Beijing and its Follow-up > Five-year Review and Appraisal > Summaries of panel discussions

Beijing+5: 23rd special session of the General Assembly

Summaries of Panel Discussions during the Beijing+5 special session of the General Assembly

6 June 2000  The Role of Men and Boys in Ending Gender Based - Based Violence
7 June 2000  Dialogue between NGOs and Governments for a Gender Sensitive Citizenship
8 June 2000  Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Peacekeeping Operations

Panel on the Role of Men and Boys in Ending Gender Based - Based Violence(6 June 2000)

Panelists came from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and experiences and included: a youth activist (Kenya), a human rights lawyer (Pakistan), a legal practitioner from a non-profit legal aid organization (Namibia); a grassroots organizer (Canada), Executive Director of UNIFEM, and head of a national machinery (New Zealand). The Chair, Mr. Richard Jolly, began his opening remarks by describing the panel as "revolutionary" to the extent that the subject of gender-based violence was almost unheard of barely ten years ago. Moreover, it was now not viewed as simply a narrow case of individual men committing violence against individual women but rather as a broader social issue that required equally broad responses and actions to end gender-based violence.
Mr. Thiogo, member of the Youth Caucus and Kenyan delegation shared his unique insights on gender-based violence from the perspective of youth. He referred to: the double jeopardy faced by young women and girls firstly as girls (gender dimension) and, secondly, as youth - a social category still lacking integration,; the traditional role of men and boys as protectors of their communities rather than their present role as perpetrators of violence; and, finally, the need to involve youth as partners in the present and not just the future. Mr. Ziadddin, a human rights lawyer highlighted the serious barrier presented to women's rights in Pakistan by entrenched legal and law enforcement systems.

Mr. Tjombe, from Namibia underscored the implications of a new bill on rape about to be ratified and the significance of this law for gender-based violence particularly rape. He also related the experiences of the Legal Assistance Center and its activities that have led to the creation of a movement of men against violence against women in cities, towns and villages. Mr. Kaufman presented the experiences of the "White Ribbon" Campaign, a men's movement that started in Canada and grew to a worldwide movement, including linking up with the movement in Namibia. He also offered interesting observations on the complex and contrasting cause of men's violence based principally on two factors, namely (a) men's power based on entitlements and social permission given to individual acts of violence against women; and (b) men's fear, if not, pain arising out of feelings of inadequacy and insecurity and the use of violence to overcome these.

Ms. Heyzer from UNIFEM highlighted the results of the "Zero Tolerance of Violence, International Campaign and the innovative strategies associated with it such as reaching out to schools, the justice system and law enforcement institutions as well as partnership with the media. She underscored the important role of the women's movement in first giving visibility to gender-based violence as a human rights issue. Ms. Lawrence from New Zealand presented the effectiveness of costing gender-based violence as a means of promoting adequate policy responses. She pointed to the experiences of the New Zealand Government and an NGO, the Women's Refuge in using the findings of such studies to increase government allocations to family violence.

Panel on Dialogue between NGOs and Governments for a Gender Sensitive Citizenship(7 June, 2000)

Panelists included representatives from the five regions of the UN regional commissions with experience in both the government and non-government contexts. They included Western Asia (ESCWA), Europe (ECE), Africa (ECA), Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and Asia-Pacific (ESCAP). Ms. Christine Kapalata, Chairperson of the Bureau of the Prep Com in her welcoming statement referred to the commonalties emerging from the regional preparatory processes and the unique position of the commissions in providing a region-wide forum for assessing the situation of gender equality, exchanging experiences, developing strategies to address constraints and interface between government and civil society. The Chair, Ms. Danuta Hubner, newly appointed as the Executive Director of the ECE acknowledged the important work of the gender focal points in the commissions in their everlasting efforts towards achieving gender mainstreaming and bringing life to the panel. She stressed that partnership between NGOs and governments rested on not only changing behavior but also on establishing new organizational models, transparency and ownership of both problems and solutions.

Dr. Laura Balbo (Italy) observed that Europe was in transition and had to evolve towards a new identity and institutions under a united Europe. She also reminded the audience that this new Europe has multi-cultural and multi-ethnic dimensions that need to be taken into account. She underscored the role of women's NGOs in analyzing the changing context and agenda setting to ensure visibility and action on emerging issues such as trafficking of women. HRH Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan described global trends - economic recession, the end of the cold war and the worldwide movement towards democratization- as enhancing the emergence of people's participation and their right to development. In Western Asia, the role of NGOs has shifted from passive service providers to advocates of change, causing some degree of tension. Nonetheless, the dialogue between NGOs and governments has evolved, as exemplified by the role of the Jordanian National Commission for Women in initiating legal reform, transforming violence against women into a public debate issue; mainstreaming of gender issues into national development plans; and finally promoting an equal reporting role for NGOs on the implementation of CEDAW.

