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Press Release: WILPF, the World’s Oldest Women Peace Organisation, Declines to Participate in CSW61

13 February 2017

(Press Release in Spanish at the bottom of page)

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, one of the first NGOs to be granted consultative status with the United Nations in 1948, will not take part in the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61). WILPF warns that the absence of women from countries affected by the recent US travel ban undermines the basic premise of the CSW as being an inclusive and participatory process and threatens its legitimacy.

The United Nations (UN) has obligations to uphold principles and practices agreed and acted upon over decades and underwritten by human rights law. Clearly, the US travel ban undermines the ability of the UN to uphold these obligations, says Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) today from their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

WILPF has engaged, supported and participated in the various functions of the UN system since its inception. The organisation brings women from grassroots organisations to participate in the multilateral fora to advocate for human rights, countering militarism, and building peace. This organisation is now sounding an alarm as to the threat to the integrity of the UN, presented by the US travel ban.

“This unilateral action by the US as the host state has had a major impact on the ability of the UN to uphold the principles enunciated in the UN Charter, in human rights law, and indeed in the CSW. Women from the seven countries have either been denied visas or cannot, with any confidence, attend the CSW and have their voices heard and their struggles for equality, freedom and nonviolence shared with fellow activists and decision-makers around the world,” says Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary General. She points out that whilst women who are able to attend the CSW will be able to protest their absence and denounce the policies, they will never be able to speak on behalf of those forced to be absent.

“The US travel ban is just the latest in a series of obstacles to women’s meaningful participation in international fora. We are on a slippery slope, and we need to take immediate measures to change direction. At WILPF we see it as an indispensable requirement that women from all over the world can attend the UN processes, CSW being just one of them. Without women’s real experiences being part of the debates, the reality of their lives, including during conflict, cannot be accurately be brought to the attention of decision-makers, including policy drafters and Member States,” says Rees and continues:

“We had intended to have events profiling women from Yemen, and other Middle East countries affected by conflict. This is no longer possible. As a matter of principle, therefore, in solidarity with our partners from the excluded countries, we have decided to withdraw our participation from the formal CSW61 process. I will not go there, our planned events are cancelled, and there will be no WILPF International staff speaking on panels. We are instead moving our focus and planned activities to the Human Rights Council in Geneva and other spaces that allow all women irrespective of nationality, race, language or religion to speak from their experience. We will work with NGOs, States, and the UN to convene a major event in Geneva to address the issue of participation, possibly as early as April.”

WILPF has sent a statement to all Member States of the UN asking them to take up the human rights issues, the violation of the Refugee Convention, and the disregard for the UN as an institution by the current US administration. WILPF calls on them to bring back the UN to its Charter and to the peace organisation it was intended to be.

Additional readings: 

Fact sheet about CSW61, WILPF, and women’s meaningful participation (ENGLISH)

Fact sheet about CSW61, WILPF, and women’s meaningful participation (SPANISH)

Useful links: WILPF statement: WILPF Calls on the UN to Uphold International Law and the Charter of the UN

Download the Press Release in PDF format (ENGLISH)

Download the Press Release in PDF format (SPANISH)

Pictures under the common creative license can be found on WILPF’s Flickr account. Please credit the photographer.

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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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