Our History

U.N. Envoy Paves Diplomatic History for Women

Sunday, April 4, 2010

They work like stepping stones to pave a major fresh path in women's history: First 1325, then 1820, now 1888. These are U.N. resolutions that in the past 15 or so years have put wartime sexual violence on the international policy map.

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Wish List for Wallström

Roesch ticked off some of the objectives she hopes Wallström will pursue: ending legal impunity of those who perpetrate sexual violence; conducting an independent, external analysis of the U.N.'s systematic response to sexual violence; improving documentation of sexual violence; and strengthening health services for survivors of abuse.

Inala Fathimath, a special funds consultant for the UNIFEM-Afghanistan program, based in Kabul, says better documentation is important in Afghanistan, where sexual violence in conflict zones is not yet well quantified.

"We don't have any statistics, but we certainly do have the accounts that sexual violence against women is widespread in conflict zones," Fathimath said. "It makes a huge difference just to have someone out there, solely dedicated to talking about these issues, and potentially bringing these concerns to the Security Council."

Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, now based in Dakar, Senegal, emphasizes the need to end sex violators' legal impunity.

"We need more naming and shaming," she said. "In the Democratic Republic of Congo, we've tried everything: public education, reports, humanizing the problem. But what we need to do is engage more with men, at all levels, to really understand this problem from the perpetrators' narrative."

Wallström herself stresses the importance of assembling a strong, diverse six-person staff to help her navigate the U.N. system.

Resolution 1888 does not address U.N. peacekeepers abusing the very women they are supposed to aid, says Goetz. "That remains an enormous and serious issue."

The U.N. has a zero-tolerance policy on peacekeepers inflicting sexual violence on others and handles allegations of exploitation and abuse in its Conduct and Discipline Unit.

After making its assessment, the unit defers to its member nations, which handle convicted peacekeepers in their own fashion, said Genevieve Butler, the Conduct and Discipline Unit's external affairs officer.

Amy Lieberman is a journalist based in New York City who writes primarily for a Brazilian newswire out of the U.N. Secretariat.

For more information:

Working Group on Women, Peace and Security

U.N. Conduct and Discipline Unit

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