APPG on Women, Peace and Security: in conversation with Ambassador Melanne Verveer

On Tuesday 31 October, Ambassador Melanne Verveer joined the APPG on Women, Peace and Security and GAPS for a discussion on her work on Women, Peace and Security, and her hopes for creating meaningful change for women’s rights.

Baroness Hodgson, co-chair of the APPG, highlighted Ambassador Verveer’s extensive experience in Women, Peace and Security, spanning government, civil society and academia. Ambassador Verveer was the first ever US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, nominated by President Obama in 2009. In this role, she led the development of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Ambassador Verveer is now the Director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, working to enhance national and global security by championing the crucial role women play in peacebuilding and security.

Ambassador Verveer opened by describing her early involvement with Women, Peace and Security on the global stage. Ambassador Verveer pinpointed the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 and the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 as pivotal moments for the representation of women’s rights in international frameworks, especially relating to conflict affected and fragile settings.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger CBE, Ambassador Melanne Verveer & Baroness Goudie

Ambassador Verveer paid tribute to the critical roles that women have played in peace processes, for example in Northern Ireland and Liberia. She expressed frustration at the underrepresentation and lack of documentation of women in peace processes, as this is needed to create a compelling evidence base that resonates with decision-makers. This is what the Georgetown Institute aims to achieve: bridging the silo between theory and practice to persuade decision-makers that Women, Peace and Security is the right framework to invest in and implement.

Ambassador Verveer feels the implementation of Women, Peace and Security is the most practical way to address conflict at the level of root causes. Effective implementation means not only strengthening the top-down approach at the levels of regional, national and local governance, but building capacity at the bottom as well. She articulated this as “heat at the bottom and heat at the top.” Women and women’s rights organisations are at the frontlines of change, and their perspectives and experiences are essential to developing approaches to end violent conflict and build peace. With this in mind, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security has developed a Women, Peace and Security Index to offer a comprehensive measure of women’s inclusion, justice and security in 153 countries.

Questions from the floor discussed the importance of women’s movements and networks, and how resourcing and support for women’s rights organisations is essential to enabling change. Responding to a question on the need for a greater focus on preventing conflict and violence against women, Ambassador Verveer noted the relevance of international frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as complementary to the WPS agenda.

Finally, a question from Women for Peace and Participation asked about the major challenges that women still face in accessing the negotiating table, for example in Afghanistan. Ambassador Verveer’s response, drawn from her past experiences, stated that the peace and security architectures still resist the representation of women and women’s rights. Addressing these structural barriers means pushing back on the conventional wisdom that putting women’s rights on the agenda means you will not get a peace agreement.

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: in conversation with Ambassador Melanne Verveer

On Tuesday 31 October, Ambassador Melanne Verveer joined the APPG on Women, Peace and Security and GAPS for a discussion on her work on Women, Peace and Security, and her hopes for creating meaningful change for women’s rights. Baroness Hodgson,… read more ›

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: Families For Freedom event

On Wednesday 11 October, the APPG Friends of Syria and APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosted an event with Families For Freedom – a women-led campaign for the rights of all detainees in Syria. They call for the issue of detainees to be treated as a humanitarian priority, separate from political and military bargaining. Their three main demands are as follows:
1) The right to know the fate of detained and disappeared people;
2) Detainees’ right to decent living conditions and freedom from torture and abuse;
3) The abolition of exceptional courts, especially Military Field Courts.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger, co-chair of the APPG on Women, Peace and Security, briefly outlined the use of arbitrary detention and abuse and torture of detainees in the Syrian conflict. The Syrian Network of Human Rights has recorded more than 117,000 detainees, but some estimates place the number as high as 215,000. Amnesty International has reported that as many as 13,000 people, mostly civilians, were hanged in secret at one prison over a period of five years. Human Rights Watch revealed that at least 6,786 people have died in detention because of torture and abuse. Detention and disappearances affect not only the detainees, but also families left for years with no certain knowledge of their fate. Survivors of detention, and their families, suffer lifelong consequences.

Baroness Hodgson introduced three speakers from Families For Freedom: Amina, Noura and Ghada. Amina experienced detention herself, and three of her brothers were forcibly disappeared in 2011. Amina spoke about the origins of Families For Freedom’s campaign in Geneva, and appealed to the UK media to raise awareness about detainees in Syria, including the circumstances of their arrest and detention. Amina highlighted that the women of Families For Freedom have to struggle against gendered community pressures in order to be able to do their work. She described Families For Freedom as a “revolution against tyranny and traditions.”

