Seeking to address the disproportionate impact of violent conflict on women and girls, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has submitted a series of concrete proposals aimed at protecting their rights to the Security Council for adoption.
In a report to the Council released today, the Secretary-General points to the many ways that war particularly harms women, beyond death and injury. These include exacerbating existing inequalities, sending women and children fleeing across borders, and subjecting them to sexual violence and torture. At the same time, Mr. Annan stresses that "Women play an active role in informal peace processes, serving as peace activists, including by organizing and lobbying for disarmament and striving to bring about reconciliation and security before, during and after conflicts."
The Secretary-General says the extent of human rights violations against women and girls must be factored into peace support operations, and recommends that contacts be set up with women's networks in order to gain more information on the issue.
Concerning the legal dimensions of the problem, Mr. Annan urges the Council to call on all parties involved in conflict to adhere to their obligations under applicable principles of international humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law as they pertain to women and girls. Efforts should be made to ensure that amnesty provisions included in conflict settlement agreements exclude impunity from all serious war crimes, including gender-based crimes.
Mr. Annan also recommends that the Council explicitly integrate gender perspectives into the terms of reference of UN missions to countries and regions in conflict. He says that all UN-brokered peace accords should address the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, their contributions to peace processes and their needs and priorities in the post-conflict context. Women should also be fully involved in peace negotiations.
The report suggests that the Council ensure resources for setting up gender units in peacekeeping operations. Efforts aimed at reconstructing conflict-torn societies should incorporate activities focused on specific constraints facing women and girls. Urging recognition of the impact of armed conflict and displacement on family relations, Mr. Annan calls for developing develop programmes to prevent domestic violence.
"We can no longer afford to minimize or ignore the contributions of women and girls to all stages of conflict resolution, peacemaking, peace-building, peacekeeping and the reconstruction processes," the Secretary-General cautions. "Sustainable peace will not be achieved without the full and equal participation of women and men."