Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace



WILPF at the Human Rights Council, 39th Session (HRC39)

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, 39th session (HRC39) has begun this morning, with an opening statement by Michelle Bachelet, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
10 September 2018

The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, 39th session (HRC39) has begun this morning, with an opening statement by Michelle Bachelet, the new High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The session will run from 10 to 28 September 2018 in Geneva.

During the session, we will host a delegation of Libyan women human rights defenders, hold a side event on Libya on 25 September and participate in a number of closed and public events linked to the session.

Our activities will focus on obstacles to the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Libya, Syria and Yemen and call for the meaningful participation of women at all levels of peace processes. Our written statement on Libya, supported by the Libyan organisation Together We Build It, highlights the disappointing efforts by the United Nations and States to meaningfully include women in the consultative process relating to the UN Action Plan for Libya. On the issue of participation, we will also be following the negotiations of the resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs and advocating for a gender-responsive text.

We will be actively monitoring the negotiations of the draft resolutions on Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We will continue to call for the disclosure of the fate and whereabouts of all those who have been forcibly disappeared or abducted in Syria and for the release of those arbitrarily detained. We will advocate for the renewal and strengthening the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen  stressing the need for the Group to integrate a gender perspective and ensure women’s accessibility. We will monitor the negotiations of the resolution on the DRC expected to focus on the electoral context and will advocate for the specific challenges faced by women in this context to be taken into account.

We will continue to highlight the gendered human rights impacts of arms transfers and arms proliferation. The adoptions of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcomes for Cameroon, Colombia and Germany will be opportunities to do so; WILPF has been engaged in the UPR of these countries. The contexts in Libya, Syria and Yemen are clear illustrations of why addressing arms proliferation should be a key priority for the international community. This is also relevant in relation to the resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, which will focus on conflict and humanitarian settings, because, for example, the use of  explosive weapons impacts on health infrastructure and women’s access to reproductive health.

In this age of unprecedented global interconnection and interdependence, the realisation of economic, social and environmental justice depends, even more than ever, on advocating human rights beyond borders. As part of our advocacy to hold States accountable for their extraterritorial obligations in relation to corporate abuse, we will make a statement during the adoption of the UPR of Canada focusing on the impact of Canadian extractive industries abroad. This follows our engagement in the UPR process so far, and previously with the CEDAW Committee. WILPF is also actively engaged in the UN process for the drafting of a treaty to transnational corporations and other business enterprises, including as part of a group of feminists and women’s rights organisations collaborating as #Feminists4BindingTreaty.

Madeleine Rees, our Secretary General, will be a panelist in the HRC39 ‘Annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms’. The theme for this year is ‘Gender integration and human rights investigations: strengthening a victim-centered approach’. This event will take place on Monday 24 September, from 4 to 6 p.m., Palais des Nations, Room XX. It will be broadcast live and archived on http://webtv.un.org.

Knowing more about the HRC39

For more information on some of the issues that are coming up at the session, refer to the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) HRC39 update.  You can also read the UN’s own overview of the session.

How can you follow the happenings? 

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 streaming of events or to read the statements we will deliver at HRC39. The official hashtag to follow and use is #HRC39, and we will also be using #FeministPeace.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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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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