Security Council urges stepped-up efforts to protect women from violence in war

28 October 2004

The Security Council today called on the United Nations to make a comprehensive, system-wide effort to end the continuing violence against women and girls in war and to give women a much stronger voice during post-conflict peace processes.

After a day-long debate on women, peace and security, the Council released a presidential statement asking Secretary-General Kofi Annan to outline an action plan by October next year showing how the UN can achieve those goals.

Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom, which holds the Council's rotating presidency for this month, said the plan would include a detailed timetable for implementing such targets as eliminating gender-based violence and boosting women's participating in peacekeeping and peace-building operations.

Mr. Jones Parry said gender perspectives must be integrated into the planning and running of every peace and security operation by the UN, including its peacekeeping missions, so that women can fully participate in them.

The statement also:

Urged Mr. Annan to increase his efforts to "identify suitable female candidates" to fill posts in peacekeeping, conflict prevention or humanitarian operations, especially senior posts.Called for an end to the culture of impunity for the perpetrators of physical or sexual violence against women and girls in war.Recommended all staff involved in conflict or post-conflict operations to be given specific training so they can recognize and respond quickly and appropriately to gender-based violence.Stressed the need for increased support programmes for victims of gender-based violence.Today's debate was held in part to measure what progress has been made since the Council adopted a resolution in 2000 that decried gender-based violence and called for an overhaul in the planning of peace and security operations so that women's perspectives are always included.

Earlier, describing the international response so far as "completely inadequate," the head of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) demanded a drastic improvement in both attitude and action to end the "massive and systematic" violence against women and girls.

Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, told the Council that victims of violence still faced stigma or shame, most perpetrators went unpunished and there were not nearly enough resources devoted to tackling the problem.

Ms. Obaid said most of the progress since the Council resolution of 2000 has been in creating better policies and guidelines, and not on the ground in those States where women and girls are at greatest risk.

Ms. Obaid said it was vital that police officers, security personnel, UN peacekeepers and humanitarian staff are trained to identify and tackle vigorously violence against women, and that more women are placed to work in these "male-dominated arenas."

"We do not need a few good women sprinkled here and there," she said. "We need gender parity so women in positions of power can stop abuses of power."

Ms. Obaid said one of the worst aspects of gender-based violence was the lingering damage it does to both the individual victims and to the society as a whole. Many women and girls suffer physically and psychologically for years, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS spread through communities, and family structures are permanently undermined.

Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said people-trafficking and sexual exploitation occur during UN peacekeeping operations on a scale "which has yet to be fully acknowledged and effectively addressed."

She said "there can be no tolerance" for the behaviour, adding Mr. Annan has made clear the responsibility of every UN staff member, and particularly senior managers, to ensure that the exploitation does not occur.

"Sexual predatory practice by international 'interveners' cannot just be condemned as the isolated, deplorable actions of a few 'bad apples,' " Ms. Arbour said.

Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that while many challenges remain, the UN is working much harder today than it did in 2000 to ensure that the needs and perspectives of women are included in its conflict and post-conflict operations.

Speakers representing dozens of countries then addressed the Council, outlining the steps they have made in their own States and calling for much greater international cooperation to end violence and increase women's role in peace-building and peacekeeping.

Meanwhile, the UN has released FACES, a publication that details 10 examples from around the world of how women are playing a vital and useful role in contributing to peace and security.

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Video:

- Morning session [3hrs 21mins]

- Afternoon session [2hrs 29mins]

 

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