Women’s participation forging peace worldwide, ‘vastly worse’ post-pandemic, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 

With COVID-19, the situation for women human rights defenders and the prospects for women's full participation in building peace, has become “vastly worse”, Michelle Bachelet said.

Published: 19th January 2022 06:07 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th January 2022 06:07 PM   |  A+A-

(Photo Courtesy | OHCHR)

By Online Desk

GENEVA: Decisions on peace that do not reflect women's voices, realities and rights are not sustainable. Addressing discrimination, inequality, denials of women's civic space and gender-based violence must be a priority for building peace, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.

While participating in a Security Council debate on Tuesday, the human rights chief drove home that, between 1992 and 2019, only 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes worldwide, were women. In terms of support, barely 1 per cent of funding in fragile or conflict-affected countries goes to women's rights organizations. 

“And that was before the pandemic struck – and before a wave of intensifying conflicts, undemocratic political transitions and disastrous humanitarian crises took hold in many societies, further reducing women's rights”, she noted.

The situation that now faces women human rights defenders, and prospects for women's full – not tokenistic – participation in shaping and building peace – are vastly worse.

"This harms all of us. Women's safe and meaningful participation is necessary to ensure a fuller range of action to bind society together, and address not only the root causes of conflict but also its full impact – including gender-based violence and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war," she said.

In 2020, the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR) verified 35 killings of women human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists in seven conflict-affected countries. The number, which is certainly an undercount, surpassed the confirmed numbers of killings in 2018 and 2019. 

OHCHR have also documented patterns of attacks against women working on gender equality; sexual and reproductive health and rights issues; corruption, labour rights and environmental and land disputes.

According to Bachelet, in every region, women have been subjected to arrests and detention; intimidation, sexual violence, and harassment via smear campaigns.

Intimidation and reprisalsby State and non-State actors against people who cooperate with the UN, also remain high, she said, including in countries which are on the Council's peacekeeping agenda. 

The High Commissioner then highlighted the situation in Afghanistan, Africa’s Sahel region, Myanmar and elsewhere, saying violations of women's rights “significantly undermine global efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace.”

Describing this “wave” of challenges, the High Commissioner argued that the international community must “push back against attempts to attack, silence and criminalize women's rights to defend rights, participate in decision-making and express dissenting opinions.”

She also asked for “clear advocacy” and “significant investment”, stating that “decisions on peace that do not reflect women's voices, realities and rights are not sustainable.”

“The work of addressing discrimination, inequality, denials of women's civic space and gender-based violence should also be viewed as a priority for building peace”, she concluded. 

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