In order to increase participation and input into this process of
evaluation, the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender
Equality has launched an online discussion on major critical areas of
concern identified in the above documents. Your views and analyses will be
summarized in a report which will be submitted to the 49th session of
The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA- Center for
Women) will be moderating the Women and Armed Conflict discussion
Armed conflict is a gendered activity where fighters are men and where
women suffer differently and disproportionately. Sexual violence, among
other war-strategies, targets women and girls specifically. Yet their
plight remains invisible, they are silenced and stigmatized. The Beijing
Declaration and the Platform for Action acknowledges this terrible reality
while insisting on the full involvement of women in all efforts of
prevention and resolution of conflicts and their role in post-war
reconstruction. It identifies 6 strategic objectives:
In 2000, a review of the implementation of the Platform for Action was
undertaken by the 23rd special session of the General Assembly. In the
Outcome Document, key achievements and obstacles were identified:
- A wider recognition of the differential impact of armed conflict on
women and the need for a gender sensitive approach
- Steps taken to address abuses against women including ending the
impunity for crimes against women in conflict such as in the work of the
International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
- Of historical significance, the adoption in the Crime Statute of the
International Criminal Court of a provision regarding gender-specific
crimes during armed conflict (rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution
and other forms of sexual violence) as war crimes and, in certain cases,
as crimes against humanity
- Increased recognition of the role of women in peace-building,
peace-making and conflict resolution
- Introduction of education and training on peace and non-violent
- Progress made on the disseminaton and implementation of guidelines for
the protection for refugee women and on addressing the needs of displaced
- Wider recognition for the need of a gender sensitive approach in
humanitarian intervention thus insuring equal access to food and other
- Greater recognition of the need to integrate a gender perspective in
the planning, design and implementation of humanitarian assistance.
- Increased involvement of civil society in the provision of
humanitarian assistance with a gender sensitive approach.
A major achievement is the Security Council Resolution 1325 (Oct. 2000) which has set a
new threshold of action for the Security Council, the UN system and all
governments. It has also established a new framework for the involvement
of women in decision-making and the integration of a gender perspective in
peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction. It has also called
for further analysis and documentation on the issues mentioned.
- Under-representation at all levels of women in decision-making
- Failure to provide sufficient resources and to adequately distribute
them to refugees who are mostly women and children
- Failure of international assistance to keep pace with the growing
number of refugees
- Increasing numbers of displaced persons and the provision of their
needs puts a heavy burden on the affected countries and their financial
- Inadequate training of personnel dealing with women in conflict
situations (lack of programs to address recovery of women from trauma or
to skill train them)
For the purpose of the Online discussion, the weekly themes are as
Week 1: Assistance strategies for women during armed
Week 2: Putting an end to impunity
Week 3: Increasing the public involvement of women
Week 4: Strategies for the future
Week 1: Assistance strategies for women during
The majority of women already suffer from discriminatory practices and
are, therefore, particularly affected by the consequences of armed
conflict. Displaced women, women head of household - especially in rural
areas - youth and poor women, are the most vulnerable groups. They have
lost their protection and are exposed to all manners of sexual
intimidations and exploitation.
One of the main findings of an independent report was that NEED is not
what determines woman's access to assistance protection and support, but
rather the arbitrary attention of the media. This can be observed through
the huge disparities in the resources mobilized for different countries.
Underlying all the issues is the increased invisibility of women during
conflict and consequently the difficulty in targeting them and addressing
their needs. Women are often not able to voice their needs in times where
resources are scarce, often because of cultural restrictions. They do not
feel entitled to claim their share as they believe that the needs of the
family and community should prevail over their own.
- What measures can be taken on the national and international levels to
insure the adequate response to women' specific needs?
When, as in most cases of armed conflict, the rule of law has broken
down and the state apparatus has collapsed, or when the state is the main
- Who then are the actors who can provide protection and assistance to
- How will the resources and means to protect women be put in place?
Week 2: Putting an end to impunity
The international legal framework has been increasingly responsive to
the ordeal of women and girls subjected to the worse humiliations and
violence. Yet, despite the progress made on the international legal
front, the stark reality remains the total impunity of men who commit
atrocious crimes against women in most war-torn countries.
- What measures can be taken to put an end to this impunity?
- Can extra-legal mechanisms - such as truth and reconciliation
processes - provide alternative avenues for redress?
- Are Ad hoc tribunals created by the Security Council an answer?
- Can we enforce that Amnesty provisions - in conflict settlements -
exclude immunity from all war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity
including gender-based crimes?
The marginalisation and subordination of women are often enshrined in
laws that regulate gender relations. In many countries - where a culture
of shame prevails - women who have been exposed to sexual violence are
further stigmatized. How can the silence around these crimes be broken?
- What can NGOs and other institutions do to help / encourage women to
- At the police and the prosecution level, how can the system be
improved to receive claims from women and to respond adequately rather
than add further trauma and stigmatization to abused women?
- How to deal with the gender bias that usually prevails in the justice
- At the family level, what could be done to help the integration of
these abused women and to recover their dignity?
- Are financial or material compensations offered to the victims a way
to repair the damage caused to them? A recognition of their suffering?
Week 3: Increasing the public involvement of
Security council resolution 1325 calls for the equal participation of
women and their full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote
peace and security. The Beijing Declaration insists that peace is
inextricably linked with the equality of men and women.
Women are not passive victims of conflict and their active contribution
to the survival of their families, communities and countries remains
largely unacknowledged. Women's survival strategies in this context prove,
if need be, their resilience and creativity. Many women perform
war-related tasks and provide essential support to militias or armies,
several others contribute, in leadership positions, to the resolution of
conflicts, to peace-making and humanitarian assistance.
- Women are very active in organizing and mobilizing for peace. How can
we increase their access to leadership positions in structures preventing
and resolving conflict?
- What can their role be in post-war reconstruction: in politics,
finance, engineering, housing and the health sector?
For the past 25 years, armed conflicts have been mainly internal and
'ethnic' in nature. All have resulted in the disruption of the social
fabric of communities. In the gap created by the breakdown of family
networks there is a great potential for the development of a civil society
as a base for peaceful coexistence and democracy. In some countries women
have spontaneously organized themselves in associations that often cut
across ethnic or religious divisions.
- How to strengthen women's associations as a base for peace?
Week 4: Strategies for the future
Building on your testimonies, analyses, hopes and visions, how can we
possibly build a better environment for women in the midst of conflict?
How to overcome obstacles for promoting their safety and dignity?
» View archived discussion