United Na­tions pan­elists dis­cuss lack of recog­ni­tion of hu­man right to peace and the in­clu­sion of women in this goal, writes

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

UNITED Na­tions of­fi­cials and ac­tivists gath­ered to dis­cuss the es­sen­tial re­la­tion­ship be­tween sus­tain­able peace and gen­der equal­ity dur­ing a two week-long UN meet­ing, be­gin­ning March 13.

At a side event of the 61st ses­sion of the Com­mis­sion on the Sta­tus of Women, pan­elists shed light on the im­por­tant role that women play in peace and de­vel­op­ment.

“Without peace, no de­vel­op­ment is pos­si­ble. And without de­vel­op­ment, no peace is achiev­able. But without women, nei­ther peace nor de­vel­op­ment is pos­si­ble,” said for­mer un­der sec­re­tary­gen­eral and high rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Bangladeshi am­bas­sador to the UN An­warul Chowd­hury.

De­spite this, pan­elists noted that so­ci­eties have long ig­nored women’s con­tri­bu­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to an Ox­fam re­port, women carry out up to 10 times more un­paid care work than men. This work is worth ap­prox­i­mately US$10 tril­lion (RM44.2 tril­lion) per year, which is more than the gross do­mes­tic prod­ucts of In­dia, Ja­pan and Brazil com­bined.

Re­search has shown that al­most 60 mil­lion un­paid work­ers are fill­ing in the gaps caused by in­ad­e­quate health ser­vices, the ma­jor­ity of whom are women who have had to give up em­ploy­ment or ed­u­ca­tion to carry out this role.

Chowd­hury said there would be 150 mil­lion fewer hun­gry peo­ple in the world if women had the same ac­cess to re­sources as men.

Pan­elists were par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about the lack of for­mal recog­ni­tion of the hu­man right to peace and the in­clu­sion of women in this goal.

Cana­dian ac­tivist Dou­glas Roche ex­plained that the “hu­man right to peace” arose to ad­dress new “in­ter­con­nected” chal­lenges that the cur­rent hu­man rights frame­work, which is based on a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the state and the in­di­vid­ual, is un­able to do, in­clud­ing in­creased mil­i­tarism by both state and non-state en­ti­ties.

Dur­ing the panel, UN in­de­pen­dent ex­pert in the pro­mo­tion of a demo­cratic and eq­ui­table in­ter­na­tional or­der Al­fred-Mau­rice de Zayas said the hu­man right to peace also al­lowed for the re­al­i­sa­tion of the right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion, which is a “cru­cial con­flict preven­tion strat­egy”.

Af­ter decades of strug­gling to gain con­sen­sus, the gen­eral as­sem­bly adopted a Dec­la­ra­tion on the Right to Peace in De­cem­ber. Though it was a sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment achieved largely due to a civil so­ci­ety ini­tia­tive, many have ex­pressed their dis­ap­point­ment in the doc­u­ment.

“The new dec­la­ra­tion is fall­ing far short of the ex­pec­ta­tion of civil so­ci­ety, many gov­ern­ments,” Chowd­hury said.

Among con­cerns about the dec­la­ra­tion is its lack of ref­er­ence to women, who are only men­tioned once in the six-page doc­u­ment.

Pres­i­dent of Hague Ap­peal for Peace and long time peace ac­tivist Cora Weiss crit­i­cised the doc­u­ment’s lan­guage, which calls for women’s “max­i­mum par­tic­i­pa­tion”.

“It’s a slip­pery word,” she told par­tic­i­pants, stress­ing the im­por­tance of the “equal” in­clu­sion of women to achieve peace.

Weiss was a na­tional leader of the Women Strike for Peace, which or­gan­ised the largest na­tional women’s protest of the 20th Cen­tury and con­trib­uted to the end of nu­clear test­ing in the 1960s. She also helped lead the anti-Viet­nam war move­ment, in­clud­ing or­gan­is­ing one of the largest anti-war demon­stra­tions in 1969.

“There is no limit to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween women and peace,” Weiss said.

Chowd­hury, who led the ini­tia­tive on Res­o­lu­tion 1325 call­ing for the in­crease in women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in con­flict man­age­ment and res­o­lu­tion, echoed sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, say­ing: “Women at the peace ta­ble is a very im­por­tant el­e­ment at the UN and at the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to take into ac­count. Un­less they value the 50 per cent of hu­man­ity pos­i­tively con­tribut­ing to se­cur­ing peace and se­cu­rity, it will move nowhere.”

De­spite the unan­i­mous UN adop­tion of Res­o­lu­tion 1325, lit­tle has been done to en­force and im­ple­ment it. No woman has ever been the chief or lead me­di­a­tor in a UN-led peace ne­go­ti­a­tion.

Pan­elists also crit­i­cised the ab­sence of lan­guage around dis­ar­ma­ment in the dec­la­ra­tion.

“How are you go­ing to make peace in a world that is awash with weapons?” Weiss asked.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Cam­paign to Abol­ish Nu­clear Weapons, ap­prox­i­mately 15,000 nu­clear weapons still ex­ist and are owned by just nine coun­tries. The Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion es­ti­mates a higher in­ven­tory of 15,500, 90 per cent of which be­long to Rus­sia and the United States. Al­most 2,000 of th­ese war­heads are on high alert and ready to launch within min­utes, Stockholm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute found.

More gen­eral mil­i­tary spend­ing also con­tin­ues to limit re­sources pro­vided to de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

In 2014, global mil­i­tary spend­ing was ap­prox­i­mately US$1.8 tril­lion, while US$26 bil­lion was al­lo­cated to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion for all by the end of 2015.

Zayas high­lighted the need to re­di­rect re­sources used for war to achiev­ing Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals and ad­dress other press­ing so­cioe­co­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges.

Chowd­hury also told par­tic­i­pants that a res­o­lu­tion on peace could not and should not be adopted by vote.

“Peace is the ul­ti­mate goal of the UN,” he said.

The dec­la­ra­tion was ap­proved with 131 votes for, 34 against and with 19 ab­sten­tions, re­flect­ing a lack of con­sen­sus on the sub­ject.

Though he ex­pressed fear that progress towards gen­der equal­ity may be rolled back due to a re­ver­sal in trends, Chowd­hury said the strug­gle would con­tinue un­til the hu­man right to peace was recog­nised and im­ple­mented.

The Com­mis­sion on the Sta­tus of Women is the largest in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal fo­rum on women’s rights, bring­ing to­gether civil so­ci­ety, academia and gov­ern­ments. This year’s theme is women’s eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment in the chang­ing world of work. In­ter Press Ser­vice


De­spite the United Na­tions’ adop­tion of Res­o­lu­tion 1325, which calls for an in­crease in women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion in con­flict man­age­ment, no woman has ever been the chief in a UN-led peace ne­go­ti­a­tion.

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