DESA News Vol. 12, No. 08 August 2008


In war and peace, the violence must endIn war and peace, the violence must end

Sexual and gender-based violence in conflict zones appears to have increased despite political commitment to protection of women and girls

One of today’s greatest development challenges is turning policies into practice. In the area of gender equality and the empowerment of women we are witnessing a paradox: universal commitments to gender equality and very slow progress in the implementation of those commitments. While commitments are important first steps, alone they have no impact on the every day life of women. This remains true despite the fact that gender equality and the empowerment of women are important factors in achieving the goals of sustainable development, security and peace.

There is a growing body of evidence that bringing women to the peace table improves the quality of agreements reached and increases the chances of successful implementation of peace accords. Involving women in post-conflict governance also reduces the likelihood of a return war. Reconstruction works best when it involves women as planners, implementers and beneficiaries. The single most productive investment in revitalizing agriculture, restoring health systems and improving other social indicators after conflicts is in women’s and girls’ education.

At the 2005 World Summit, heads of state and government specifically acknowledged the inextricable link between development, peace and security on the one hand, and the essential role of gender equality in development, peace and security on the other. However, almost every day one hears and sees stories about how women and girls all over the world face an appalling level of insecurity and violence in both armed conflict and peace, how their bodies are increasingly used as a battle ground, how their rights are ignored or trampled on. Moreover, women who are traumatized and victimized continue to face a massive deficit of justice. Violators often commit their crimes with impunity, which encourages them to continue committing their heinous acts.

Justice for women in wartime

Resolution 1325, unanimously adopted by the Security Council in October 2000 is one of the most influential documents in establishing the legitimacy of addressing issues of women and gender as an integral part of peace and security. The resolution represents an important tool to promote peace and development, bring justice to women and heal torn communities. The resolution provides a political framework that makes women – and a gender perspective – relevant to negotiating peace agreements, planning refugee camps, peacekeeping operations and reconstructing war-ravaged societies. It makes the pursuit of gender equality relevant to every action, ranging from mine clearance to elections to security sector reform. An important aspect of the text, which demands urgent attention by the international community, is the call for all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and its emphasis on the need to end impunity for war crimes, including those relating to sexual and other violence against women and girls.

Sexual and gender-based violence is one of the most devastating issues that arise in armed conflict and continues in post conflict situations. Such violence is considered a key threat to human security, affecting an estimated one-third of women in their lifetime. Although present in everyday life, the intensity of sexual and gender-based violence increases during conflict. Examples of this scourge abound. From the Balkans to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from Rwanda to Colombia, the rape of female civilians is widespread as women are systematically violated as symbolic bearers of caste, ethnic or national identity.

Two decades of increasing sexual violence

Though available data is usually not sufficient and often inadequate, the trend analysis suggests that war-related sexual violence over the past two decades has increased. In Sierra Leone during the conflict in 1991-2002 and Liberia in 1980-2003 at least 50 per cent of women suffered some form of sexual violence. In South Kivu, government, civil society and UN representatives have recorded 4,500 new cases of rape in the first six months of 2007. According to the figures obtained by the MONUC peace-keeping mission, an estimated 27,000 new rapes were recorded in 2005-2006.

Even as conflict subsides and international assistance arrives, women and girls continue to experience heightened vulnerability. A report by Elisabeth Rehn, former Defence Minister of Finland, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, now President of Liberia, found that 17 percent of displaced households surveyed in Sierra Leone had experienced sexual assaults, including rape, torture and sexual slavery. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support have found strong evidence of continued high prevalence of sexual violence in Liberia, and of continued rampant sexual violence in Darfur despite the increased international presence there. In Haiti, an estimated 90 percent of victims of post-conflict violence are women.

The impact of this pandemic is widespread and long-lasting, impacting everything from women’s health – including exposure to HIV/AIDS – to reintegration of both victims and perpetrators into their communities. Furthermore, lack of physical security can keep entire generations of girls out of school, and can preclude women’s participation in peace-building activities. Thus, the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict situations not only shocks the conscience of all concerned with human rights, but it also fundamentally undermines the goals of resolution 1325 – and security more generally – by injuring the inclusive processes that lead to lasting peace.

