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UNHRC23 Wrap-up: Why WILPF’s Integrated Approach Is Needed More Than Ever

25 June 2013

During the 23rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), some of the thorniest negotiations have revolved around the Resolution on Sexual Violence, the conflict in Syria and the Right to Peace. A separate analysis of these negotiations brings a worrying sense of backlashes on many fronts affecting women’s rights and international security.

But a comprehensive analysis of the negotiations during this session brings an even more worrying conclusion: the growing intention of Russia and of many other States to separate any issue being discussed at the Security Council from the issues being dealt with at the Human Rights Council. That is to say: separating peace and security from human rights, as if they were separate matters.

What happened with UNSCR 1325?

The Council session started with our hopes up for a Resolution to end Sexual Violence called “Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence” (A/HRC/23/L.28). But reality within the UNHRC did not live up to our expectations.

On top of the worrying signals of the negotiations revealing a backlash in women’s rights that we have analysed in our previous blog, these negotiations also revealed that many States, and most particularly Russia, are willing to go to any length to separate the work of the UNHRC from that of the Security Council, proposing amendments to the text that erased any mentioning of UNSCR 1325, which are of essential importance to this topic.

And what is being done for Syria?

Another thorny matter was the resolution about human rights violations during the conflict in Syria. In light of the gravity of the situation, most of the elements being negotiated should had been given, but unfortunately this was of course not the case within the Council.

Fardous Albahra and Sabah Alhallak
Fardous Albahra and Sabah Alhallak, Syrian women’s rights activists invited by WILPF to attend the side event on Syria and Bosnia at the UN in Geneva.

A topic that was particularly important for WILPF was the inclusion of the rejection of all interferences fueling the conflict, especially the provision of arms to any of the parts in conflict. WILPF brought to Geneva human rights defenders from Syria and from the region who made these requests. Peru made a request in this sense that was only partially kept. We encourage human rights defenders to use the interpretation declaration by Chile.

No arms to countries affected by human rights violations

Chile will interpret paragraph 6bis of the resolution as including the obligation to abstain from selling arms to countries were human rights violations are taking place. This is also an obligation enshrined in the recently opened for signature Arms Trade Treaty, reiterating once again the interconnection between Peace and Security and Human Rights.

Again, the position from Russia on this resolution was that the Human Rights Council did not need to discuss issues that are under discussion in the Security Council, as is the case for the conflict in Syria.

A holistic approach to conflicts and Right to Peace

Maybe we should remind Member States that conflicts have multiple causes and consequences, that they are multifaceted and need to be addressed with a holistic approach. All armed conflicts involve human rights violations and, in this sense, the HRC has a mandate and an obligation to address them. They also need a humanitarian and diplomatic response. Rejecting one or several of these facets hinders an appropriate response to human rights violations being perpetrated.

Finally, the Resolution on the Right to Peace is yet another debate in which there were attempts to separate discussions related to armed conflict and human rights. A resolution finally passed extending the mandate of a Working Group in charge of drafting a declaration on the right to peace. However, the frontal clash opposing two blocks in the HRC on this matter does not announce an easy task for the working group.

Boycotting the objectives of the United Nations

Compartmenting the work of UN bodies and making them work abstaining from even acknowledging or completing one another seems like a very unproductive way of working and cannot not reflect but an intention to boycott the objectives of the United Nations. These objectives include international peace and security and their link to human rights, as clearly recognised in article 1 of the UN Charter, as well as clearly reinstated throughout the history of the UN.

The artificial separation between the Peace and Security Agenda and Human Rights is highly worrying, but even more appalling is the instrumentalisation of women’s human rights discussions, such as the discussion over the resolution on sexual violence, to force this separation.

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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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