Category: 16 Days of Activism

Category: 16 Days of Activism

Climate Change Worsens Gender-Based Violence: Here’s How the WPS Agenda Can Help

8 December 2022

By Jenaina Irani*

Climate change is a growing threat to progress, peace, security, and human rights. The negative impacts of climate change often have gendered impacts and are another barrier to achieving gender equality. The climate crisis is also a threat multiplier. The impacts of conflict and climate change affect people differently depending on the power dynamics of their context. Additional stresses on social, political, and economic infrastructures lead to increased vulnerability for women and girls in patriarchal societies. Consequently, the lack of support and protection mechanisms allows violence and exploitation to flourish, harming vulnerable and conflict-affected groups.

Although generally lacking in coordination, the international community has been increasingly raising the alarm on climate threats. In October 2022, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls described climate change as “the most consequential threat multiplier for women and girls, with far-reaching impacts on new and existing forms of gendered inequities.” Women and girls in conflict-affected regions progressively experience the disastrous consequences of unmitigated climate degradation, notably in the form of rising mental, physical, and sexual violence.

CARE International has termed gender inequality reinforced by climate change a “double injustice.” There are many manifestations of this injustice, and they are continually growing and evolving. Intense heat and droughts are forcing millions of people to flee their homes, causing internal displacement and forced migration to other countries. In the Central American “Dry Corridor,” forced displacement is many people’s only means of survival. In such cases, women and girls face the double-edged sword of seeking environmental stability despite significant risks of sexual violence and physical insecurity. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), women and girls constitute 80 per cent of those displaced by climate change.

In rural Uganda, prolonged drought has increased the time and frequency that women and girls need to gather water and food. Similarly, the continued depletion of natural resources in Peru means that women and girls must walk further into the forest to fetch water daily. In both of these contexts, and for many other women worldwide, these long and often unaccompanied journeys leave women and girls vulnerable to physical attack, sexual exploitation, and violence.

Not only do women and girls face threats of violence by simply existing in contexts impacted by climate change, but women environmental human rights defenders have become increasingly targeted for their efforts. Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is utilized to suppress their activism and intimidate others to abandon their advocacy. Sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls are also used as forms of control over natural resources — for land grabbing, gaining property rights, and more. In defending human and environmental rights, women from indigenous communities who have been actively practicing environmental conservation and nature protection for generations continue to put their lives at risk.

Despite these challenges, women are far from passive victims of conflict or climate change. Research and policy continue to overwhelmingly posit women as vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Yet, we know that women’s “unique environmental knowledge is invaluable for peacebuilding efforts” and that their meaningful participation is vital for developing community adaptation and resilience.

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda arose to address the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and also acknowledges and supports the pivotal role women should and do play in conflict prevention, conflict management, and sustainable peace efforts. The WPS agenda is invaluable for ensuring women’s inclusion as agents of change in climate action, peace and security. Their activism offers essential lessons on tackling these compounding threats and building a sustainable future.

One pathway for action is to support women and girls’ participation in efforts to address climate-related security risks. The most in-depth review assessing National Action Plans (NAPs) on WPS found that only 17 of 80 reviewed NAPs mention climate change. Only three have a significant mention or action toward addressing it. There is a clear need to integrate climate action into NAPs on WPS.

Every day, women fight for a world free from gender-based violence, inequality, and the social, cultural, and human rights catastrophe of environmental degradation. It has never been more necessary to ensure their meaningful participation in policy- and decision- making on climate change response for a safe and sustainable future.

*Jenaina Irani is a Researcher at GNWP

GNWP continues its boycott of Facebook because #FacebookPromotesViolence

In September 2020, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) began boycotting Facebook to protest their role in threatening peace and democracy on and offline. 

Today, on this International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, over a year later, GNWP continues the #FacebookPromotesViolence campaign in light of indisputable evidence that the platform knowingly harms those most vulnerable and marginalized. Facebook fosters harmful misinformation, polarization, and hate speech around the world. Despite Facebook’s aim to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together,” their algorithms and policies disproportionately affect marginalized groups, such as women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (LGBTQIA+) people, and other minority groups. 

