Celebrating Resolution 1325…now for implementation

Posted on May 10, 2010.

Kudzai Makombe

With the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 coming up in October, the UN is under a lot of pressure to implement the resolution.

UNSCR 1325 calls on States to put an end to impunity and prosecute perpetrators of sexual and other violence on women and girls; increased participation of women in peace process; the protection and respect of women and girls post-conflict; and a framework for engendering peace negotiations, peacekeeping, planning of refugee camps and reconstruction.

The Security Council proposed penalties for perpetrators in the form of prosecution and targetted sanctions as well as strengthening the mandates of peacekeeping operations to prevent sexual gender based violence and to remind parties to conflict of their responsibility to protect women.

But very little progress has been made in protecting women and girls from rape in armed conflict. We have already celebrated many times over the fact that it UNSCR 1325 is a landmark resolution that recognises sexual gender based violence as a weapon of war. But beyond that, implementation has been so poor its not clear what we will be celebrating come October other than a statement of intent backed by more recent statements of intent in the form of resolutions 1888 and 1889 adopted in September 2009.

Resolution 1888 mandates peacekeeping missions to protect women and girls from sexual violence in armed conflict. Resolution 1889  reaffirms resolution 1325 and “condemns continuing sexual violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations”. It urges Member States, United Nations bodies, donors and civil society to ensure that women’s protection and empowerment is taken into account during post-conflict needs assessment and planning, and factored into subsequent funding and programming.

Approximately 20 000 women were raped during the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina in the early 1990s and violations continue around the world with the most well-known case being the Democratic Republic of Congo where it is estimated that up to 500,000 women and children have been raped during the 14 year long war. Human Rights Watch and other rights and humanitarian organisations have reported sexual gender based violence in numerous other conflicts, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire,  Liberia, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Chechnya/Russian Federation and Uganda.

Efforts at remedying the situation in DRC by training police and government forces to protect women are limited by the fact that the government forces are amongst the worst perpetrators of sexual gender based violence. The  Security Council is due to conduct a visit to the DRC from 14th to 21st May mainly to negotiate the gradual withdrawal of the the UN’s 20,000-strong peacekeeping force in that country. But it has already been criticised for its failure to include anything on women in its terms of reference for the visit. The TORS do, however, specifically mention children and “other affected civilian groups”.

The International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s visit to Kenya to investigate the country’s post election violence will also need to be watched closely. In Kenya this week, Ocampo says he will speak with victims and government officials. Many of those victims are the women who were raped, beaten and had their homes burnt down. Ocampo’s mission should target them as a specific group and aim to deliver the justice that has so far evaded them and many other female victims of sexual gender based violence in conflict. As long as women affected by conflict continue to be lumped in the group “civilians” we are unlikely to ever give them the particular attention or action they need or address the fact that the rape of women in armed conflict is a very specific method of warfare meant to humiliate, terrorize, punish and dominate the enemy.

Meanwhile, the Ugandan rebel group, the Lords Resistance Army, continues to operate with impunity, extending their murderous campaign and abductions of women and children into DRC.  Clearly the resolutions have had little impact on governments and armed groups and failed to act as a deterrent. It is also obvious that 1325’s call for the inclusion of women in peace processes is not being taken seriously. Women continue to be excluded from negotiating tables.