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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS ITS ANNUAL DISCUSSION ON THE INTEGRATION OF A GENDER PERSPECTIVE IN ITS WORK

24 September 2018

The Human Right Council this afternoon held its annual discussion on the integration of a gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council and that of its mechanisms, with a focus on gender integration and human rights investigations: strengthening a victim-centred approach.

In her opening statement, Kate Gilmore, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the integration of a gender perspective in all human rights work was simply essential.  But in the realm of human rights investigations, gender sensitivity broadened the reach of rights protection, and opened new windows of understanding of the human impacts of rights violations.  Gender sensitivity, stressed the Deputy High Commissioner, was as critical as the act of documentation itself, because it allowed to depict, inclusively, those whose human rights had been violated, and it allowed to reveal the full nature, extent and consequences of discrimination, exclusion, persecution and violence.  Absent efforts for gender integration meant sexual violence was missing in accounts of civilian impacts of conflict; rape was not recognised for the weapon of war that it was proven to be; and the human rights abuses of domestic violence, marital rape, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and the deliberate deprivation of essential sexual and reproductive health, were not being recognised for what they were – breaches of human rights. 

Taking part in the discussion were Emily Kenney, Policy Specialist on Transitional Justice at UN Women and discussion moderator; Shuvai Nyoni, Director of the African Leadership Centre and former Gender Adviser of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and at the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan; Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. 

Emily Kenney, Policy Specialist on Transitional Justice at UN Women and discussion moderator, reminded that the High Commissioner for Human Rights had highlighted sexual violence as a human rights violation that required the urgent attention of the Council.  The United Nations human rights investigations played an essential role in documenting this violence and laying out the foundation for future justice.  Each of the four reports submitted to the Council for the thirty-ninth sessions on Burundi, Myanmar, Syria and Yemen had a dedicated section focused on sexual violence.

Shuvai Nyoni, Director of the African Leadership Centre and former Gender Adviser of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and at the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, noted that gender sensitive methodologies helped understand and interrogate gender norms, relations and the make-up of society.  Any future practice of the Commission of Inquiry had to include gender sensitive methodology as they provided a more realistic sense of the lived reality of survivors, victims and even perpetrators in a society affected by conflict. 

Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, underlined that gender analysis was not merely reporting on sexual violence against women.  It was about the entirety of experience and how social structures ameliorated or exacerbated the harms which resulted.  One of the best examples on how to do a gender analysis of sexual violence was the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria “I Lost My Dignity,” which showed that the assertion of power through sexualized violence was used against all. 

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said that documenting gender-based violence required specific expertise and a victim-centred approach, cultural sensitivity of the cultural circumstances, as well as the understanding of current legal frameworks. Documenting a gender-based analysis required a wider perspective, including sexual and reproductive health.  Concerted efforts needed to be made to ensure the meaningful participation of women in peace resolution and reconciliation efforts. 

In the ensuing discussion, speakers welcomed the timely discussion on how to further integrate the gender perspective in human rights investigations.  They emphasized that women and girls were disproportionately affected by conflict and crisis situations.  Women were more vulnerable to sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, while at the same time they faced decreased access to basic services and the breakdown of social and healthcare structures.  The right to remedy and reparation for sexual and gender-based violence during conflicts was crucial for any successful reconstruction processes and ultimately sustainable peace.  Commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions appointed by the Council needed a deeper approach to integrating gender in their work and findings.  However, the imposition of monitoring mechanisms by the Council were highly questionable as they were costly and politicized, some speakers warned. 

Speaking in the discussion were Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Canada on behalf of a group of countries, Austria on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Latvia on behalf of a group of countries, Greece, Venezuela, Portugal, Qatar, Angola, Italy, Ireland, UN Women, El Salvador, Switzerland, International Development Law Organization, Mexico, Spain, Iraq, Brazil, Council of Europe, and Albania.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society and non-governmental organizations: Office for the Protection of Citizens of Haiti, International Service for Human Rights (in a joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia), Action Canada for Population and Development, Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland (in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association), Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development and Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l'Homme.


