Three independent experts today began field visits to assess the impact of armed conflict on women, and women's role in peace building, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) said in a statement.
The experts, who will travel to Somalia and Rwanda from 5 to 9 September, and to the DRC from 10 to 15 September, will consult with women to understand and articulate their experiences during and after conflict. The trip marks the second of six field visits to countries affected by conflict in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America, to be completed by 30 January 2002. The first visit was to East Timor and Cambodia last July.
The team includes Elisabeth Rehn, former UN Under-Secretary-General, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1998 to 1999, and Finland's former Minister for Defence and Equality Affairs. She will travel to Somalia and the DRC.
Another member is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Assistant Administrator and Director of the UN Development Programme's Regional Bureau for Africa and a member of the Organization for African Unity's Panel of Eminent Persons to investigate the genocide in Rwanda. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf will travel to Rwanda and the DRC.
Victoria Brittain, who will also travel to Rwanda and the DRC, is Associate Foreign Editor of the Guardian, and the author and editor of numerous books including "Death of Dignity" published in 1998 that deals with Angola's Civil War.
The UNIFEM-supported assessments are in response to Graça Machel's call to mobilize a gender dimension in conflict resolution. The Fund will engage women in crisis situations and facilitate consultation with grassroots, national and regional organizations involved in peace building, protection and assistance.
In other news on the DRC, a UN spokesman told reporters today in New York that two military observers from the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) were robbed by unidentified armed men while on patrol in the eastern part of the country on Monday. "The armed men stopped a UN mission vehicle on the road near Bukavu and robbed the observers of their radios and $300," spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said, noting that a team of four military observers had arrived in Bukavu on 23 August.
The attack follows last month's incident in which a MONUC helicopter came under small arms fire, also in eastern DRC. The MONUC teams in Bukavu and Uvira have been instructed to restrict their movements.
In a separate development, the Facilitator of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, Sir Ketumile Masire, was to inform the Security Council this afternoon of the latest developments in the DRC.