Rape – a tool, and crime, of war

Rape is clearly defined as a war crime in international humanitarian law. The statute of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which the Security Council adopted by its resolution 827 (1993), gives the Tribunal the power to prosecute persons responsible for rape when committed in armed conflict, whether international or internal in character, and directed against any civilian population.

In the fifteen years since the establishment of the criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the problem of widespread, organized and systematic rape has continued and, if anything, has become more severe. In the eight years since the Council adopted resolution 1325 (2000) on women and peace and security, sexual violence as a weapon of war has been perpetrated with almost universal impunity.

Even though rape and sexual violence in situations of armed conflict are underreported by women victims, who often are ashamed to come forward and suffer public humiliation or rejection and may well doubt they will find adequate recourse to justice, United Nations sources on the ground have reported thousands of women who have sought medical help for the grievous wounds that have been inflicted upon them in the course of being raped by gangs of soldiers and other armed men. These injuries are so severe that in some cases victims are hospitalized for over a year. Thousands of women and girls, and their children, have been abandoned by their families and ostracized by their villages after surviving rape.

Political commitment to protect women and girls

Almost eight years after the Council adopted resolution 1325, Member States reiterated their deep concern about violence against women and children in armed conflict, which in spite of greater awareness of the problem, has in some situations become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality. On 19 June 2008, the Security Council held an open debate on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and adopted, unanimously, resolution 1820 which recognizes that sexual violence as a tactic of warfare is a matter of international peace and security.

“Violence against women has reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict,” the Secretary-General said at the beginning of the debate. “Sexual violence poses a grave threat to women’s security in fragile post-conflict countries and undermines efforts to cement peace.” He added that by creating a culture that punishes violence and elevates women to their rightful role, we could lay the foundation for lasting stability, where women are not victims of violence, but agents of peace.

Resolution 1820 states that widespread and systematic sexual violence can exacerbate armed conflict, can pose a threat to the restoration of international peace and security and has an impact on durable peace, reconciliation and development. Sexual violence has not only grave physical, psychological and health consequences for its victims but also direct social consequences for communities and entire societies.

The resolution reaffirms the political commitment of the Security Council to protect women and girls from sexual violence in conflict by demanding the “immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians” and that “all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, form all forms of sexual violence.” The resolution notes “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”

The resolution requests the development and implementation of appropriate training programs for all peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel deployed by the United Nations to help them prevent, recognize and respond to sexual violence and other forms of violence against civilians. The Secretary-General and Member States reconfirmed the commitment to a zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation by UN personnel during the debate. Resolution 1820 also affirms its intention to consider targeted sanctions against perpetrators.

Resolution 1820 reinforces and complements the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security, and further highlights the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts because sexual violence in conflict is not solely a gender issue, but also a security concern.

Men and boys: key to ending violence against women

Men’s collective activism is essential to humankind’s struggle to achieve gender equality and end violence against women in war and peacetime. “Engaging men and boys captures the spirit of the Beijing Conference,” observed Rachel Mayanja, UN Special Adviser for Gender issues and Advancement of Women, “and is vital for success of many other international efforts such as peace and security, development, poverty eradication and elimination of violence.” We have to work together – men and women. While acknowledging the historical contribution of women’s groups, scholars and activists in promoting gender equality agenda, we must also admit that men’s partnership is essential. Through partnerships, men and women demonstrate concretely their shared interest in achieving equality. An increasing number of UN programmes to benefit and protect women are involving men and boys in their activities.

Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 are landmarks in bringing the issue of ending violence against women to the peace table. Effectively stopping such violence on the ground will require a transformation of values and behaviour, particularly among men and boys, supported by strict international and national legislation and jurisprudence. These resolutions, far binding than any international legislation on gender violence so far, serve as a powerful deterrent by making it abundantly clear that humankind no longer tolerates sexual violence in conflict or post-conflict and will prosecute its perpetrators harshly as war criminals.

For more information:

United States Secretary of State, Condeleezza RiceUnited States Secretary of State, Condeleezza Rice, chairs the Security Council debate on women, peace and security on 19 June. Acting in a national capacity, Ms. Rice also presented her country’s position on the issue.

