In 1948, WILPF became one of the first NGOs – and the first women’s peace organisation – to be granted consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a status that gives us access to all of the UN bodies that are open to NGOs, including the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.
This access is essential for our advocacy as it allows us to influence decision-makers at the highest international level by delivering statements, participating in negotiations and holding side events at the UN. Having the ECOSOC consultative status also means that the quality of our work is regularly reviewed by the UN, and that we need to live up to a certain standard in order to continue to have the access we have.
For almost 70 years now, we have lobbied the UN on several peace-related issues. In fact, already before the UN was formed, WILPF had figured out ways of interacting with and influencing the League of Nations, which did not have any formal procedures for consultative status for NGOs. This is something that Rene Wadlow writes about in his article Women, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, exploring the history of WILPF and our work at the UN.
For a long time, our advocacy at the UN was primarily focused on disarmament, but in recent years we have broadened our scope and we can now boast victories on several different issues.
For instance, at the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014, we held a side event on guns and gender based violence and delivered a statement on civilian possession of firearms and its impact on women’s human rights, which contributed to the adoption of the UN Resolution on Human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms.
In January 2014, we also organised the first-ever official meeting of the UN Security Council with Syrian civil society, in order to make sure that Syrian women activists’ voices were properly heard in this forum. One month later, the Security Council adopted the first Humanitarian Resolution on Syria, which emphasised the importance of women’s participation.
These are just a couple of examples of things that we would not have been able to achieve without our consultative status with the UN. We are proud to see that our work brings concrete results at the global level.