A trove of internal Facebook—now Meta—documents revealed that Instagram knowingly damaged teen mental health, failed to remove hate speech before the January 6th insurrection in the United States as well as during tensions in Northern India, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly presented misinformation regarding the company’s safety performance. Facebook prioritizes profit over safety, which is antithetical to GNWP’s core mission: elevate the power of women and amplify their voices to build sustainable and inclusive peace. Therefore, GNWP will continue to boycott Facebook and join efforts to hold them accountable for their contributions to violence in the digital space which promotes violence in real life.

From strong institutions to inclusive peace: Gendering the conversation about corruption, human rights, and peace and security

December 10, 2020 by Agnieszka Fal-Dutra Santos

“The most important characteristic of a peaceful society is a set of institutions that enable its members to live together in peace. This entails an absence of high levels of corruption and the existence of the rule of law. Strong institutions promote the peaceful co-existence of individuals and groups with differing interests and values and are a necessary condition for human flourishing.”

This is how one of the participants of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders’ (GNWP) research on local women and civil society’s perspectives on sustaining peace defined a peaceful society. The research reached over 1,600 women and men in 50 countries. When asked what peace means to them, the largest number – 40% of all respondents – indicated good governance and strong institutions. In line with this, corruption – within governments, civil society, and even donor institutions – was listed as one of the persistent challenges to sustainable and inclusive peace. 10% of all respondents believed that corruption is the biggest obstacle to peace. Respondents pointed out that corruption prevents grassroots peacebuilders from accessing funding to support their work, breeds distrust between citizens and their government, fuels economic inequality, and aggravates grievances. All of these factors are also the root causes of conflict and violence.

Corruption is a security concern

The findings of our research have added to the growing literature and policy discussions on the impacts of corruption on peace and security. A 2015 study by the Institute for Economics & Peace revealed that “corruption has a major influence over decreased levels of peace, including violent crime and the homicide rate.” In a similar vein, an analysis by Transparency International showed that “11 of the 20 most corrupt countries have been affected by violent conflict, often lasting many years.” As noted above, corruption aggravates the root causes of conflict. At the same time, armed conflict creates a fertile ground for corruption – as the influx of outside funds in post-conflict countries provides incentives for officials to make corrupt deals for personal gain.

The interlinkages between corruption and peace have also been recognized in global policy discussions. Recognizing the link between corruption and peace and security, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a briefing on corruption and conflict in September 2018. The UNSC has also addressed corruption in country-specific discussions and briefings. Misappropriation of financial resources is one of the criteria for sanctions in the cases of Somalia and Libya. Corruption has also been tackled in discussions around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). While preventing and combatting corruption is not a stand-alone SDG, tackling corruption, bribery, and money laundering, as well as recovering stolen assets, are specific targets under SDG 16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

Where are the women? Bringing a gender lens to policy discussions on corruption

Despite the strong linkages between corruption and peace, most research, analysis, and policy discussions on corruption remain gender-blind and leaves the myriad of ways in which corruption affects women and men in conflict-affected situations unexplored. There is evidence that women and men are affected differently by corruption: corruption affects women’s access to literacy education, as well as their access to health, including maternal health, education, and economic opportunities. Still, analyses of the gendered impacts of corruption is not systematic in the literature on the issue, or in the policy discussions and recommendations related to corruption.

To address this gap, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), with support from the Directorate of International Law of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, conducted research which applied a gender lens and conflict lens to the impact of corruption on peace and security, and on human rights. We used in-depth analysis of existing literature, policy documents, and ongoing global policy debates on corruption to map out existing trends and identify some good practices. Additionally, we conducted key informant interviews and focus group discussions in Nepal and Nigeria. Using the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda as a framework, the research highlights the interlinkages between corruption’s impact on human rights, peace, and gender equality, including women’s effective participation. The findings of the research are detailed in a policy brief and two in-depth case studies from Nepal and Nigeria. While not surprising, they serve as a critical wake-up call.

