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Human Rights Council 26th Session Wrap-Up

2 July 2014

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!


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!

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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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