Defining the role of women’s protection advisers

The mandate for women’s protection advisers is derived from resolutions 1888 (2009) and 1889 (2009). It is anticipated that the role of women’s protection advisers will centre on advancing the implementation of those resolutions through, inter alia, support for the monitoring, analysis and reporting system on sexual violence; the facilitation of dialogue with parties to conflict with a view to protection commitments; coordination of the development and implementation of comprehensive strategies to combat sexual violence; and the mainstreaming of sexual violence considerations into policies, operations and advocacy of United Nations peacekeeping and special political missions. Their deployment will build on lessons and best practices drawn from the experience of child protection advisers. The need for women’s protection advisers will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Field Support and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are soliciting views from the field on the added value of women’s protection advisers and where they could be most strategically situated. This consultation will inform the development of generic terms of reference for women’s protection advisers, to be finalized in the first quarter of 2011.

Addressing sexual violence in peace and mediation processes

Peace processes can influence communities in terms of the standards of behaviour that they accept as tolerable, which means that these standards are often enshrined in new constitutions. If women do not participate, and if sexual violence is not addressed, it sets the stage for continued discrimination and the “normalization” of violence. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), part of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, reports that, of 300 peace agreements reached in relation to 45 conflict situations since the end of the cold war, only 18 have addressed sexual violence. There continues to be a striking discrepancy between the extent to which women suffer the effects of conflict and the extent to which they are included in its resolution. To mark the tenth anniversary of resolution 1325 (2000), 27 dialogues on women and peace, organized by the Department of Political Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNDP and UNIFEM, were held worldwide in June and July 2010. The concerns most frequently voiced by participants were the high level of sexual violence committed during and after armed conflict and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

Innovative refinements to current practice, such as the broadening of the definition of a ceasefire violation to include human rights abuses such as sexual violence, and the use of mixed civilian military teams to manage ceasefires, were considered during an expert workshop held by the Department of Political Affairs in October 2010. In February 2010, UNIFEM advocated the inclusion, in the ceasefire agreement between the Justice and Equality Movement and the Government of the Sudan, of a clause on halting sexual violence. Although the ceasefire in question did not hold, such language sets an important precedent. Furthermore, UNAMID and UNIFEM advocated the effective representation of women in the civil society track of the Doha peace negotiations. Provisions addressing sexual violence were integrated into the Doha Declaration documents and the related recommendations, including provisions establishing compensation for rape survivors and a fund for women’s reproductive health. The Department of Political Affairs and UNIFEM have launched a three-year Joint Strategy on Gender and Mediation to, inter alia, develop guidance for mediators in addressing sexual violence. In addition, strategic lessons have been learned as a result of the efforts of the Peacebuilding Fund to invest in responses to sexual violence as part of its strategy for preventing relapses into conflict. This approach highlights the need for targeted interventions to break patterns of violence that begin during conflict and persist after it has ended. This is underscored in my report on women’s participation in peacebuilding (A/65/354-S/2010/466), issued pursuant to resolution 1889 (2009), which called for expertise to be made available in peace processes to ensure that women’s needs are met and that provisions to address sexual violence are included in peace agreements.