Actions to protect women's rights and meet their specific needs should become a standard part of any international response to wars, according to a recent expert meeting in Bratislava organized by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Drawing on experience of conflicts ranging from the Balkans to Afghanistan, participants at the three-day meeting adopted a set of recommendations to ensure that refugee care and peace-building efforts consistently address reproductive health concerns and gender-based violence. Proposed steps include routinely implementing established reproductive health service guidelines as well as making international staff better aware of local traditions, laws and religions, and of their duties in securing women's rights.
The meeting noted that women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with their strong community ties and flexibility, should be involved at all levels of conflict resolution and community rehabilitation to ensure that the reconstruction process as well as health and social services are firmly rooted in the needs of women.
"I hope this meeting will not end with our discussion but will lead to real action and effective operations," said UNFPA's Deputy Executive Director, Kunio Waki at the close of the session.
The meeting, which wrapped up on 15 November, drew nearly 50 representatives from governments, UN agencies and NGOs. Its findings will contribute to a forthcoming UN study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, called for by Security Council resolution 1325 of October 2000.