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Happening Now: UN Human Rights Council's 35th Session – What Are WILPF Plans?

8 June 2017

The 35th regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) started in Geneva on Tuesday this week and will continue through the 23rd. At the June session, there’s normally a greater focus on women’s rights in the HRC debates and outcomes (see further).

The session was opened with a powerful statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which called for an end of the half-century long occupation of the Palestinian territory stressing that “the sine qua non for peace – the end of the occupation – must now be brought about, and soon”. In condemning “in the strongest of terms the cowardly and sickening attacks perpetrated against innocent people by callous terrorists operating in many parts of the world” he reminded that “counter-terrorism must be prosecuted intelligently: that is, while preserving the human rights of all.” He then focused on the refusal by several UN Member States to grant access to his Office or UN human rights mechanisms, and reminded HRC members of their particular responsibility to cooperate with UN human rights bodies.


As usual, WILPF is participating in the HRC session. We will monitor some of the debates and attend some side events and negotiations of resolutions. We will focus our advocacy activities on the gendered impacts of: arms transfers, corporate abuse, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, austerity measures in Ukraine, and the armed conflict in Syria.


On the first day of the session, we made a statement in the interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. We plan, among others, statements on Syria and Ukraine. We have submitted a written statement on Ukraine and issued a blog post welcoming two reports to HRC35 that remind states that human rights matter in arms trade.

Side events

We are co-organising side events on “Women challenging corporate power” (Friday, 9 June 1.30-3pm, room XXVII, Palais des Nations), and on:

Violence against Women: The Case of Palestinian Women under Occupation” (Friday, 14 June 1-2PM, room XXVII).

For an overview of WILPF activities at the previous HRC session, click here

#HRC35 | What to expect at the session?

Some of the HRC35 reports, debates and resolutions relevant to gender, women, peace and security are the following:

UN Special Procedures

Reports of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, including on her missions to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory; Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (theme: a gender-sensitive approach to arbitrary killings); Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (this is his first report); Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice; Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, including on his mission to Saudi Arabia.

Reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

OHCHR reports on: Impact of arms transfers on the enjoyment of human rights; Impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls (strong focus on the situation of poverty, ethnicity and migration status); Expert workshop to address child early and forced marriage; Realisation of the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl; Ways to bridge the gender digital divide from a human rights perspective.

Click here for the full list of reports.

Panel debates

Among other panels, there will be the annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women, whose two themes will be engaging men and boys in preventing and responding to violence against women girls, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with a special focus on health and gender equality (Tuesday, 13 June); and the panel discussion on unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights (9 June).


These are some of the resolutions that are being negotiated at this session. The HRC will take action on them on the last two days of the session.

Violence against women (main sponsor: Canada; focus: engaging men and boys in preventing violence against women); Child and forced marriage (Sierra Leone, Netherlands, Argentina, Canada, Ethiopia, Honduras, Italy, Maldives, Montenegro, Poland, Switzerland, Uruguay, United Kingdom, Zambia; focus: humanitarian settings); Girls’ right to education (UAE); Protection of the family (Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, El Salvador, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia; focus: elderly persons); Elimination of discrimination against women (main sponsors: Colombia and Mexico); right to education (main sponsor: Portugal); protection of human rights while countering terrorism (main sponsor: Mexico); right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Main sponsor: Brazil); Trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Germany, Philippines).

For more information about this session, see Sexual Rights Initiative “What to expect at HRC35” and the ISHR preview of key issues at HRC35;

Stay up-to-date: Follow @WILPF and #HRC35 on Twitter. Watch the HRC debates on the HRC webcast

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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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