Last week, the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, presented his first report to the Human Rights Council. In his presentation, he talked about the need to address the root causes of conflict. He also acknowledged the impact of arms transfer on human rights and the importance of fully implementing the Arms Trade Treaty.

Extremism and oppression of women

We believe that Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein is right in linking violent extremism to the oppression of women. If there is something that all kinds of extremism have in common, it is the fact that they exacerbate the patriarchal oppression of women.

Identifying the root causes of war

The key, Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, is to address the root causes of conflict, something that WILPF has been stressing for the last 100 years. While advocating for disarmament and women’s participation in conflict resolution, WILPF has always maintained that eradicating the true root causes of war is the only real preventive task that can be undertaken.

While we welcome Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’s call to address the root causes of conflict, we regret that the only root cause he mentioned was extremism and that this extremism is only put in the context of Islam.

We believe that the root causes of war lie not only in extremism, but also in economic inequality, militarism, patriarchy, colonialism and later neo-colonialism, racist hatred and other scourges of our time.

Militarising the protection of human rights is counterproductive

Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, reminds us in her video how extremism can be religious, but also nationalist. She further analyses the many factors that contribute to all kinds of extremisms growing and reminds us that military force bipolarises societies.

There is a militarisation in the way we deal with conflicts. At WILPF, we believe that militarising the protection of human rights is counterproductive, as it puts women at risk when we instead need to empower them.