Noura, a human rights lawyer and activist for women’s rights, recently learned that her husband Bassel Khartabil, detained in 2012, was executed. She spoke of her personal experience of being denied visiting rights to, and then all communications from, her husband. Noura expressed frustration at the inaction from the international community on Syria’s detained and disappeared. “We appreciate solidarity,” she said, “but we need action.” Ghada sees Families For Freedom as a means to feel stronger together. Since her husband’s detention, Ghada has been determined to spread the message about unjustifiable detention: “I feel very strong, because I have a message, and I have learnt that I always have to talk about it.” Families For Freedom has helped her to do this.

Laila Alodaat, Programme Manager for Crisis Response at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), spoke on consultations that WILPF and Amnesty International UK ran in conjunction with GAPS. The consultations were held to inform the new UK National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security, but they have wide-ranging recommendations on support for women’s rights and women’s rights organisations that have application beyond a NAP. Women’s civil society organisations have the largest impact in their communities, but they are limited by a lack of financial and technical support. Women’s participation is also essential for the Syrian peace processes. The women from Families For Freedom, active community leaders working for peace, are excluded from the negotiating table. For this to change, the international community needs to start asking how the conflict in Syria is impacting women differently. This needs to be documented and implemented in policies to have accountability.

Baroness Hodgson thanked the speakers for bringing the situation of detention and forced disappearance to the attention of this audience, and for sharing such difficult personal stories. The event was also a powerful reminder of the specific barriers that women’s rights organising faces in the context of conflict, and that the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda still has far to go to be fully realised.

APPG on Women, Peace and Security: Families For Freedom event

On Wednesday 11 October, the APPG Friends of Syria and APPG on Women, Peace and Security hosted an event with Families For Freedom – a women-led campaign for the rights of all detainees in Syria. They call for the issue… read more ›

Somali Women’s Voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This video presents a summary of the findings from the consultation in Somalia which took place in March 2017. The consultations were led by GAPS member Saferworld, and two of Saferworld’s local partners and established women’s rights groups: the Somali Women Development Centre (Mogadishu) and the Somalia Women Solidarity Organisation (Kismayo). The overarching theme from these consultations is that women are politically absent from decision making.

Somali Women’s Voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This video presents a summary of the findings from… read more ›

Syrian Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. GAPS members Amnesty International UK and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom supplemented funds from the UK Government to run the Syria Response consultations in Turkey and Lebanon, alongside Women Now for Development. This report reflects analysis by women’s rights activists of the barriers and challenges around WPS, as well as recommendations that will inform the development process of the next UK National Action Plan on WPS.

Syrian Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. GAPS members Amnesty International UK and Women’s International… read more ›

Afghan Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This report presents a summary of the findings from the consultation in Afghanistan which took place in February 2017. The consultations were led by Women for Women International UK and Medica Afghanistan. The recommendations in this report are direct outcomes from the consultation, proposed by participants, and cover the following: violence against women; access to justice & NGO services; access to funding for women’s rights; support for women human rights defenders; women’s participation; and recommendations for institutions, security, justice and legal frameworks.

Afghan Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and women human rights defenders on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. This report presents a summary of the findings… read more ›

Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security: Summary Report

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In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and activists on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. The aim is to bring these women’s voices directly to the decision-makers, to ensure that the next, fourth UK NAP on WPS (2018-2021) is firmly grounded in the realities that women face. The consultations were conducted in 2017, in four of the UK’s WPS focus countries/contexts: Myanmar, Somalia, Afghanistan, and in Turkey and Lebanon for the Syria Response. This summary report highlights the key findings from the consultations, setting out the many common priorities that women working for peace and security face in such challenging circumstances.

Women’s voices in the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security: Summary Report

In November 2016 the UK Government partnered with GAPS to consult with women’s civil society organisations and activists on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) priorities in their contexts. The aim is to bring these women’s voices directly to the… read more ›

GAPS Submission: Informing the new UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

This submission provides GAPS’ views on the current 2014-2017 NAP, and uses analysis and lessons learned to recommend strategic objectives for inclusion in the 2018-2021 NAP. It builds on previous GAPS documents which include analysis of and recommendations for the UK’s work on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). These findings are intended to complement the findings of our FCO-GAPS country consultations.

GAPS Submission: Informing the new UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

This submission provides GAPS’ views on the current 2014-2017 NAP, and uses analysis and lessons learned to recommend strategic objectives for inclusion in the 2018-2021 NAP. It builds on previous GAPS documents which include analysis of and recommendations for the UK’s… read more ›

Experts’ Meeting: Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda – Chairs’ Summary

One year after the conclusions of the UN’s High Level Review on Women, Peace and Security, we, along with the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and Women for Women International (UK) held a series of roundtables on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work. This Chairs’ Summary outlines the Experts’ recommendations.

