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Madeleine Rees on UN Security Council Resolution 2467

It is done: there is a new UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR 2467). As the dust settles and the noise from New York reduces, Madeleine Rees takes a long hard look at what can be done to make the best use of this newest resolution.

Image credit: WILPF
Madeleine Rees
30 April 2019

It is done. There is a new UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR 2467), there was no veto. Two abstentions… and a lot of drama. As the dust settles and the noise from New York reduces we can take a long hard look at what can be done to make the best use of this newest resolution.

We need to analyse both the process and the substance – and keep them separate. Much of the noise and anger is about the former which enabled the perceived absence of vital elements in the latter.

The bad stuff first and briefly. Consultation has to have an impact on the outcome if there is to be any point to it. There was consensus amongst States and civil society that a new resolution was not needed and the politics of this Security Council not conducive to a positive outcome. But let us be honest, civil society cannot control what States do. If a State wants a resolution they can put one forward – regardless of what we want. When that happens, we all need to identify how we can work as allies to address challenges while also identifying how to make the most of how to further the Women, Peace and Security agenda. This is where we are now.

The issue of Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights is the case in point: the words were not in the final text despite a reference to UN Security Council resolution 2106 where they are clearly stated and upon which we will now have to rely. Appalling that the US would seek to deny women who have been raped in war the health care vital to prevent further trauma of both a physical and psychological nature. It is inhuman, it is degrading. That said, no one should be the least surprised at this; the Trump administration is obstructive and retrogressive on gender and women’s reproductive rights in all places at all times. The US should be challenged on its stance on this (and many other issues) every day until it changes, and many others have rightfully done so. But focusing on this as the only issue takes too much energy from the room whilst there are other things to which we should direct our efforts.

All of this just shows what we knew: the Security Council is a divided bunch engaging with their domestic audience and their own interests. They, the Security Council, will not actually take the responsibility for addressing sexual violence in armed conflict and in any case, an opportune moment to recall that all of this is done under their Chapter VI powers. I would argue that maybe it is better that the Security Council, having stated that Women, Peace and Security is indeed an element of international peace and security, (and that in consequence, they have a responsibility in addressing it), then devolve to the other actors; States, the UN agencies and secretariat, and civil society in its various manifestations, the responsibility for making sure of its implementation. That way the context can be better understood, responses more specific and less militarised, and the political obfuscations in the Security Council do not prevent action.

Switch attention from the States who took issue with the resolution for a moment and note that nearly 90% of the statements at the debate referenced the need for accountability and justice. Many States called out the US on its opposition and threats against Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, and gender in particular. Whilst we should never underestimate the forces ranged against us, way more interventions were progressive and positive than not. This shift in discourse is in itself a form of progress.

WILPF’s Women, Peace and Security Programme already analysed the resolution and debate, so I will make it short. Lots of negative press on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights: missing language, not much that the Security Council is going to do that is new, and not enough on many of the things we would have wanted, for example, better accountability for peacekeepers and more direct language on women human rights defenders.

The frustration of Germany at the continued prevalence of Conflict-related Sexual Violence is palpable, as it should be for all members of the Security Council. The greatest test of the importance of the Resolution is if it will actually do anything useful for survivors of Conflict-related Sexual Violence, particularly women because of the gendered causes and consequences.

A brief consideration of what is actually needed: A demand made time and again is that when a new mandate or renewal for peacekeeping is made, then the Security Council members should consult with women’s organisations to ensure the mandate enables the stated objectives; access to rights, prevention, participation, and justice. To translate that into policy, there is a need for senior-level expertise on gender with access to decision makers – even better that the decision maker has the expertise! The response by the UN to women’s demands in the consultations, will not be appropriate unless the UN does better at documenting and reporting on sexual violence against all people, including against women and girls, men and boys, and LGBTI people. This would give much more opportunity to build effective systems to provide rights to access specific healthcare, education, justice, and reparation. Better still if all of those elements are woven into a transitional justice approach which survivors could play a central role designing.

Resolution 2467 provides for all of the above, (although with the inevitable caveats), and designates,  the UN agencies and secretariat, civil society, and States to make it happen.

Looking deeper into the text with the boring lawyer wig on, there are gems (especially for member states and the wider international system).

A couple of general points and then the “for instances”. Predominantly, but not exclusively, in the preamble, the Resolution is replete with an understanding that violence against women is a continuum and that structural change is required, gender equality needed, and women’s participation an absolute necessity in just about everything! It recognises that there is a need to get a grip on illicit weapons trade and to do more with the Arms Trade Treaty, and there are references to the impact of resource extraction… in effect a description of the causes and context in which so much of conflict arises and hence how Conflict-related Sexual Violence becomes legion.

The most potentially revolutionary element is the Resolution’s language on criminal law, which is more progressive than I have yet seen. Its aim is to better protect witnesses and get to accountability: ending restrictive limitation periods for filing claims, ending corroboration requirements (though protecting fair trial rights), ending the exclusion or discrediting of victims’ testimony by law enforcement officials and within judicial and other proceedings, and stating the need to provide facilities for closed hearings. The things civil society can do with this are legion and potentially transformative!

But was it worth it? What about access to the rights that guarantee women’s bodily integrity, and the perceived regression here that has taken all of the headlines? A constructive read of the Resolution guides us to potential consequences: In the preamble, it says clearly that survivors must not be subjected to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or torture. The case law from the European Court of Human Rights has found that the denial of abortion in certain circumstances is just that. Then there is language on access to appropriate services and the conditioning that any response must be non-discriminatory and specific, and must respect the rights and prioritise needs of survivors, including groups that are particularly vulnerable or may be specifically targeted, notably in the context of their health. Cross reference this with the desire to address the rights of children born of rape which refers to “those who choose to become mothers, may have different and specific needs.”

If we look constructively at this language, we might have lost the express statement of protection, but we will not have lost the substance. And in any event, this resolution does not supercede the language of Security Council resolution 2016 where it is specific. Failure to reaffirm past precedent in the current political climate of attacks on gender and sexual and reproductive health and rights is a fair critique. But we need to recognise that we do still have the legal framework we need to support these rights.

Back to the concept of partnerships of power and how we must change our perceptions of structure and hierarchy so as to really create fundamental change. By accident or design, I think Resolution 2467 gives us the possibility to do just that, to rethink what we do and how we build movements for change that are inclusive: as WILPF’s Disarmament Programme, Reaching Critical Will, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons so brilliantly demonstrated, when you build the constituency across States, with the UN and civil society, you can even get a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons! We can do this, not easy, never easy, but WILPF’s own manifesto references organising intelligently. Now is just one of those occasions.

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Madeleine Rees Portrait

Madeleine Rees

Madeleine Rees is a British lawyer and Secretary-General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a role she has held since 2010. For most of her adult life, Rees has worked nationally and internationally to advance human rights, eliminate discrimination, and remove obstacles to justice. As Secretary-General of WILPF, Rees is leading the organisation’s efforts to work through national and international legal frameworks to advance a future of human security and justice for all.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

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 WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations. She holds a PhD in Social Work and currently works at the University of Texas as the Director of Human Trafficking Research at one of the university’s think tanks. Of Mexican descent, born on the US and Mexican border, and raised between the two countries, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. She is also involved with the American Red Cross as a volunteer, trainer, and researcher focused on post-disaster aid distribution and work with undocumented Latinxs. 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

VICE-PRESIDENT

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

PRESIDENT

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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Demilitarisation

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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