The Council will resume its work on Tuesday, 25 September, at 9 a.m. when it will continue its general debate on the follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  It is then scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on people of African descent, followed by a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  Later in the day, the Council is scheduled to hold an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s oral update on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, an enhanced interactive dialogue on the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and an interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner’s report on Yemen.


Opening Statement by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

KATE GILMORE, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her opening statement, said that the integration of a gender perspective in all human rights work was simply essential.  But in the realm of human rights investigations, gender sensitivity broadened the reach of rights protection, and opened new windows of understanding of the human impacts of rights violations.  Gender sensitivity, stressed the Deputy High Commissioner, was as critical as the act of documentation itself, because it allowed investigators to depict, inclusively, those whose human rights had been violated, and it allowed to reveal the full nature, extent and consequences of discrimination, exclusion, persecution and violence.  Absent efforts for gender integration meant sexual violence was missing in accounts of civilian impacts of conflict; rape was not recognised for the weapon of war that it was proven to be; and the human rights abuses of domestic violence, marital rape, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and the deliberate deprivation of essential sexual and reproductive health, were not being recognised for what they were – breaches of human rights. 

Ms. Gilmore stressed that there were forms of violence where the understanding, recognition, and appreciation was impeded when gender was not integrated: assaults against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons; killing of survivors of sexual violence in the so-called “honour killings”; child and forced marriages; and attacks on female human rights defenders, simply for challenging confining social norms or for speaking out against gender inequality and injustice.  Preventing, recognizing, documenting, and denouncing human rights abuses was an incomplete - and even biased project – when gender sensitivity was missing and when the impacts of intersectionality were ignored, stressed the Deputy High Commissioner, insisting that without more inclusive perspectives driving the gathering of human rights data and informing human rights inquiry, fact-finding would not lead to fully fact-based recommendations. 

Inclusive fact-finding, on the other hand, allowed for the further inclusion of gender considerations and gender sensitive solutions within the recommendations of investigative bodies, she said, urging all to heed the insistent calls for a more holistic, inclusive, and comprehensive approach to human rights investigations that captured also the context of acts of cruelty.  The investigations must broaden in their scope to deepen the inclusion and avoid rendering invisible the experience of women and girls.  It was the job of human rights investigations to listen to and amplify victims’ and witnesses’ accounts, to understand their circumstances and to affirm their humanity, even in the midst of great inhumanity, said Ms. Gilmore, pledging her Office’s availability to continue to work with its partners to consolidate and expand gender integration in human rights investigations so that a victim-centred approach was further strengthened.

Statements by the Moderator and Panellists

EMILY KENNEY, Policy Specialist on Transitional Justice at UN Women and panel moderator, in her opening remarks, recalled that two weeks ago, the High Commissioner in her statement before the Council had highlighted sexual violence as a human rights violation that required the Council’s urgent attention, and said that the United Nations human rights investigations played an essential role in documenting this violence and laid down the foundation for future justice.  Ms. Kenney noted that all four reports submitted to the Council at its current session, on Burundi, Myanmar, Syria, and Yemen, had a dedicated section focused on sexual violence, an evidence of the universality of this crime across different contexts.  The four reports had looked beyond sexual violence, to explore gendered human rights violations and had analysed the different types of violence experienced by women, men, girls, and boys.  That type of gender analysis was essential in understanding the impact of a conflict on a community and the ways that gender inequality drove violence, stressed Ms. Kenney, recalling that in 2011, the Secretary General had committed to ensuring that all investigative bodies established by the United Nations had a dedicated gender expertise.

Introducing the first panellist, Ms. Kenney asked how gender-sensitive methodologies contributed to more effective and inclusive investigations of human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence, and how they promoted a victim-centred approach?