We found that corruption affects the implementation of all four pillars of WPS, and thus is a threat to both human rights, and to sustainable and gender-equal peace:

1. Corruption’s well-documented negative impact on human rights and women’s rights undermines the implementation of the Protection pillar of the WPS agenda. In North-East Nigeria, wide-spread corruption in internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps has increased the prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), and contributed to impunity for SGBV perpetrated by armed actors. Research respondents noted that corruption facilitates the spread of forced prostitution and human trafficking, as corrupt officials allow influential persons to “take girls outside the camp in the pretext of giving them better education but most often exploiting them either as sex workers or house helps, sometimes trafficking them to other states or communities.” Respondents also noted that there have been cases of police officers demanding payment from SGBV victims before filing their reports.

2. Corruption is a security concern, and a key factor undermining the implementation of the WPS Prevention pillar, as it can trigger conflict and aggravate existing insecurities, particularly for vulnerable groups, including women. The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) has noted the link between corruption and women’s personal security. For example, in its Concluding Observations to Ukraine from 2017, the Committee notes that the continued hostility and impunity for violations especially in Eastern Ukraine “along with pervasive corruption, has contributed to an increase in the level of violence against women by State and non-State actors and to the reinforcement of traditional and patriarchal attitudes that limit women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their rights”. However, corruption is also a threat to international peace and security. The UNDP report “Journey to Extremism in Africa” shows that the groups most susceptible to recruitment are characterized by significantly limited confidence in government and a sense of grievance towards the State. The belief that the government only looks after the interests of a few, the level of trust in authorities, and the willingness to report experiences of bribe paying were all key indicators in analyzing the susceptibility of young people to voluntarily joining a violent extremist group.

3. Corruption restricts women’s ability to meaningfully participate in decision-making, thus undermining the WPS agenda’s Participation pillar. A number of countries have noted in their State Party reports to the CEDAW Committee that corruption has an adverse effect on women’s political participation. For example, the 2004 Guatemala State Party report states that “women have no faith in the political process and believe that they have been deceived and exploited by male politicians. The 2009 State Party report of Papua New Guinea and the 2010 State Party report of Kenya also points to corruption as a major barrier to women’s political participation. The Papua New Guinea report notes that the prevalence of corruption increases the cost of running for office, thus making it impossible for women to stand as candidates.

4. Corruption has a documented negative impact on women’s access to justice, which undermines the post-conflict transition to a peaceful society and the implementation of the WPS Relief and Recovery pillar. In Nepal, research respondents noted that the police and judiciary officials are often hostile or disrespectful towards women, and there is a lack of understanding and appropriate guidelines on how violations of women’s human rights, including SGBV, are to be addressed. The lack of effective transparency and accountability mechanisms perpetuates such gender inequalities, as there are no checks and balances that would prevent security and justice officials from bringing their own biases into the system. Respondents also stated that widespread corruption at police and courts prevents speedy case clearance. As one respondent stated, “If there is ‘khuwai piyai’ (term used to indicate bribes provided – in cash or in kind – to obtain favors) then work moves ahead, otherwise it does not.” As a result, it could take up to 5-6 years for a case of SGBV to be considered in court. This effectively prevents women from accessing justice, as they do not have the resources to pay the bribes or to cover the legal fees during such a lengthy period.

Corruption is therefore not only a security concern – it is a WPS concern. Yet, it remains largely absent from discussions on conflict prevention and peace and security, including in the framework of WPS. Our call is clear: conflict-sensitive gender analysis must be a part of all discussions, policies, and actions to curtail corruption. Likewise, the issue of corruption should be acknowledged and discussed in policy fora dedicated to gender equality and sustainable peace – be it within the UN Security Council, the CEDAW Committee, or in national parliaments.

