Women leaders tell United Nations that Arab women are still being ignored in conflict

Cairo, Egypt (June 23, 2015) – Arab States and the United Nations have a long way to go in order to meet their international obligations for the protection of women in conflict, a consultation with leading women activists and experts has concluded.

Women from across the Arab region met in Cairo earlier this month as part of the United Nations’ Global Study on the Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325. This international agreement sets out how women’s rights and needs should be taken into account in countries affected by conflict, and women’s role in prevention and peacebuilding. The resolution was agreed in 2000, and the UN is currently reviewing its implementation.

Since 2000 the Arab region has been scarred by numerous conflicts. These have included foreign-led interventions, civil conflicts following the Arab revolutions ranging from extreme violence and the breakdown of law and order to outright civil war, as well as on-going conflicts that predate the agreement of 1325. Experts discussed the impact that these and other conflicts have had on women, and how the principles of resolution 1325 have and have not been implemented in those cases.

The consultation was attended by 38 women leaders from 12 countries across the region. During its discussions it heard from leading experts, activists and diplomats, including Director General of the Arab Women Organisation, Dr Mervat Tallawy, Dr Maya Morsy of the UNDP and Hibaaq Osman CEO and Founder of the Cairo-based NGO Karama, which has led the development of the Arab Network on Women, Peace, and Security. The network aims to ensure the establishment of security and peace and the effective participation of the women in these efforts across the region.

Following the discussions the conference agreed a series of 23 detailed recommendations for the United Nations, member states and the international community as a whole, under the following headings:

  • Peacebuilding
  • Protection and Human Rights
  • Participation of Women
  • Peacekeeping and Security Forces
  • Justice and Accountability
  • Preventing Conflict
  • Emerging Issues, including the rise of extremism

These recommendations will now be considered by the United Nations as part of the consultation, and will also be submitted to the League of Arab States, the Arab Women’s Organization and the international community as a whole.

Asha Dirie Gelle, Somali politician and activist, said:

 “It is now fifteen years since the United Nations agreed the resolution on women, peace, and security, but in that time still many thousands of women and girls across the Arab region and Africa have been killed while many, many more have suffered gravely as a result of conflict.

“Women in Somalia and across the region will continue despite this hardship. We demand that our rights our respected and our needs met in conflict and post-conflict.”

Minister Mervat Tallawy, Director General of the Arab Women Organization, said:

“Conflict in the region has seen women made homeless, turned into refugees without shelter or a homeland, and taken away from their families and forced to marry. However, this has not prevented the emergence of strong female figures and activists at the social, human rights and political levels.

“The level of violence across the Arab region generally and facing Arab women specifically makes the principles of resolution 1325 even more important today. As such it is absolutely critical that the United Nations leads its member states and the international community in making its principles a reality. The recommendations made at the conference set out clearly the most important areas for the Arab region.”

Dr Maya Morsy, Gender Team Leader, United Nations Development Programme, said:

“Women are no longer the agents of change, they are doing the change by themselves.  Being an agent or being the catalysts is not enough anymore; Arab women are the change.”

Hibaaq Osman said:

“The four pillars of resolution 1325 – participation of women, prevention of conflict, protection in conflict, and prosecution of the perpetrators of gender-based crimes – provide a strong foundation for improving the situation for women in conflict. But the conflicts and violence that still plague the region show that 1325 has still not been fully implemented.

“Too many governments still believe that they have the discretion to choose which aspects of 1325 to respect. These obligations are their duty, and they are the least that women should expect in such terrible circumstances.”

Notes to editors:

Full recommendations of the conference as follows:

  1. Recommendations to the Peacebuilding:
  • The UN, Member States, League of Arab States and the Arab Women Organization must support an inclusive peace process that is locally driven (takes into account local context), whereby all stakeholders are involved and have equal say.
  • The UN, Member States and League of Arab States must support the implementation of negotiated peace agreements with financial and technical resources.
  • The UN, Member States and League of Arab States must take rapid/prompt action to stop conflicts (prevention).
  • The UN, Member States, League of Arab States, Arab Women Organization and civil society must work together to protect the rights of refugees, displaced women and women under occupation, and should monitor all form of violations against women to ensure accountability for violations of international law.

     2.  Recommendations on Protection and Human Rights:

  • The UN, Member States, League of Arab States and Arab Women Organization must support an inclusive peace process that is locally driven (takes into account local context), whereby all stakeholders are involved and have equal say.
  • The UN, Member States and League of Arab States must support the implementation of negotiated peace agreements with financial and technical resources.
  • The UN, Member States and League of Arab States must take rapid/prompt action to stop conflicts (prevention).
  • The UN, Member States, League of Arab States, Arab Women Organization and civil society must work together to protect the rights of refugees, displaced women and women under occupation, and should monitor all form of violations against women to ensure accountability for violations of international law.

     3.  Recommendations on Participation:

  • States must adopt the 30 % Temporary Special Measure for Women in Decision Making Positions, where 50 % of the positions must be comprised of youth.
  • The UN, Member States and League of Arab States must ensure representation of women’s networks, including the Arab Women Peace and Security Network, in decision-making relating to peace and security (Conferences, Negotiations, Campaigns and Initiatives)

     4.  Recommendations on Peacekeeping and Security Forces:

  • Member States must be held accountable for violations committed by national security forces, including in the UN human rights council, CEDAW committee, national courts and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
  • The UN should provide stronger protection measures for Palestinian women, girls and boys within the territory occupied by Israel since 4th June 1967, from violations by the Israeli state.
  • The UN and regional organizations must vet and train peacekeepers prior to deployment, including on the protection of civilians (including gender-based violence); must also give regular reminders to peacekeepers of their obligations to uphold civilians rights.

 
     5.  Recommendations on Justice and Accountability:

  • The international community must develop accountability measures hold member states accountable for the implementation of UN resolutions, and support the Palestinian demand to end occupation and implementation of return right according to the UN resolution 194.
  • The international community must hold Member States accountable for using violence under the auspices of democracy; national and international security, through using international mechanism: International Criminal Court, International Court of Justice, and imposing sanctions on the countries that are not following the international laws and international human rights law.
  • The United Nations must establish a mechanism to ensure the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions.

 
     6.  Recommendations on Prevention of Conflict:

  • Media should engage in lobbying and advocacy in relation to violence against women and the implementation of the UNSCR 1325.
  • Member States should reform educational curricula (and the allocation of resources) to encourage respect for women’s rights
  • Enhance support for Palestinian women and girls’ resilience under occupation; end occupation and ensure sanctions on Israel (including through the BDS movement).

 
     7.  Recommendations on Emerging Issues:

  • The UN and Member States must empower local communities, especially women and girls to prevent terrorism and fundamentalism (Tools, Capacity and Resources) – rather through military means
  • The United Nations must enforce accountability measures on countries supporting Terrorism in all its forms.
  • The UN and Member States must empower women and youth networks to implement UNSCR 1325 on the national, regional and international level.