The 26th session of the Human Rights Council ended last week! Lots of important decisions were taken that may shape future resolutions within the UN and after following the discussions for 3 weeks we can now give you our views on the outcomes.

Regulating Firearms and Violence against Women

Good news! The resolution on Human Rights and the Regulation of Civilian Acquisition, Possession and Use of Firearms presented by Peru and Ecuador passed this session.

The USA still managed to modify the draft resolution to stress the concept of “acquisition of firearms”, arguing that the possession and use are not issues in itself, rather it is the illegal acquisition that leads to human rights violations. This eventually changed the title from “Impact on Human Rights of Civilian Possession and Use of Firearms”, which better acknowledged the direct link between gun ownership and human rights violations.

However, even after these efforts to conciliate positions, the USA was not able to endorse this resolution and abstained in a vote that they requested. It makes us wonder why the USA is not willing to accept a resolution on something as self-evident as knowing that civilian possession of firearms can lead to murder or threat: will they ever recognise at all that weapons kill innocent lives?

Uruguay and Pakistan were strong supporters of this resolution. In the case of Pakistan, as you can see from our briefing paper, this is an important step, since the widespread possession of guns by male civilians represent a threat for women within the household, as local women have reported.

WILPF has been engaging in this process all along and the resolution includes the recognition of women’s likelihood to experience violence by gunshot, both domestically and in the public space, as we have highlighted during our side-event on guns and gender-based violence. We can congratulate ourselves!

States such as Algeria and Mexico raised the issue of arms trafficking and artisanal production. WILPF and our partners CAFI have published a paper about weapons in India that analyses this issue and its contradictory impacts on the poorest population. We encourage that this issue is raised in a future resolution at the Council.

Are We Protecting the Family?

We have been informing you of the worrying initiative behind the “protection of the family” resolution.

Unfortunately, the resolution on the protection of the family passed. Protecting the intimacy of the family has been long used to justify marital rape, domestic violence and child abuse. Also, the text conveys a uniform idea of family that does not recognise diverse forms, which is a form of discrimination we have been struggling against for years.

We are left with the appalling impression that the HUMAN RIGHTS Council has somehow been used to cover an agenda that has nothing to do with Human Rights but rather with doctrine.

However, the Council was of course incredibly divided in its vote on this. As Sexual Rights Initiative point out: “It is however important to recognise that this was a voted resolution which carries significantly less weight that a consensus text”.

NGOs will keep fighting on this one! Have a look at our joint statement.

One Day Transnational Companies Will Not Act in Total Impunity

The HRC passed a ground-breaking resolution as well on an Internationally Legally Binding Instrument on Transnational Corporations and other Businesses.

As we have explained in this post, the resolution establishes a working group in charge of elaborating a treaty to regulate the work of corporations and prevent serious human rights violations, such as exploitation of workers or forced displacement, violations that WILPF denounced in our statement by WILPF USA and WILPF Nigeria.

The resolution passed with 20 votes against 13 oppositions and 14 abstentions, proving that this was one of the most controversial issues this session. Delegations such as the EU and the USA voted against it, claiming that this initiative would undermine the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Ruggie Principles).

However,  we cannot see how Ruggie Principles would be undermined. We do realise that elaborating a treaty means States will be free not to sign and ratify it. Then those States should just continue (or start) to implement the Guiding Principles. We do hope that so much opposition does not obstruct the work of the new working group and that it does not share the fate of the Convention on Migrants, which is ratified by very few countries concerned, rendering it impossible to hold states accountable.

WILPF believes that the time has come to regulate the work of TNCs and that pressure on States to comply with Human Rights obligations will make them sign and ratify this future treaty. We for sure will make sure this is the case!

Ukraine 

Last week we organised the side-event “Ukraine: Pulling Back from the Brink”, to discuss the social unrest that led to the conflict. Nationalistic discourses have clouded the socio-economic pressures that led to the violent outburst, giving an unrealistic picture of what happened.

Civil society members from Ukraine painted the picture of a country devastated by unemployment, poor working conditions, irregularly paid wages, closing of industries and lack of social programmes, all combined with a pervasive corruption.

The panel highlighted exactly why a gender approach to conflict is always relevant and should be taken into account from the very start. This does not only mean recognising  that women are more likely to experience sexual violence in conflict, but also that socio-economic pressures have different impacts on them, which means that policies to solve conflict need to be formulated with a gender approach in mind. Also, the role of women as active citizens, which has not been acknowledged yet, must be valued.

As was highlighted at the panel, the Ukrainian conflict is solvable, and economic policies such as opening up trade agreements to both the EU and Russia could benefit the whole country. This needs to be combined with a gender approach to policy-making as well. Have a look here at other recommendations from Ukrainian activists for the international community and to the government on what viable solutions could “pull Ukraine back from the brink”. Unfortunately, the recent resolution on Ukraine does not acknowledge the role of women in peace-making.

What Does This All Mean?

Mixed feelings after this Council session: two important steps forward on issues that matter for WILPF. Peace has definitely been defended by passing the resolution on firearms and on transnational companies. But where is the freedom to enjoy your family life in whatever way you’d like?

This week we are engaging in the drafting of a Declaration on the Right to Peace, we hope this effort to promote peace will last for another week.

As always, we will keep you informed!