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CEDAW Committee Recognises Extraterritorial Obligations towards Human Rights for Sweden

21 March 2016

In a globalised world, we cannot isolate human rights violations in each country without relating them with decisions, actions or inactions taken in other countries.

Today, we face the challenge of recognising the due diligence that States have to ensure that their decisions, actions or inactions do not hinder human rights protection elsewhere.

For instance, when a State, such as Sweden, export weapons to Saudi Arabia, they are contributing to the human rights violations perpetrated through using or threating with these weapons.

Similarly, many countries have a double standard when it comes to their regulation of corporations: inside the country regulations may be more or less strict in terms of employment, protection of the environment and human rights, but when the corporation operates outside they prefer to look the other way to human rights violations.

WILPF brought these concerns to CEDAW Committee regarding actions and inactions of Sweden and Sweden’s obligation for due diligence towards the human rights of women outside Sweden.

During the review CEDAW Committee asked the delegation of Sweden about the mechanisms in place to control arms exports and the risk they might be used in gender-based violence and the actions of corporations violating human rights abroad.


CEDAW Committee has issued its Concluding Recommendations to Sweden and has recommended Sweden “ that the State party uphold its due diligence obligations to ensure that companies under the its jurisdiction or control respect, protect and fulfill women’s human rights when operating abroad.”

With regards to arms exports, the Committee has recommended to: “ensure that the new legislation to regulate export of arms includes a strong and robust gender-specific perspective.”


This decision from CEDAW Committee is a step further in the recognition of extraterritorial obligations with Human Rights Law, that States do not only have an obligation to protect the human rights of those within their borders, but also to prevent that their actions or inactions violate human rights of people in other countries.

It is the first time that the CEDAW Committee has reminded States on their responsibility towards their impact on the rights of persons outside the borders of the State. This important step forward opens an opportunity for human rights defenders around the world to use Human Rights Law even when some of the actors involved in human rights violations are based abroad.

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WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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