Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

New Resolution Adopted in the Human Rights Council

3 October 2013

On Friday evening, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution Impact of arms transfer on human rights in armed conflict, with the vote 42 in favour -1 against and 4 abstentions (with the United States as the only vote against).

The resolution is the first time the issue of arms trade has been dealt with by the Human Rights Council, and we’re particularly excited to see that it acknowledges the link between the arms trade and gender-based violence, in accordance with the recently negotiated Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The resolution links arms trade and the violation of human rights, including women’s rights, and gender-based violence:

Notes with alarm that such arms transfers can have a seriously negative impact on the human rights of women and girls, who may be disproportionately affected by the widespread availability of arms, as it may increase the risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and may also contribute to the recruitment and use of children in armed conflicts;”

Together with other civil society groups and like-minded governments, WILPF was highly involved in the advocacy work for the negotiation of a robust, comprehensive, and legally-binding ATT earlier this year. In particular, WILPF advocated for the inclusion of a legally-binding provision on preventing armed gender-based violence.

The Treaty obligates exporting state parties to assess the risk that the weapons being transferred would facilitate gender-based violence by either state or non-state actors, and not to make the transfer if there is such a risk.

 

The implementation in all UN organs

Since the ATT text was adopted in April 2013, the focus has now shifted to the ratification and implementation process. The UN needs to take the ATT into account in all of its organs, in order to ensure that the Treaty effectively prevents human suffering.

It is highly worrying that members of the Council such as the USA and South Korea argued at Human Rights Council that this is not the appropriate forum for this debate. Similar arguments have been made when the Council has dealt with fully autonomous weapons and other weapons-related issues.

In real life, problems of arms proliferation and human suffering are not isolated from one another. Therefore, the UN system needs to reflect this and build bridges between institutions in order to have appropriate tools to deal with modern human threats.

WILPF has actively been exploring the linkage between disarmament and human rights, and how to bring the issue of arms trade to the UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council, and vice versa.

Our position on this resolution is only another example of it. It is therefore highly encouraging to see that the Council, through this resolution, acknowledged the effect that arms proliferation and trade have on human lives in spite of attempts to block such initiative.

The Negotiation process

Indeed, negotiations of this resolution have not been easy. What started off with many positive elements, the resolution was watered down throughout the Council’s session.

A paragraph recognizing that “arms transfers to parties in countries affected by armed conflict heighten the number of civilian casualties, increase tensions, and exacerbate conflicts thereby prolonging their duration” was unfortunately removed, despite such consequences of arm transfer are obvious to many.

The resolution was also amended to include an explicit reference to national law and procedures, which unfortunately means that the international standard can be subjugated to national law.

But on a positive note, attempts to limit the scope of the resolution to only include “illicit” or “illegal” arms transfer (as if only “illegal” arms deals have a negative impact on human rights) failed, and the drafters managed to keep the stronger language in the text. Unfortunately, this lead to the United States voted against the resolution.

But despite the lack of consensus, we hope this resolution will encourage states that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and to work for its efficient implementation. As of today, 112 states have signed the treaty, and seven states have ratified it. WILPF and other civil society organizations will continue their work to make sure the Treaty will have a real impact on the ground and make a difference for human lives.

WILPF also acknowledges the first ever United Nation Security Council resolution adopted on small arms and light weapons (SALW), on the 26 September 2013. The resolution references the Arms Trade Treaty and highlights how SALW disproportionately impact women and require the full and meaningful participation of women to address in order to promote peace and security.

However, gender is not integrated throughout the resolution, and issues such as sanctions regimes and arms embargoes are addressed without critical gender considerations. While WILPF welcomes the steps forward that resolution takes and thinks it’s positive that the issue of arms and arms trade is discussed in a wider range of forum, we continue to urge that these two resolutions and the Arms Trade Treaty are implemented with particular attention to gender equality and women’s participation and rights in all aspects.

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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 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

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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