Spotlight on international monetary, financial systemsSpotlight on international monetary, financial systems

With the ascendance of emerging economies, a transformed global monetary and financial architecture may be needed to respond to development challenges

Preparations for the Doha review conference on financing for development are taking place in a radically changed and more complex and turbulent global monetary, financial and trading scenario than that of the 2002 Monterrey Conference. Today, developing countries generate over fifty percent of world output in purchasing power parity terms. Emerging economies are also less dependent on growth in the developed world and have accumulated massive current account surpluses and international reserves. In response to these changing dynamics, Member States have put forward many proposals for reform of the international monetary, financial and trading systems.

The financial crises of the 1980s and 1990s originated in emerging economies. In contrast, the epicentre of the current global financial shake-up is in the developed world and stems from the collapse of the housing bubble. The solution to this crisis lies largely in the hands of developed country central banks. Regional monetary and financial arrangements such as the Chiang Mai initiative are increasingly providing an alternative to the traditional lending arrangements of the Bretton Woods institutions and other international financial institutions.

At the same time, sovereign wealth funds have joined a host of other actors such as hedge funds, which have significant influence on financial flows and national economies but remain relatively unregulated. The world’s main reserve asset, the United States dollar, has lost over fifty percent of its value against other hard currencies over the past two years, and the most traded good – oil – has more than tripled in price.

Systemic reform: Is there political consensus?

In the light of this intricate and volatile scenario, substantial structural reforms are more than ever needed in the global monetary, financial and trading systems to make them more consistent, coherent and conducive to economic and social development. In particular, developing countries and economies in transition demand a stronger voice in international economic decision-making and norm-setting, in keeping with their increased economic weight.

Achieving systemic reforms are far more than a technical matter and require considerable political consensus building. The United Nations, through the Doha Review Conference, provides the necessary neutral forum for arriving at such a consensus. The preparatory process for Doha has already provided several proposals for further reform of the United Nations and the BWI to address these systemic issues, around which political consensus is being sought.

Strengthening global economic governance is a logical and critical response to development challenges in the context of globalization. There is a need for a balanced, effective, democratic and participatory global governance system to coordinate the interests of different countries and enhance common interests.

The UN system has an important role to play in systemic issues as these issues are essentially of a political nature. The Monterrey Consensus calls for the strengthening of the UN leadership and coordinating role in promoting development and for achieving an integrated view of monetary, financial and trade systems.

Another major challenge is ensuring integrity and transparency of financial markets. While financial flows are increasingly global, their regulation remains largely under national jurisdiction. There is, thus, an urgent need to improve cooperation among national regulators, to encourage them to adopt common standards in various areas, including bank liquidity, valuation of complex debt structures and activities of credit rating agencies. An international regulatory mechanism should also be considered.

Taxation, solidarity levies, anti-corruption measures

Many countries have expressed concern about capital flight, illicit financial activities and transfers, tax evasion and corruption, and called on sustained international cooperation to fight those ills. They have emphasized that international oversight institutions should continue strengthening existing mechanisms such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption. They have stated that the ratification by all countries and full observance of the Convention should be further promoted. The United Nations has been encouraged to continue to help build capacity for promoting productive investment in developing countries and for supporting the signature, ratification and implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, which addresses issues of capital flight.

It has also been suggested that the United Nations explore additional innovative sources of financing. In this regard, the Leading Group on Solidarity Levies to Fund Development is examining many initiatives including levies on capital movements and currency transactions.

Many Member States have called for upgrading the present United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation on Tax Matters to become an intergovernmental commission with appropriate representation to reflect all interests. They have stressed in this regard the special importance of addressing the concerns of small, vulnerable developing countries.

The United Nations can ensure further coherence in assistance provided at the country level. The Development Cooperation Forum of the Economic and Social Council is increasingly regarded as a “harmonizer” of development assistance. Examples of coordinated and coherent assistance include the trade promotion cooperation of the International Trade Centre, the EMPRETEC entrepreneurship training of UNCTAD, UNDP private sector promotional activities, the UNCTAD debt management programme, and the BWI-UN Millennium Development Goals Africa Steering Group.

