Madeleine Reese, Head of Women’s Rights and Gender Unit, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, began her presentation by noting the limitations of international law as a tool of social transformation in post-conflict zones. She observed that progress in this arena has been tremendously slow, such that what often passes for success in the context of international law might not be so regarded elsewhere. In evaluating the potential of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, she stated that while it contained some ‘packages’ which would prove useful in improving women’s political participation, ultimately its recognition of women as agents for social change was muted – particularly in its language, which advocates the participation of women ‘where possible’. This presentation followed a broader theme which emerged in the papers presented at the conference: that blackletter law has little impact in the absence of proper implementation, backed by solid gender analysis. Ms. Reese argued that polarisation during conflict begins before conflict and is ultimately the product of social norms. While formal justice mechanisms were therefore important, they were unlikely to bear fruit unless regard was had to issues of recognition and redistribution.
First, it was important to ensure that transitional justice processes described women’s experience of conflict accurately. Procedure and process ought to be adapted to fit the emotional and practical needs of participating women. To illustrate the problems which can arise in practice, Ms. Reese cited examples from the ICTY; including women travelling unaccompanied to the Hague to participate in the tribunal and unsupported on their return home. The jurisprudence on rape itself also generates difficulties for female victims. The requirement to prove that the victim did not consent deterred women from participating in the Yugoslav and Rwandan tribunals. Ms. Reese advocated more intelligent prosecution to overcome this difficulty. For example, prosecuting sexual violence against women as torture (as is often done in the case of sexual violence against men) would overcome the consent requirement. Second, women’s social and economic rights ought to be enhanced so that they could overcome the social barriers which tended to exclude them from post-conflict negotiations. Ms. Reese argued that temporary special measures of positive discrimination ought to be applied post-conflict.
Col. Ben Klappe, Military Judge/Judge in the District Court Arnheim/Netherlands Defence Academy, presented ongoing efforts to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers. He began by noting that UN peacekeeping forces have been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse since the Balkan missions in the early 1990s. Col. Klappe’s own presentation centred on allegations made against UN peacekeeping personnel in Bunia, DRC in 2004. The most recent set of allegations is contained in the Save the Children report No One to Turn to, published in May 2008, which claimed that sexual violence perpetrated against children went largely unreported. Col. Klappe outlined the following UN initiatives which aimed to tackle this problem:
- The Secretary General’s bulletin on Special Measures for Protection from Sexual Exploitatation and Abuse, promulgated in 2003.
- The adoption in 2006 by the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations of a package of reforms: A comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.
- The mandatory provision of generic training on prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse on forces’ arrival in a mission.
- Awareness-raising activities targeting local populations.
- The establishment of conduct and discipline teams which handle allegations of misconduct in a more professional manner than was hitherto the case.
- The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1820 on June 19 2008.
Col. Klappe argued that a key obstacle in this area was the difficulty in disciplining perpetrators. Disciplinary power extends at most to repatriation and sending States retain exclusive criminal jurisdiction. The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations mandated the development of a legal framework enabling criminal prosecution. The 2007 model memorandum of understanding between the UN and sending countries has shored up possibilities for enforcement. In the memorandum, sending countries undertake to bring the full force of their legal sanctions to bear in enforcing agreed standards of conduct for troops. Another important recent development from the victims’ perspective is the General Assembly’s adoption in 2007 of a victim assistance strategy. Under this strategy, victims would receive assistance to address their needs which could include medical treatment, social support, legal services or material care.
Lt. Col. Oliver Barbour, Irish Defence Forces/GBV Consortium, dealt with two related areas. First, he touched on the work of the Irish Consortium on Gender Based Violence which has 14 members, including two Irish government departments as well as Irish human rights, humanitarian and development agencies. Its objectives are: to ensure that actions to prevent and respond to GBV are visible and systematically addressed in the work of its member agencies; to document and share resources on the prevention of GBV and to develop an advocacy strategy to promote awareness of and improve actions on prevention of GBV. The Consortium’s Advocacy Group works to raise awareness of the consortiumâ€™s work and GBV, and is promoting the development by the Irish government of an effective Irish National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325. During 2008, the Consortium will build on its current training and dissemination work and will also host an international conference in Dublin.
Second, Lt. Col. Barbour discussed the wide range of attempts to integrate a gender perspective into EUFOR’s recent operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His core message was that gender issues ought to be given effect at a practical operational level. In explaining the successes of efforts in the DRC, he discussed a number of key initiatives:
- gender issues had been incorporated into the planning stage of the mission and eventually formed part of the operational plan.
- a gender advisor was appointed to the EU OHQ to provide basic training for OHQ and FHQ personnel
- reports on gender issues were compiled weekly.
- a gender issues soldiers’ card was developed which provided for a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
- women were specially trained to take part in patrols along w
Lt. Col. Barbour reported that, as a result of these efforts, the force’s credibility among local women and among influential women’s organisations improved tremendously. However, he expressed concern that the legal officer was appointed gender officer at FHQ as he suggested that this ‘double-hatting’ undermined the importance of the role.
Summary provided by PhD candidate and IRCHSS scholar MÃ¡irÃ©ad Enright.