Experts’ Meeting: Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UK’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda – Chairs’ Summary

One year after the conclusions of the UN’s High Level Review on Women, Peace and Security, we, along with the LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security and Women for Women International (UK) held a series of roundtables on Sexual Violence… read more ›

Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2016

In this new report GAPS welcomes the 2016 annual report to Parliament by the UK Government, analyses the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work over the past year and makes recommendations for the upcoming new UK National Action Plan (NAP).

Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2016

In this new report GAPS welcomes the 2016 annual report to Parliament by the UK Government, analyses the UK’s Women, Peace and Security work over the past year and makes recommendations for the upcoming new UK National Action Plan (NAP).

Three years too many: the impact of conflict for women and girls in South Sudan

As the civil war in South Sudan enters into its fourth year, the levels of displacement, insecurity and violence are reaching unprecedented levels. The majority of the displaced are women and girls, who continue to bear the brunt of thed armed conflict. More is needed from the international community to achieve safety, protection, empowerment and long-lasting peace for women and girls in South Sudan. In line with its commitments to WPS, we urge the UK government to immediately undertake the recommendations outlined in this paper.

Three years too many: the impact of conflict for women and girls in South Sudan

As the civil war in South Sudan enters into its fourth year, the levels of displacement, insecurity and violence are reaching unprecedented levels. The majority of the displaced are women and girls, who continue to bear the brunt of thed… read more ›

Putting Women at the Heart of Bringing Peace to South Sudan

Shaheen Chughtai reports back from a recent conversation at the UN

Once in a while, the shroud of coded, diplomatic language that envelops discussions at the United Nations Security Council is ripped away by reality. On 25th October, it was the words of a women’s rights activist from conflict-ridden South Sudan, Rita Lopidia, which gripped the chamber.

“I meet many South Sudanese women, and the stories they share with me are heartbreaking,” Lopidia told the UN Secretary General and assembled diplomats. They had gathered to review progress and challenges in promoting women’s rights and roles in conflict contexts: a theme known as Women, Peace and Security.

“A woman in Bentiu, Unity State told me recently, ‘I have been raped several times, but I still have to go out, what option do I have? I still have to find food for my children.

On a lucky day, I go out and nothing happens. On a bad day, I go out and I am raped’.”

The civil war in South Sudan – where the UK is deploying 400 peacekeeping personnel – has had catastrophic impacts since it erupted in December 2013. Tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured. More than 2.6 million people are displaced, most of them women and girls. Those still inside South Sudan face increased threats of sexual assault, abduction and exploitation among other dangers.

But this isn’t a tale of victims and governments left powerless and static in the face of unstoppable atrocities. Starting from the ground up, local women and men in South Sudan are striving to bolster national and regional efforts to build peace. This is crucial because the key to ending violence and abuse is ending the war itself. To be successful, peace efforts should be based on a rigorous analysis of the causes of conflict that takes into account regional dynamics, and no-one understands those causes and dynamics better than local people and organizations.

Lopidia herself had just travelled from Nairobi where, along with South Sudanese and global partners, she convened a peace dialogue with representatives of the Transitional Government, local and global women’s groups, faith-based organizations and academia. They called on South Sudan’s leaders to rise above tribal feuding and help build a broader-based national identity and politics.

Such inclusive initiatives, in which women have an influential say, are crucial. From Liberia to Northern Ireland, growing evidence from around the world shows that when women take an active part in peace processes, agreements are more likely to be reached and last longer. Women’s participation in South Sudan talks has been very limited to date – but this missed opportunity is something the international community, including the UK, can help change.

The UK has already taken several important and positive actions. These include contributing humanitarian aid, and strengthening its role in UNMISS, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan – some of whose personnel have been implicated in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. The UK has also been pushing for a credible peace process. But with the humanitarian situation deteriorating and peace proving elusive, more is required from the UK and its international partners.

The UK should fulfil as quickly as possible recent proposals that at least six percent of its peacekeepers deployed to South Sudan, and 15 percent of other UK personnel such as police officers, would be female. Such deployments help make UNMISS more responsive and accessible to women and girls.

More efforts are needed not just to prevent sexual violence from happening but to ensure justice and accountability when it does. This should include tougher measures to deter sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers, as well as ensuring that victims of such crimes are recognised and justice is served – including by the special hybrid criminal court proposed by the African Union to try war crimes in South Sudan.

And crucially, more support is needed for local women’s rights organisations and advocates: not only in their efforts to help women and girls recover from the trauma and deprivations caused by conflict, but also in making sure that – from discussions within communities to national peace talks– women have an influential voice.