An enhanced role for the IMF

Many countries have proposed that the International Monetary Fund focus more on overall systemic issues, including addressing the need for new forms of regulation to cover such influential actors as hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds. The IMF would need to strengthen multilateral surveillance and monitor the consistency of the macroeconomic policies of developed countries. It would promote the reform of the international monetary system including better management of external shocks, macroeconomic policy coordination, efficient multilateral liquidity provision, and consideration of a debt workout mechanism.

Indeed, the IMF has begun consultations with Member States on macroeconomic imbalances with a view to narrowing them while maintaining growth. The IMF is seeking to improve its facilities to provide liquidity during crises and, together with the Bank for International Settlements, the Financial Stability Forum and national supervisors, is working to determine how a new model of securitization is impacting financial flows and what it means for risk. In addition to regulatory issues, the recent financial turmoil has highlighted the macroeconomic dimensions of the problem.

The Fund has also been asked to help sovereign wealth funds identify and begin to implement a set of good practices. More information on these funds seems needed to counter protectionist pressures. It has also been suggested that the IMF take a closer look at hedge funds and their effects on systemic risks. Enhanced financial information and transparency about these funds can greatly improve assessment of systemic risks.

IMF programmes in low-income countries are also evolving. Maintaining debt sustainability after debt relief is now a key concern. As a number of low-income countries are increasingly drawing upon market sources of finance, the Fund is helping them learn from the market access experience of middle income countries. Besides, it is helping commodity exporting low-income countries ensure that current high revenues are managed and used effectively.

There has been progress in strengthening voice and representation of developing countries in the IMF. The second round of quota increases based on new quota formula should be decided at the 2008 annual meeting. The share of basic votes will also be increased. Yet, countries have very different views on what indicators to use for a new quota formula and on how to measure them. This is a difficult issue, both technically and politically. In addition to the above, it has been proposed that there should be no veto power for any individual member state and that the number of developing country constituencies should be increased vis-à-vis the EU member state constituencies.

World Bank moves on inclusive globalization

The World Bank is changing its way of doing business: from a more “supply driven” approach to supporting the borrowing country’s agenda. It has been suggested that the major function of the Bank should be to mobilize development resources, including the development and introduction of innovative financial products as well as the facilitation of North-South, South-South, triangular and regional cooperation. In today’s world the design of mechanisms to recycle global surpluses to productive investment is essential. In this regard, the Bank is introducing schemes to help channel liquidity from middle- income countries to investment in low-income countries. The Bank is also being encouraged by Member States to consider providing more loans without a sovereign guarantee.

The Bank’s President, Robert Zoellick, has proposed a new strategic theme, inclusive and sustainable globalization. The theme focuses on: poverty in Africa; post-conflict countries; development strategies for middle-income countries; a more active role in the provision of regional and global public goods touching on climate change, diseases, labour mobility, and technology transfer; support for development opportunities in the Arab world; and fostering a development knowledge and learning agenda across the World Bank Group.

Economic governance: A shared responsibility

Finally, all countries share responsibility for promoting the prosperity and sustainability of the world economy through substantial reforms of the international monetary, financial and trading systems. This is especially true in light of new realities, such as the increasing flows of private capital, the growing power of emerging economies and the fact that global imbalances were fundamentally a multilateral challenge. “As the world economy slows down”, says Under-Secretary-General Sha Zukang, “Governments must strive to avoid global recession and safeguard growth against financial turmoil. The current international financial instability highlights growing international economic inter-dependence and the pressing need for a robust global partnership for development.”

The work of the international financial institutions to address global imbalances needs to be underpinned by domestic efforts: by well-regulated banking and broader financial services; by appropriate exchange rate policy, savings and investment; by adequate trade policies and tax system; and by other complementary domestic economic policies. The governance reform needs include other international financial, regulatory and standard setting bodies. These are some of the major issues at stake before Member States at Doha. A draft outcome document with the details of reform proposals will be available this fall and is expected to be finalized and agreed at the Conference itself in December.

For more information:

Double jeopardy: High food, fuel prices undermine global development

Double jeopardy: High food, fuel prices undermine global development

Speaking at a General Assembly meeting on the global food and energy crisis in New York on 18 July, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that the current insecurity is not a short-term issue. In 2030, world food demand will have risen by 50 percent, and by 2050 the world’s population will increase by a third.

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