role of women in prevention, protection, and reconstruction has been the steady establishment of a broader international narrative that contemporary conflict and post-conflict situations affect women very differently from men.

The protection of women’s rights has been codified in international law through the BPDA, UN SCR’s 1325 and 1820, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). These documents outline the rights and responsibilities of the international community, governments, and civil society regarding women and conflict.

Regarding the ICC, Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice stated in a press release to commemorate International Women’s Day that, “The Rome Statute contains the most advanced articulation in the history of international criminal and humanitarian law of acts of violence, gendered in nature, predominantly sexual and most commonly perpetrated against women.”  It also remains, the press release states, “the most significant global institution for addressing gender-based crimes because for many women the Court represents their only hope of accountability for crimes their state is unable or unwilling to prosecute.”

In his 2009 report, Implementing the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon drew on these documents and reiterated, for the first time in the context of the norm, that rape and other forms of sexual violence could constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, or constitutive acts with respect to genocide.

It was also mentioned in the report that gender-based violence was an early warning indicator of mass atrocities. This was reaffirmed in the Secretary-General’s 2010 report on Early Warning, Assessment and the RtoP and his 2011 report on the Role of Regional and Sub-Regional Arrangements in Implementing RtoP.

The systematic nature of sexual violence in conflicted-related scenarios has also led to the appointment of Margot Wallström as the Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) on the matter, with the mandate of intensifying efforts to end sexual violence against women.

Despite the obligations placed on parties to conflict to protect women’s rights, and the renewed effort at the UN to stem conflict-related sexual violence, atrocities against women in armed and other conflict remain rampant in the context of particular country-specific cases.

A particularly enlightening example of this is the Secretary-General’s recent 13 January 2012 report on Conflict-related Sexual Violence. The report highlights a number of situations, including but not limited to Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Timor-Leste, where violence against women has been widespread and remains a risk on a daily basis.

The report also names and shames some of the world’s worst offenders, including the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan, armed militias in Côte d’Ivoire, and the armed forces of the DRC, where tens, if not hundreds of thousands of women have been systematically raped by combatants since 2003.

The dire nature of continued violence against women was made abundantly clear at the 23 February meeting of the UN Security Council on Women, Peace, and Security by SRSG Wallström, who called conflict-related sexual violence a “global risk”. Wallström also stated that, “impunity fuels the cycle of violence”, highlighting the continued problem posed by a lack of justice for victims of violence both during and post-conflict.

Actual and threatened conflict-related sexual violence, as well as impunity for its perpetrators, thus poses a critical implication: While dialogue, public statements, and institutional advancements are important, they must be met with operational progress on the ground in countries like Côte d’Ivoire, the DRC, and Sri Lanka.

Moving Forward: Overcoming Challenges and Seizing Opportunities

While the threat against women in armed and other conflict remains as present as ever, the focus on women as victims cannot undermine their importance in the full spectrum of the Responsibility to Protect.

In order to realize the full potential of the role of women for the RtoP, important operational measures and concrete actions must be taken.

Realizing Women as Leaders in the RtoP Framework

Women must be more equally represented in prevention, as well as the resolution of conflict and reconstruction in a post-conflict setting. In this sense, there must be more women in leadership positions at all levels of decision-making. Increasing the involvement of women in conflict mediation and peace processes, including in the negotiations and drafting of peace accords and constitutions, is also integral to preventing the recurrence of violence.

In seeking justice during or in the aftermath of conflict, women must be included in accountability processes such as criminal proceedings and/or truth and reconciliation commissions, and be guaranteed legal support. The effort to ending impunity for violence committed against women is also an important challenge that must be overcome, and should be met with vigorous resolve at all levels of governance.

Furthermore, United Nations peace operations should strive to include women in military and civilian protection capacities, including in security sector reform (SSR) efforts and training initiatives in conflict settings. An all too important task for peace operations, whether at the UN or regional organization (RIGO) level, is providing training for relevant personnel to be aware of gender-based violence indicators and knowledgeable of how conflict affects men and women differently.

Ensuring Prevention and Protection: A 3-Pillar Approach

Gender-based violence continues largely unabated, but information and resources necessary to understand why are unavailable. Furthermore, gender-based indicators have not been employed to provide early warning for the threat of mass atrocities. These gaps must be filled to foster a better understanding of the “global risk” of violence against women, and to ensure more effective prevention when RtoP crimes are threatened.

Consistent with the primary protection responsibilities of the state, national actors must uphold their obligations under international law and prevent and protect women from befalling violence, particularly conflict-related sexual violence. Adopting national legislation to ensure equality of human rights and the effective protection of vulnerable populations is a necessary step, as well as ratifying relevant human rights treaties and abstaining from reservations that would adversely affect women. RIGOs should also continue to address the role of women in conflict in order to foster multi-level adherence to the respect for women’s rights.

Regional organizations, the UN, its Member States, and civil society must be ready and willing to provide assistance and capacity building to individual states as they work to include women and prevent violence from befalling them.

If a state is found manifestly failing to protect women from one or more of the RtoP crimes, early diplomatic and other non-violent measures must be taken. The establishment of a working group on women and RtoP by the Secretary-General would serve well in establishing and better integrating a gendered approach to the norm.

As the international community marks International Women’s Day, a renewed and vigorous effort to engender RtoP to reflect the important role of women within the norm’s framework would be welcome. If these steps are taken, the crucial task securing their full participation in the spectrum of the RtoP may soon be realized. Too often, however, words are not translated into deeds. This time, the promises made in New York and national capitals must be kept and translated to action around the world.

Our Civil Society Members Commemorate #IWD (International Women’s Day):

Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict (GAPW) hosted an event entitled Integrating Gender Perspectives into the Third Pillar of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) on 21 February, and their Women, Peace & Security programme Director, Melina Leto, published a blog post on empowering women in traditional communities.

Human Rights Watch publishes The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women’s Rights

Minority and indigenous women deliberately targeted for sexual and other violence, says Minority Rights Group International on International Women’s Day

“A Priceless Investment: Protecting and Empowering Adolescent Refugee Girls” by Sarah Costa of the Women’s Refugee Commission and Samuel Witten

Oxfam International has a full page on their website dedicated to International Women’s Day 2012, and a featured blog post on one woman’s role in making a positive contribution to finding peace in Somalia and providing support for victims of gender-based violence.

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Filed under Human Rights, IWD, Post-Conflict, Prevention, Regional Orgs, RtoP, Security Council, UN, Women