By GIANINA SCHWANECKE, DER SPIEGEL (expository)
Delegates reconvened today, reopening discussions about acts of violence perpetrated against women.
The room adopted a somber mood after an emotional testimony delivered by a women living just beyond a United Nations refugee camp in South Sudan. Addressing the delegates, she spoke of female refugees being attacked by UN peacekeeping forces, and further discussed the lack of resultant action.
These reports raised concerns about those most vulnerable, particularly women in refugee camp and conflict zones.
The delegation of France was quick to condemn the attacks and demand action, stating “It is unacceptable for UN peacekeeping forces to violate the rights of refugees. They are placed in refugee centers to relieve the crisis, not cause more problems.”
Their three-pronged approach focuses on “prevention, educating peacekeeping forces and victims about violence; action, creating a safe environment for victims and those most vulnerable; and reaction, establishing support and care systems for victims.”
France supported calls for whistle-blowing initiatives that might keep UN peacekeepers accountable. They emphasized the importance of female representation in such programs, arguing that “Women come to women to report violations and abuse.”
Allegations emerged from French peacekeeping violations in the Central African Republic of Congo, prompting the resignation of UN whistleblower, Anders Kompass, former Director of Field Operations at the Genevan human rights center. The matter was turned over to French authorities in 2014, with seventeen soldiers placed under investigation. However, early last month French judges announced they would not bring charges forward in any of the cases, according to the New York Times.
Vulnerable and marginalized communities remain an active priority for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). A German-backed proposal sought to address the needs of women of color and minority groups, including refugees and prisoners.
The delegate for Germany pressed for discrete crisis centers, which would give women access to resources and autonomy necessary to escape abusive relationships. Such programs prioritized ease of access, using low cost cellular technology to maximize reach, and allowed for anonymity using area codes.
Their response reflects the European refugee crisis, and the influx of refugees from regions such as North Africa and the Middle East, in particularly, Syria. Their approach seeks to address the long-term results of conflicts and has the support of countries like Kenya, Belarus, and most noteworthy, Iran.
Amid concerns about peacekeeper abuses and the impact of sexual violence on women in conflict zones, NGOs called attention to other issues related to gendered violence.
The Clinton Health Access Initiative, (emphatically a separate entity from the Clinton Foundation), called for reducing barriers to antiretroviral treatments for rape victims. They advocate for ‘’lowering the cost of drug prices and creating a more competitive pharmaceuticals market’’.
A representative from the Human Rights Watch emphasized the need for cooperation, both between member states and NGOs. The delegate expressed support in particular for those proposals made by France and Switzerland but also commended the German bloc’s clause on statistical analysis and data collection.
They expressed concerns over the recent reports, but noted the forgotten issue of domestic violence. Violence against women is a broad topic and occurs in many forms; while delegates have paid much attention to the perpetration of sexual violence, little mention has been made of intimate partner abuse.
‘’Crisis is always more urgent; everyone is talking crisis,” the Human Rights Watch delegate stated. “But we cannot leave the committee without also addressing the issue of domestic violence.”
Delegates in the CSW respond to most recent reports.