Five Years of Progress: Young Women Reflect on the Achievements of the Youth, Peace & Security Agenda

Happy 5th Anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 2250!

Join us by watching: Five Years of Progress: Young Women Reflect on the Achievements of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda

The 5th anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security Agenda, following shortly after the 20th anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, presents an opportunity for reflection and renewed action in the implementation of the interlinked resolutions. The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) hosted a global consultation to create space for young women-led networks and women’s rights organizations to exchange experiences, reflect on their achievements, and identify key opportunities to accelerate the implementation of the WPS and YPS resolutions. Today, on the anniversary of the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, we share with you some of their recommendations and reflections.

GNWP Talks Women, Peace and Security: Podcast on Transforming Systems through Anti-Racism and Women’s Rights Advocacy

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), as a feminist peacebuilding organization working to prevent conflict, sustain peace, and advance justice for all women and girls, continues to call for an end to practices and norms that perpetuate systemic racism in the international peace and security sector. In the wake of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, GNWP recognizes that racist violence, in all its forms, is a violation of the human rights of historically marginalized communities. 

A crucial aspect of feminist peace activism is to advocate for the elimination of barriers that hinder the meaningful participation of all women, specifically Black, Indigenous and women of color, who experience disproportionate rates of violence across the world. We must continue to “unpack the embeddedness of racial hierarchies within the practices of the WPS agenda”, to ensure that women, in all their diversity, have access to equal opportunities and outcomes. 

Following GNWP’s statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement and commitment to fighting against systemic racism in the international peace and security sector, we continue to engage in these important conversations. Our latest podcast episode, featuring Esther Atosha, Young Women Leader for Peace from the Democractic Republic of the Congo (DRC), focuses on the intersections between racism and gender inequality. Esther discusses the multiple discriminations that women peacebuilders face in their work, at the local and global levels and calls for the transformation of systems that perpetuate these inequalities. 

Tune in to hear more about Esther’s recommendations on how systemic barriers must be transformed to advance racial and gender equality. 

GNWP parle Femmes, paix et sécurité : Balado sur la transformation des systèmes grâce à la lutte contre le racisme et la défense des droits des femmes

Le Réseau mondial des femmes artisans de la paix (GNWP), en tant qu’organisation féministe de consolidation de la paix œuvrant pour prévenir les conflits, maintenir la paix et faire progresser la justice pour toutes les femmes et les filles, continue d’appeler à la fin des pratiques et des normes qui perpétuent le racisme systémique dans la paix internationale et le secteur de la sécurité. À la suite des 16 jours d’activisme contre la violence basée sur le genre, GNWP reconnaît que la violence raciste, sous toutes ses formes, est une violation des droits de la personne des communautés historiquement marginalisées.

Un aspect crucial de l’activisme féministe pour la paix est de plaider en faveur de l’élimination des obstacles qui entravent la participation significative de toutes les femmes, en particulier les femmes noires, autochtones et de couleur, qui subissent des taux de violence disproportionnés à travers le monde. Nous devons continuer à « déballer l’enracinement des hiérarchies raciales dans les pratiques de l’agenda FPS », pour garantir que les femmes, dans toute leur diversité, aient accès à l’égalité des chances et des résultats.

À la suite de la déclaration de solidarité de GNWP avec le mouvement Black Lives Matter et de son engagement à lutter contre le racisme systémique dans le secteur de la paix et de la sécurité internationales, nous continuons de participer à ces conversations importantes. Notre dernier épisode de balado, mettant en vedette Esther Atosha, jeune leader pour la paix de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC), se concentre sur les intersections entre le racisme et l’inégalité du genre. Esther discute des multiples discriminations auxquelles sont confrontées les femmes artisanes de la paix dans leur travail, aux niveaux local et mondial, et appelle à la transformation des systèmes qui perpétuent ces inégalités.

Écoutez pour en savoir plus sur les recommandations d’Esther sur la façon dont les barrières systémiques doivent être transformées pour faire progresser l’égalité raciale et basée sur le genre.