Women and Armed Conflict Caucus
General Debate - Agenda Items 3 and 4
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General Debate - Agenda Items 3 and 4 Women and Armed Conflict Caucus Thank you Madam Chair for allowing me to present the views of the Women and Armed Conflict Caucus

The institution of war constitutes the greatest possible obstacle to all the objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action. Yet in most National Plans of Action, the critical area of concern of Women and Armed Conflict has either been excluded or merged into other areas, such as violence against women.

We all know that the systematic and strategic targeting of civilian populations in contemporary wars has a disproportionate effect on women. In the review of the Beijing Platform For Action we urge governments to recognize women as equal partners, effective actors, experienced contributors to peace negotiations and especially peace building. It is now time for governments to set clear benchmarks, time lines, indicators and plans of actions to redress the exclusion and neglect of women's participation and perspectives.

In many regions, women have not only suffered the direct consequences of armed conflict; they have also endured decades of military occupation by long-term military presence. Tomorrow as we commemorate the 46th anniversary of the 'Bravo' nuclear bomb detonation close to the surface of Bikini Atoll, just one example of the racist experiments that colonizing governments have inflicted on the peoples of the Pacific, we deplore the high cancer rates, low birth weights and birth defects resultant from weapons testing and military maneuvers. It is also important for governments to recognize that women living in areas of long-term military presence are in constant threat of sexual violence.

Madam Chair, armed conflict and preparation for armed conflict exists in every region of the world.

At this time there is an arms race in the Asia Pacific region, with the highest imports of military equipment in the world and the proliferation of nuclear weapons occurring there. At the same time we are also witnessing intrastate and regional instability in the countries of this region.

In Africa the proliferation of war is leading to the largest amount of refugees and displaced people 80% of whom are women, an epidemic of HIV/AIDS, the proliferation of small arms and chronic poverty.

In the Middle East the peace process continues to falter. In Europe, where there was plenty of warning, conflicts were not prevented and the issue of reconciliation continues to be neglected at the risk of a resurgence of violence.

Latin America continues to suffer from decades of armed conflict and external military intervention.

In the face of this women at civil society level have shown extraordinary commitment to and capacity for the making and building of peace through regional disarmament programs, their concerted effort to participate in peace negotiation and reconciliation at community and national levels.

Under the most oppressive regimes, women's groups have kept the ideals of democracy and justice alive. In the Asia-Pacific region women have established peace zones and peace coalitions. In West Africa women's coalitions have played an effective role in the implementation of regional disarmament programs and peace processes. In the Middle East and Europe as the official peace negotiations have faltered and failed, women's peace initiatives have continued to build bridges over the divides.

Yet, most of these efforts are unacknowledged and unsupported at the international level. The Women and Armed Conflict Caucus urges you to implement the recommendations set out in the Platform for Action and take the following steps:

  • 'Convert military resources and related industries to development and peaceful purposes'. Women of the world want governments to set a concrete target for reducing military expenditures. The Women's Peace Petition, signed by millions of women from all over the world notes that cutting five percent of current military expenditure over the next five years would free up half a billion dollars per day. This money could be used for peace education and could be targetted at reforming the structures and institutions that are at the root cause of war.
  • Ensure the equal participation of women at all levels of decision-making in conflict prevention, management and resolution, as well as post-conflict reconstruction and peace building processes through the setting of gender quotas for all peace processes, for posts in foreign affairs departments, United Nations and national negotiating teams and the systematic inclusion of women's concerns in all Security Council resolutions which should insist that women participate equally in all peace negotiations.
  • Ensure an equitable provision of physical safety and security to all refugee and internally displaced women and girls; provide for and increase their access to the gender-sensitive legal, social, psychological and medical services in camps, and ensure their participation in the planning and implementation of programs while they are in the camps.
  • Ensure an end to impunity for crimes committed against women in situations of armed conflict and ensure redress by ratifying the ICC treaty.
  • Give women and women's organizations the support, recognition and resources needed to strengthen and develop their peace building efforts.
To reiterate, we need clear benchmarks, timelines, plans of action and systems for monitoring these urgently relevant changes. It is not possible to implement the Platform For Action as long as the world is beset by wars. The truth is, without real human security we will always face real military insecurity.

Thank you.

Felicity Hill, Director Women's International League for Peace and Freedom United Nations Office 777 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA Ph: 1 212 682 1265 Fax: 1 212 286 8211 email: flick@igc.apc.org web: www.wilpf.int.ch www.reachingcriticalwill.org


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