Ms. Winne Byanyima, a parliamentarian from Uganda, declared that women were no longer mere "subjects of the state" but were asserting their rights and engaging the state. She pointed to the barriers faced by African women including illiteracy, the burden of domestic work, lack of human rights and education and being born to "zero wealth" due to gender biased inheritance laws. She stressed that the concept of citizenship should be a global transcending of national boundaries and credited women with deepening the concept of democracy, perhaps more than men since they do not see right to vote as an end in itself. She shared examples of social change and empowerment in Rwanda and Uganda related to women’s land rights.

Ms.Supatra Masdit, from Thailand pointed to NGOs’ catalytic role and other movements in creating gender sensitive citizenship in the Asia-Pacific region. Ms Supatra referred to the Philippines NGO Beijing Scored Board and the Thai Women Watch as an innovative strategy to mobilize support for implementation of the Platform of Action and ensure links between public institutions and civil society groups.

Ms. Gina Vargas, from Peru focused on the "paradoxes" related to gender-sensitive citizenship indicating that, while space for democracy was expanding, socio-economic rights were shrinking due to globalization. She stressed that rights are increasingly isolated from a democratic context and that affirmative action quotas for women in Parliament are less meaningful at a time when the power of parliaments is being devolved.

Panel on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Peacekeeping Operations(8 June, 2000)

Panelists came from diverse backgrounds and experiences in peacekeeping operations and peace related issues. They included: H.E. Dr. Speciosa Kazibwe, Vice President of Uganda and President of the African Women Committee on Peace and Development (AWCPD); Hon. Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Minister for Women's Affairs and Child Welfare (Namibia); Ms. Elizabeth Rehn, Former USG and SRSF for Bosnia and Herzegovina; General Indar Jit Rikhye, former UN military adviser; Ms. Judith Stiehm, Senior Consultant (UN DPKO); and Ms. Patricia Flor, former Chair of the CSW and Vice Chair CSW acting as the PrepCom for Beijing + 5.

Before introducing the panelists Ms. Angela King, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Gender Issues, underlined the importance of the theme, noting that it had been the focus of several other panels during the special session. She also underscored the timeliness of the issue as reflected in the Ad Hoc Committee’s discussions on emerging initiatives. Ms King emphasized the high priority placed on the theme by the Security Council and the Secretary General, noting the efforts made towards (a) achieving a 50% gender balance in all peacekeeping operations; (b) proactive mainstreaming of gender concerns in related polices, programmes and power structures. Based on her own peacekeeping experiences, she observed that a critical mass of women in peacekeeping forces had a mobilizing impact on local women as they represent positive role models. Referring to the DPKO study that provided the substantive basis for the panel, Ms King stressed its valuable contribution in terms of providing empirical evidence of local and international women’s contribution to the success of UN peacekeeping operations.

From the outset Dr. Kazibwe pointed out that, like the majority of her African sisters, she knew little about the exact nature of peacekeeping operations. She viewed it as a new frontier for women activists in the region since this has been male dominated. Recognizing this serious deficit in knowledge about conflict situations, the AWCPD aims to educate about and promote understanding of the causes of conflict in Africa and the world. She observed that, while the peace torch was carried from Africa to Beijing in 1995, this symbolism needed to be matched with the reality of women's entry into executive branches and local government where decision-making occurs. Institutionalization of women's participation in peacekeeping and conflict resolution remains the biggest challenge given the recent acknowledgment of their critical role even by regional political organizations such as the OAU. In conclusion, she stressed the need for investment in mechanisms such as the AWCPD to support women’s role in peace building and to create a vision for "Pan African Womanism".

Ms. Flor then introduced the Honorable Ndaitwah who noted that peacekeeping operations in Namibia are viewed as successful since they effectively resulted in peace. Beyond this fact, she was not clear about other elements that made Namibia a success story and would have liked further analysis. Nonetheless, she was sure about one essential ingredient for lasting peace, namely people’s will for peace. She referred to the Windhoek Declaration on "Mainstreaming A Gender Perspective in Multidimensional Peace Support Operations."

Ms. Rehn expressed dismay at women’s similar suffering in European wars in the past as well as the present, quoting, in particular, the Balkan region. Peace Accords, such as Dayton, may have ended war but did not craft peace and marginalised women and children's concerns. She proposed that a target is set to ensure that at least 10% of total forces in national and international peacekeeping operations are women.

General Rikyhe described essential components of peacekeeping as preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peacekeeping. He stressed that while women recruitment indicated an upward trend, the UN could not extend such efforts to the national level without being seen as interfering. He pointed to strategic opportunities for promoting women in peacekeeping through high level assignment, presenting male and female candidates and special training programmes.

Ms. Stiehm presented the main findings of the DPKO study, identifying key areas for action- overcoming inertia due to force of habit, the will to implement gender sensitive policies and to sustain these through institutionalization.