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UN experts in Colombia to assess impact of war on women, their role in peace-building

UN experts in Colombia to assess impact of war on women, their role in peace-building

Two United Nations experts today began a week-long visit to Colombia to assess the impact of conflict on women as well as their role in the peace-building process.

Elisabeth Rehn, the former Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a member of the Organization of African Unity's Panel of Eminent Persons to investigate the genocide in Rwanda, are in Colombia as part of the follow-up to a UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security.

The experts' findings will be published early next year in a global report sponsored by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

According to UNIFEM, statistics show that over 2 million people in Colombia have been displaced due to ongoing violence since 1985 and that every 14 days a Colombian woman is a victim of forced disappearance.

"Women's protection during armed conflict is glaringly neglected and their contributions to peace-building are often marginalized," said Ms. Rehn. "Our report will aim to mobilize international support for the highest possible standards for women's protection and for their increased participation in peace-building."

The visit to Colombia is the fifth field visit by experts to countries affected by conflict in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America. In Colombia, the two experts will travel to Bogotá and Medellín and will meet with women in communities, as well as government officials and representatives of human rights, development and women's organizations.

"No full-scale study on the impact of armed conflict on women and their role in peace-building has ever been conducted," said UNIFEM Executive Director Noeleen Heyzer. "While the credibility of peace processes that exclude participants on the basis of ethnicity, religion and political affiliation are often called into question, the systematic exclusion of more than 50 per cent of the population on the basis of gender is rarely challenged."

The survey stems from an October 2000 Security Council resolution, which called for documenting women’s experiences during and after war. It also urged the prosecution of crimes against women and increased participation of women in peace negotiations and in decision-making processes at the national, regional and international level.