The landmark Arms Trade Treaty regulates the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. Photo: worldislandinfo.com
On April 2, the United Nations General Assembly voted for the first ever Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). This treaty would regulate the multi-billion dollar global arms trade and thus end the lack of regulations of cross-border conventional arms sales. Included in the treaty are binding provisions to prevent armed gender-based violence.
The treaty demands that conventional weapon-exporting states evaluate the risks of arms being used to “commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women,” (article 7.4) or whether weapons will be used to break humanitarian law, for acts of genocide, war crimes or terrorism. It also requires states to prevent conventional weapons to reach the black market. It is the first treaty that recognizes that there is a connection between arms and gender based violence.
It took seven years to negotiate the treaty, and Iran, North Korea and Syria had blocked its adoption by consensus last minute in March. The treaty’s adoption required agreement by all 193 U.N. member states. British UN ambassador Mark Grant found a way to get around the blockade by asking Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to put it to a swift vote in the General Assembly. There the member-states voted for the treaty by 154 votes to three, with 23 abstentions.
These numbers reflect the growing international sentiment that there must be some kind of a moral standard for weapons trade.
The treaty also establishes an international forum of states that will review published reports of arms sales and publicly name violators.
Before the treaty will come into effect, it needs to be signed and ratified by at least 50 states. There is no specific enforcement mechanism, the hope is that even nations reluctant to ratify the treaty will feel public pressure to abide by the agreement, and that the treaty’s standards will be used immediately as political and moral guidelines.
Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, welcomed the adoption of the treaty, stating that ”The global arms trade must not be a means of aggravating the already catastrophic levels of violence against women around the world, including during conflict and post-conflict. However, UN Women underscores that women are not just of importance to the Arms Trade Treaty as victims of armed violence, but also as peacebuilders and decision-makers. Women’s crucial role in promoting peace and security, recognized in Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and subsequent resolutions, must be recognized in all mechanisms for the monitoring and management of the arms trade.”
Mervat El-Tallawy, Ambassador and Chairwoman of the National Council of Women in Egypt, who made the CSW57 agreement possible. Photo: Violaine Martin, CC
The 57th session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW57) is over. After two weeks of difficult and tough negotiations in New York, the participants of the world’s largest conference on ending violence against women and girls consented on the adoption of a global plan to eliminate and prevent
all forms of violence against women and girls.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he ”hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls.”
One third of all women experience violence
One out of three women experience violence in her lifetime. According to the World Bank, women between the ages of 15 and 44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria. To put an end to this seems like an excellent idea – but apparently not to all countries.
Even in the year 2013, there are countries that try to impede an agreement that is not even legally binding, that apparently don’t go in for a world which is violence-free for women. At CSW57, the Vatican, Russia, Sudan, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Iran had formed what some diplomats called “an unholy alliance” and objected to language in the draft communiqué, asserting that governments can’t use religion, custom and tradition as an excuse to their obligation to eliminate violence. They also objected to references to abortion rights and contraception, as well as to language suggesting that rape also includes forced intercourse by a woman’s husband or partner.
Last year’s conference ended without an agreement – and this was close to happening again. What made the alliance countries cave in is not known, but in the end it was only Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood who classified the draft as un-Islamic and warned it would lead to a “complete degradation of society.”
Agreement made possible by the courage of one women
It seems to be thanks to the courage of one woman that the final agreement was signed, besides Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to block it. The head of Egypt’s delegation, politician and diplomat Mervat Tallawy, ignored the members of her own delegation and announced that Egypt would join consensus. “Women are the slaves of this age. This is unacceptable, and particularly in our region,” Mervat Tallawy said afterwards. “It’s a global wave of conservatism, of repression against women, and this paper is a message that if we can get together, hold power together, we can be a strong wave against this conservatism.”
Religion, culture and tradition are no excuses anymore
The 16-page document agreed upon strongly condemns violence against women and girls, affirms that violence against women and girls is rooted in historical and structural inequality in power relations between women and men, and that this persists in every country in the world as a pervasive violation of the enjoyment of human rights, calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment and ensure women’s reproductive rights and access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The document reinforces furthermore the validity of all agreements and resolutions hitherto adopted, urges all states to condemn violence against women and girls and to implement effective national legislation and policies against it. It also recognizes violence against women as an impediment to the social and economic development of states, as well as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Equal access to power and decision-making is also a demand.
“By adopting this document, governments have made clear that discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century, there is no turning back.” said UN Women.
For the first time the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided on reparations for victims of war crimes. This as part of the case against former warlord Thomas Lubanga, who earlier this year was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the enlisting of child soldiers in the Ituri conflict 2000-2003 in DR Congo.
According to the ruling of the court, the forms of the reparations should be decided together with the victims and their communities and collected by the Trust Fund for Victims (TRV). After approval from the ICC, the funds of the TRV will then be used to implement the proposed actions.
The ICC especially stressed that the needs of ”vulnerable victims”, like women, children and victims of gender-based and sexual violence, must be prioritized, and also ruled that ”gender parity in all aspects of reparations is an important goal of the Court”.
Welcomed women’s inclusion
In a statement UN Women welcomed what they called ”the inclusion of explicitly strong language on aspects of gender-sensitivity and women’s inclusion”.
- As a mechanism of justice, reparations are of particular importance for women victims of conflict. Reparations have the potential to provide recognition of women’s rights as equal citizens, acknowledgement of the harm suffered, as well as a concrete contribution towards victim’s recovery, said UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri.
Funded through voluntary contributions
Available for reparations are ”the direct and indirect victims who suffered harm following crimes of enlisting, conscripting and using children under the age of 15 in Ituri (…) from 1 September 2002 to 13 August 2003”. This means that also family members of direct victims and individuals who intervened to help them could be potential benificiaries.
The TRV was, like the ICC, established through the Rome Statute, and its resources are mostly coming from voluntary contributions by States and private donors. The ICC therefore also pointed out that outside contributions now are important for the fund to be able to deliver a meaningful reparations programme. Thomas Lubanga has been declared indigent and will not be part of the funding process.
Improve women’s role in political and economical decision-making and enhance the fight against perpetrators of sexual violence walking free. These are the main points of a new partnership on gender equality between EU and UN Women.
The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs for EU and Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet for UN Women, during EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit in Brussels, Belgium on April 16th.
EU and UN Women has a long history of working together, for example in the Increasing Accountability in Financing for Gender Equality Progamme created to help governments, donors and civil society in 15 countries to improve their work on gender equality. But the Memorandum “ensures closer collaboration”, writes the European Commission in a press release.
- Discrimination against women and girls remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality. Together with UN Women we will work to improve the role of women in political and economic decision-making. We will also fight impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence, ensure better protection of women and improve their access to justice. These are issues that need our full attention and this new partnership enhances our ability to work even harder to reach these goals, commented Catherine Ashton.
According to the press release the partnership will involve the two organisations working together on policies and programmes on gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as them regularly sharing relevant information, analysis and strategic assessments in order to improve collaboration. How these efforts will manifest themselves in practice has not yet been presented.