Statement to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights
26 October 2009
Janis Alton, Past Chair on behalf of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to your examination of aspects of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the related resolution 1820. You have particularly asked for comment regarding Canada’s role in strengthening human rights mechanisms, including equality between women and men, in conflict affected areas. On behalf of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, I can offer some comments to your focus on:
1. Implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325
2. Participation in relevant UN conflict resolution and peace building mechanisms
3. And departmental programs and initiatives.
I am drawing from our volunteer women’s organization long-standing activism, since its founding in 1960. At our inception, we called for an end to war, not how to make war safe for women, and for women’s rightful inclusion in decision-making at all levels on matters related to peace and security. We still do. Our pioneering activism focused on the abolition of nuclear weapons. Sadly, this continues. As we near our 50th anniversary, our record includes a host of educational and advocacy efforts to address the folly of the military system and the rutted, undemocratic pattern of exclusion of women’s voices from the foreign policy arena. As our understanding of the interconnectedness of issues grew, so did our outreach. When UNESCO coined the phrase, “culture of peace” not so long ago, we had an “Aha!” moment. recognizing in its description a compact way of expressing what we had come to be about with a plethora of activities – from coast to coast & internationally. For example, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, since the 70’s has been an affiliate of the United Nations through the Department of Public Information and, since 1996, with the Economic and Social Council. We have actively used this linkage lobbying extensively at multiple UN Missions for demilitarization in New York, Geneva and Vienna, and at NATO headquarters and that of the Warsaw Pact, among others.
We were very active in the civil society run-up, and adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325.We continue our deep interest in its implementation, and are especially encouraged by the strong language of the preamble which recognizes the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building. It stresses the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase women’s role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution. Music to our ears!
We thank you for this Senate initiate to prod the implementation of this historic resolution. If even Article 1 were fully implemented, (which calls upon member states to increase representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutional mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict) , this would contribute to the deterrence of rape. Women’s heightened visibility in this area will help build respect for women, help men to stop treating women like trash.
Canada deserves praise for its continuing leadership of the UN-based Friends of 1325, a small but growing number of states seeking ways to promote women and gender sensitivity within the UN system, and its conflict management processes but …. where is the sustained leadership at home? Where is our own national plan of action?
We also applaud Canada’s long standing financial support of the International Women’s Tribune Centre and specifically its international Working Group on Women, Peace and Security. But where is the sustained, adequate financial program of support at home for NGO coalitions such as PeaceBuild (of which Canadian Voice of Women for Peace is a part.) trying to educate and advocate for women’s right to participate? We strongly recommend that equality and peace building NGOs be given sustained and adequate funding to help move along towards women’s equal representation in all aspects of peace building from prevention to conflict resolution. Currently, Canada plans to commit a massive 490 billion to military spending over the next 20 years, continuing to drive the prevailing culture of war.
We ask you to consider whether the adoption of equality practice in all aspects of decision-making related to peace and security and at all levels should be voluntary?
We need women who are peacemakers, who support gender equality, sustainable development, justice, all human rights for all people. There are plenty of creative, progressive voices. It is a moral obligation to move at a faster rate.
Canada should continue to support the presence of progressive women at the decision-making tables for resolution to the conflicts in Afghanistan.
[NOTE: UN SC res. 1325 is international law. Along with Cora Weiss, (NY) President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, we concur that it is time to use it in a court case. If a table is set for a peace agreement and only men are seated, women’s organizations should take them to court and use 1325 in their brief.]
[Story- When women in Northern Ireland went to see George Mitchell, who was chairing the Good Friday Agreement to bring peace to the many years of the Troubles, he told them that to be seated and eligible they would have to represent a political party. So they went out and formed the Women’s Party and got 2 seats at the table. Their presence made a sustained difference. They insisted on institutionalizing human rights in the Agreement.]
We would go further. We have already recommended to personnel within the UN Peacekeeping Unit that peace education be integral to every peace agreement. It could include rewriting text books, holding encounter sessions with educators from all “sides”, having student exchanges and other creative ways to reduce hatred and build reconciliation. Teaching 1325 and 1820 would make a difference.
We recommend that all troop contributing countries sending peacekeepers to zones of violence be trained and TESTED in 1325 and 1820. Sexual abuse by peacekeepers is not uncommon. There are about 120,000 personnel including peacekeepers from 117 countries on 18 UN-led operations on 4 continents directly impacting the lives of millions of people, half of whom are women.
We recommend that not only the military but [Canadian] advisors and negotiators be sensitized to gender issues in conflict to appreciate the importance of implementing 1325and 1820. Other stakeholders in a conflict zone such as police and government personnel should be similarly educated. The specific requirements of girls and women must be addressed. In Canada, the Manley Report supports these demands for Afghanistan.
Canada must encourage the development and reinforcement of women in the role of the judiciary and in government in states recovering from conflict.
We recommend that Canada, and other states provide dedicated funding to these approaches, including general capacity-building for women and girls. .
Ideally, within Canada and elsewhere, every single piece of legislation, every resolution should be screened by legislators at all levels of governance to ask how does this affect women? Are women including in the vetting of the resolution, in the implementation of it?
We recommend that systematic consultations be undertaken by the Department of Foreign Affairs with relevant NGOs begin. The last of these informal consultations was in 2006.
We recommend revival of the specific consultative process implemented in Canada following the adoption of SC res. 1325 which brought together relevant NGOs, civil servants, M.P.s and Senators under joint Senate and MP leadership. This practice of new diplomacy was all too brief. It fizzled for lack of governmental financial support.