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Baby Steps Towards a Right to Peace

18 July 2014

During the first week of July, the open-ended intergovernmental working group in charge of drafting a Declaration on the Right to Peace met for their second session to discuss the progress of the initiative.

A slimmer text

As the previous text had encountered so many opposing opinions, the new text presented at the second session was considerably stripped down to the basics. As was highlighted during informal discussions leading up to the session, Member States would never accept the text in its original form. This resulted in a more cautious approach taken with the idea of designing a basic text on which to possibly build on in the future to make it more specific as to what promoting the right to peace actually means.

Objects of opposition

Subsequently, due to the focus for a more basic text, topics such as disarmament, private military and security companies, peacekeeping, environment, refugees, migrants and the right to conscientious objection were left out.

Ever since the beginning of the process, Member States have been divided between those that already recognise the existence of a right to peace in other international soft law instruments and those that do not acknowledge its existence, seeing that peace is brought through the respect of all human rights.

Although the last point is valid, WILPF does not see why states should not support this initiative, as it constitutes a clear international commitment towards the creation of peace. It certainly does not obstruct the work of other human rights instruments, rather it is a testament to the necessary and interdependent relationship between peace and human rights, where one cannot exist without the other.

WILPF’s engagement

A declaration on the right to peace will only have meaning as long as it acknowledges that violence and conflict originate in power relations. Thus, peace can only be achieved through a reconceptualisation of power through a better understanding of how the elements that define power are interlaced, are interactive and interdependent and how it is deeply gendered. As mentioned, for it to have any impact, the text should explicitly mention factors that contribute to peace, as otherwise it is fruitless. For us, the following areas need to be included:

  • Disarmament – there is always controversy when discussing arms in human rights fora, but it is undeniable that peace cannot be achieved without disarmament. The Human Rights Council is not the space to discuss how to reach disarmament, but it needs to address the way in which human rights, peace and arms are related and remind the international community that committing to peace means committing to disarmament.
  • Gender Equality and Women’s Participation – patriarchal societies are more likely to be affected by conflict as they uphold militaristic values of violence. Socio-economic and political inequality between women and men needs to be taken into account in peace building efforts, where women must be active actors. The necessity of a gendered approach to conflict needs to be clearly set out in the declaration.
  • Social Justice – Social inequality creates unrest that leads to conflict, as we have analysed in the example of Ukraine. Resources should be spent in human development rather than in defence and this needs to be indicated.

If we are to prevent armed conflict to ultimately protect all human rights, the emphasis must be on prevention and the diagnostic should be gender.

‘Till next time

The chairperson rapporteur decided not to present a revised text with comments at the end of the session, preferring to do so next year at the third session. We cannot but feel frustrated at the lengthiness of the process where one step forward is followed by two steps backwards. When will states practice what they preach and actually commit to peace?

To learn more on the right to peace, have a look at WILPF’s text suggestions and the joint NGO statement.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

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. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

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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