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WILPF Publishes Case Studies on Spain and Sweden Related to Gender-Based Violence and Arms Exports

10 August 2016

WILPF’s disarmament programme, Reaching Critical Will, has published two new case studies ahead of the second Conference of States Parties (CSP2) for the Arms Trade Treaty (22-16 August, 2016). The case studies are associated with the May 2016 report ‘Preventing gender-based violence through arms control: tools and guidelines to implement the Arms Trade Treaty and UN Programme of Action.’

This report, authored by Rebecca Gerome, contextualises gender and gender-based violence (GBV) within the use of conventional weapons, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and the UN Programme of Action on small arms and light weapons (UNPoA). It focuses on exporting countries’ risk assessments: how they ought to be conducted, indicators for specific risks around GBV, and the resources with which we can evaluate recipient countries according to these indicators.

The case studies

WILPF has now published two affiliated case studies on Sweden and Spain. The case studies shed light on the export licensing process in these countries and government efforts to determine the associated risks of GBV with their arms exports. What follows here is a brief dive into each of these case studies, picking out key areas where each country is failing to meet its responsibilities, or could be doing more.

Gaps in Sweden’s feminist foreign policy 

Sweden, the world’s eleventh largest arms exporter, uses an independent agency under its Ministry for Foreign Affairs to implement controls on arms exports. However, despite a commitment to a feminist foreign policy – ‘combatting sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict situations‘ – Sweden doesn’t have a single specialist on gender or development on the agency’s staff. So how comprehensive is their feminist foreign policy?

A contract of November 2015 between Swedish defence company Saab and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also suggests that the reach of a feminist foreign policy only extends so far. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition intervention in Yemen, a conflict where civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. Sweden withdrew from a military cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia in May 2015, where concerns over women’s rights were ostensibly at the heart of the politics. However, the military surveillance equipment to be supplied to the UAE is the same as was once being sold to Saudi Arabia. It appears that industry interests are finding a way to get around the limitations of foreign relations.

Cover Spanish case studySpain: how useful are UN and NGO resources in a risk assessment?

Spain’s exports to Cameroon come under criticism in WILPF’s most recent case study, where GBV is linked both to the intended end user and to the diversion of exports to the Central African Republic (CAR). Spanish shotgun ammunition has been recovered from anti-Balaka fighters and armed civilians in CAR since the start of 2014. All armed parties to this conflict have been documented as perpetrators of GBV. The UN Secretary-General’s 2015 report on conflict-related sexual violence states that during 2014, 2,527 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were documented in the CAR, including rape perpetrated to terrorise civilians. This report explicitly exposes patterns of GBV in conflict situations.

A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch on the torture and ill-treatment of Cameroon’s LGBT community by gendarmes (who report to Cameroon’s Ministry of Defence) should have raised concerns in Spain’s export risk assessment. However, Spain approved two licenses to Cameroon’s armed forces in 2014. Similarly, the Spanish government’s risk assessment process claimed not to use CEDAW reports because “they are not linked to armed violence.” However, CEDAW Recommendation 30 and much of its other work besides – for example this report on DRC – reveals that this is not the case. WILPF recommends better use of readily available external resources.

WILPF publications and the wider context 

WILPF’s efforts have been consistent and crucial in advocating a strong ATT with legally-binding gender provisions. In the treaty text adopted by the UN in April 2013, Article 7(4) prohibits the export of weapons that can be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence, a move that has been called “ground breaking.”

Since the treaty’s ratification in December 2014, WILPF has published two briefing papers. The first of these in August 2015 – ‘Gender-based violence and the Arms Trade Treaty‘ – brings clarifications to the terminology around GBV and armed conflict. Then in October 2015, ‘Women, weapons, and war: a gendered critique of multilateral instruments‘ strengthens the case for gender provisions in resolutions, treaties and commitments on conventional weapons, and advocates the mainstreaming of a women, peace and security agenda.

Effective implementation of the ATT means a thorough investigation into the gendered consequences of arms sales and acting accordingly, prioritising a state’s human rights responsibilities over industry interests. WILPF is committed to monitoring these risk assessments and, where necessary, making recommendations to guide future arms control.

 

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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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