Sixteen years ago this week, the first UN Security Council resolution to specifically address the rights and roles of women and girls in conflict was adopted. Since then, the UK has become a global champion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. At the Security Council last week, the UK’s envoy to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, urged the international community to live up to its pledges.

“Words in this Council aren’t enough,” said Rycroft. “Commitment means action every day throughout the year.”

For activists such as Rita Lopidia as well as women and girls from South Sudan to Syria, Afghanistan to Yemen, such international leadership and resolve to act remains as urgent and essential as ever.

Ends

Shaheen Chughtai co-chairs the policy working group at Gender Action on Peace and Security, based in London.  Rita Lopidia is the co-founder and executive director of Eve Organisation for Women Development, an NGO in South Sudan. Both Chughtai and Lopidia represented the New York-based NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security at the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security in New York on 25 October.

Putting Women at the Heart of Bringing Peace to South Sudan

Shaheen Chughtai reports back from a recent conversation at the UN Once in a while, the shroud of coded, diplomatic language that envelops discussions at the United Nations Security Council is ripped away by reality. On 25th October, it was… read more ›

GAPS has a New Home

GAPS is delighted to join our new host and long term member Women for Women International UK and their fantastic team.  Together we hope to build on our strong foundation to make strides on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Please follow GAPS and Women for Women International UK on twitter.

Brita Fernandez-Schmidt, Executive Director of Women for Women International UK and new Chair of the GAPS Management Committee said “It is an absolute pleasure for GAPS to join our team at Women for Women International UK. I have loved being a part of GAPS growth whilst on the Management Committee and am delighted we will be working even more closely to support the UK in achieving its Women, Peace and Security commitments and, most importantly, seeing real change for the lives of women and girls affected by conflict.”

GAPS has a New Home

GAPS is delighted to join our new host and long term member Women for Women International UK and their fantastic team.  Together we hope to build on our strong foundation to make strides on the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Please… read more ›

Next Steps for the New, Forward Looking NAP 2018+

GAPS has developed feedback on the UK’s midline evaluation of its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP).  This will feed into the UK’s development of it’s upcoming NAP: NAP 2018+. For the full document please click here.

Next Steps for the New, Forward Looking NAP 2018+

GAPS has developed feedback on the UK’s midline evaluation of its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (NAP).  This will feed into the UK’s development of it’s upcoming NAP: NAP 2018+. For the full document please click here.

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015

Following the publication in December of the UK government’s annual Report to Parliament on its progress against the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (UK NAP), GAPS has today published its shadow report Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015. The shadow report draws on the expertise of GAPS member organisations, as well as the inputs of civil society in conflict-affected countries through a survey of women’s rights organisations in the six focus countries of the UK NAP: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Libya, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria.

The report commends the UK government for its work to promote Women, Peace and Security on the international decision-making stage, including through the commitments it made at the High-level Review of 1325 in October last year. Looking ahead to 2016, GAPS calls on the UK government to continue to demonstrate its role as a leader on the Women, Peace and Security agenda on the global stage at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

Further still, the UK must do more to go beyond undertaking a series of actions on this agenda, and commit unwavering support for women’s meaningful inclusion, backed up by much needed resources and institutional systems. As champion governments such as Sweden affirm their commitment to ‘Feminist Foreign Policy’, GAPS calls on the UK government to step up and commit to the following minimum standards of engagement on Women, Peace and Security through its own planning, activities, reporting and accountability processes:

  1. Affirm that comprehensive action across the Women, Peace and Security agenda is a UK government priority, with women’s human rights at its core.
  2. Ensure the meaningful participation of women from conflict-affected contexts in all related UK-hosted peace, security, and development talks, and call for women’s meaningful engagement in those hosted by other countries.
  3. Guarantee that the UK government’s Women, Peace and Security plans can be resourced and implemented – earmarking finances for this agenda, tracking spending through gender markers in wider development, humanitarian and stabilisation funding, and through a dedicated budget for the NAP.
  4. Guarantee consultation of women’s rights organisations and local civil society in the design and review of UK Women, Peace and Security objectives and ensure that the views of women and girls and their reflections on new and emerging issues are integrated in UK government planning.
  5. Commit to strengthen transparency with an open book on the UK’s progress against Women, Peace and Security commitments including clear monitoring and reporting processes.

 

You can download the report here.

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New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015

New GAPS report: Assessing UK Government Action on Women, Peace and Security in 2015 Following the publication in December of the UK government’s annual Report to Parliament on its progress against the UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and… read more ›

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