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What’s Up in September 2017 in Geneva?

7 September 2017

September will be an important month for WILPF in Geneva. The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, 36th session (HRC36) will run from 11 to 29 September, and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) Third Conference of States Parties (ATT-CSP3) will take place from 11 to 15 September.

During the month, we will be hosting women human rights defenders from Libya, Yemen and Syria, as well as organising and speaking at a number of closed and public side events. We will launch three publications and will be publishing daily our ATT Monitor during the ATT Conference of States Parties. In other words: We will be busy!

A month dedicated to Women, Peace and Security

During the HRC36, WILPF will largely focus our advocacy activities on highlighting the challenges hindering the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda in Syria, Libya and Yemen, and the gendered human rights impacts of arms proliferation. During the ATT Conference of States Parties, we will continue to emphasise the need for transparency as well as for reducing the human suffering caused by arms trade.

Both at the HRC and the ATT Conference of States Parties, we will call for follow up to the recommendations of the June 2017 OHCHR report on the impact of arms transfers on human rights. In particular, we will continue to advocate for a preventative approach aimed at stopping arms transfers where there is a risk that those arms will be used for serious violations or abuses of human rights, including gender-based violence.

Calling for States to fulfill their ATT obligations

It was a huge victory for WILPF when the Arms Trade Treaty was adopted in the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013. In particular, WILPF and other committed partners had championed the effort to ensure that the treaty includes a legally binding provision on gender-based violence. Thanks to that provision, States Parties are obliged to consider, prior to the authorisation of any arms transfers, the risk such transfer might have on gender-based violence in the receiving country. If there is a risk, transfer has to be denied.

WILPF has monitored the implementation of the ATT closely since its entry into force in 2014. WILPF’s Reaching Critical Will team will participate in the Third Conference of States Parties’ meetings, and provide daily monitoring and analysis through the ATT Monitor updates. Through participation in three side events, we will continue to call attention to the gender gap in disarmament, as well as the human cost of the arms trade, in particular on women and in the context of human rights. Our activities include the presentation of an updated briefing paper for States Parties to better guide them in implementing the gender-based violence ATT obligation and the circulation of a toolkit prepared earlier this year by WILPF’s Crisis Response programme.

It has been extremely disappointing and unacceptable that certain States Parties are flouting their obligations under the ATT and continuing to sell arms to states that use them in human rights violations, both domestically and internationally.

Supporting Syrian women’s struggle towards WPS and rights of detainees

During the first week of HRC36 and the week of the ATT Conference of States Parties, WILPF will have the honour of welcoming again representatives of Families for Freedom. Families for Freedom is a campaign organised by relatives of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons in Syria who are tirelessly advocating for the release and rights of their relatives and other detainees.

WILPF will, in coordination with Amnesty International UK and Amnesty International Switzerland, support Families for Freedom’s engagement with the HRC and with key high-level stakeholders to help ensure that their demands are heard at the highest level and acted upon.

Regarding the situation in Syria, a draft resolution is expected to be presented by the UK and other members of a core group (1). WILPF will monitor the negotiations on the resolution and continue to advocate for it to address the root causes of the unending conflict in Syria, in particular the ongoing transfer of weapons to all parties in the conflict.

We will also be co-organising a side event with Amnesty International UK and Women Now for Development (WND) entitled “Women, Peace and Security in Syria: realities, challenges and the way forward”, on 14 September 2017. The side event will focus on a report, published by WILPF and partner organisations, that outlines the challenges hindering the implementation of the WPS agenda in Syria and makes recommendations to address them. A representative of Families for Freedom will speak at the event.

Women’s multidimensional insecurities in Yemen and Libya

During HRC36, WILPF and Women Peacemakers Program (WPP) will be hosting a delegation of women human rights defenders from Libya and Yemen and supporting their engagement with diplomats and UN officials. We are also jointly organising the side event “Women’s Multidimensional Insecurities amidst the Shrinking Civil Society Space in Yemen and Libya”, on 21 September 2017.

This side event will provide space for Libyan and Yemeni women activists to analyse the multidimensional insecurities of women in their respective countries in the Women, Peace and Security framework, as well as provide recommendations to ensure the meaningful inclusion of women at all decision-making levels. This discussion will notably be based on the findings of the WILPF  report “Feminism at the frontline: Addressing women’s multidimensional insecurities in Yemen and Libya” issued in August 2017.

We will be actively monitoring the negotiations of the draft resolutions on Yemen expected to be introduced by the Arab Group and by the Netherlands, respectively. WILPF will also be supporting Yemeni organisations’ call for the establishment of an international investigation commission into the human rights violations in Yemen since 2011, that is independent, in partnership with national/local civil society organisations in Yemen, integrates a gender perspective and ensures women’s accessibility. We will also be advocating for the meaningful participation of women in the peace process in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1325 and subsequent related resolutions.

Supporting firm response to reprisals against those who cooperate with the United Nations

At HRC36, Hungary will present jointly with a core group a new resolution addressing reprisals against those who have cooperated or seek to cooperate with the United Nations. This is the first resolution since 2013 when the HRC last addressed this issue. Being able to, among other things, participate in UN meetings, such as the HRC, submit reports to treaty bodies, like the CEDAW Committee, cooperate with UN country teams, without fear of reprisals is fundamental. It is a key element to ensure women’s meaningful participation in UN processes. WILPF will support calls for the HRC to robustly respond to reprisals of those who cooperate or seek to cooperate with the UN.

Worth knowing about the HRC36

The Human Rights Council will hold the annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms with the theme “The Universal Periodic Review and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: achieve equality and empower all women and girls.” Also of relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) implementation, a resolution on the systematic integration of a gender perspective in the SDGs will be tabled by Brazil, and a resolution on synergies between national human rights monitoring mechanisms and the implementation of the SDGs will be introduced by Paraguay. Finally, the Council will hold a Panel discussion on the impact of multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence in the context of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls. For more information on some of the issues that are coming up at the session, refer to the ISHR HRC36 update.

How can you follow the happenings?

Below you will find a list of side events that WILPF organises or speaks at during September. Not all events are listed yet, so please keep an eye on our website calendar as we might add new events. Some events are closed, while others are public. We are also hoping that some of our events will be live-streamed, so make sure that you are subscribed to our News and Alerts or follow our social media channels if you want to get a note in advance of upcoming live streamings. The official hashtag to follow and use is #HRC36.

Stay updated and sign up for the ATT Monitor, or read more about the relationship between the arms trade, gender and human rights on the Reaching Critical Will site. Follow @RCW_ for live tweeting from the ATT-CSP3 and look for the hashtag #ArmsTreaty.


(1) The Core Group on Syria is composed of France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the UK and the US.

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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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