SHUVAI NYONI, Director of the African Leadership Centre, former Gender Adviser of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and at the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, said that gender sensitive methodologies were instrumental in the work of a gender advisor, and stressed that, at the outset, before discussing their effectiveness, it was important to be clear on what “gender sensitive methodologies” meant and why they should be used.  In the work of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, that meant paying attention to the experiences of both women and men and to the similarities and differences of all people across sex, age and other identity markers, in order to understand what went on in the context where violations took place.  Human rights investigations must include gender sensitive methodologies, which provided a more realistic sense of the lived reality of survivors, victims, and even perpetrators in a society affected by conflict, and enabled the understanding of the impact on collectives, whether it was a family or a community.  For example, the Shilluk men in Malakal, the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan, never referred to sexual violence against Shilluk women as a crime against the female, but as a violation against the collective Shilluk community or the family.  Gender sensitive approaches demonstrated a need to find a way to deal with issues that went unaddressed in society, such as sexual abuse, and its methods enabled disclosure, as they relied on the protection of informants and the protection of witnesses.

EMILY KENNEY, Policy Specialist on Transitional Justice at UN Women and panel moderator, asked about the progress achieved by commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions in documenting gendered human rights violations and underlying gender inequality, the challenges still ahead, and how to overcome them.

MADELEINE REES, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, said that quantum leaps had been made by commissions of inquiry, and stressed that gender analysis was not about merely reporting on sexual violence against women, but about the entirety of experience and how social structures ameliorated or exacerbated the harms which resulted.  That experience would be predicated by identities, not least by the gender ascribed, but also by race, ethnicity, age, social class, and relation to power structures that existed both before and during conflict.  One of the best examples of a gender analysis of sexual violence was the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria “I Lost My Dignity”, which had shown that the assertion of power through sexualized violence was being used against all.  The difference in forms of such violence were determined by reason of biology, but the consequences were gendered, and hence reflective of culturally specific responses.  The report of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi had brought into focus the interrelatedness of economic and social rights with civil and political rights, with the gendered aspects of that nexus.  In Burundi, the Commission of Inquiry had placed sexual violence against women in the context of the continuum of discrimination and violence against women, as it examined discrimination due to the political crisis and found that it disproportionately affected women, which in turn had a negative impact on gender relations.  The mandates given by the Council had to include political economy analysis, with a high-level presence of gender expertise.

EMILY KENNEY, Policy Specialist on Transitional Justice at UN Women and panel moderator, remarked that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria had produced several ground-breaking reports, which had demonstrated the value of integrating a gender perspective.  Which lessons learned from that reporting could be applied by other similar investigative bodies, and which of the recommendations contained in those reports required priority attention by the Human Rights Council?

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said that documenting gender-based violence required specific expertise and a victim-centred approach so as not to re-traumatise the victims of violations.  Cultural sensitivity and the awareness of the cultural circumstances, particularly where traditions hindered progress, was also important as was the understanding of current legal frameworks, which, in the Commission’s practice, had proven to be very helpful.  It had been imperative that all staff of the Commission understood elements that impacted men, women, and children differently, therefore, in addition to advisors, all the staff had been trained on gender-specific practices.  Speaking about the conflict in Syria, the Chair said that violations were being committed by all warring parties, and that they impacted everyone, men and women, girls and boys, but Syrian women and girls were disproportionately impacted and victimized.  Documenting gender-based crimes allowed for a broader analysis of a wider spectrum of human rights concerns, and provided a wider perspective.  This included, for instance, the right to health, including sexual and reproductive health.  Widows, elderly women, and women with disabilities, who emerged as sole bread-winners were particularly affected due to increased economic hardship.  Mr. Pinheiro stressed that Syrian survivors of sexual and gender-based violence had reminded that justice and accountability remained an unaddressed matter that required priority attention.  Concerted efforts needed to be made to ensure the meaningful participation of women in peace resolution and reconciliation efforts, he said, stressing that this approach was a democratic human rights imperative. 

Discussion

Netherlands, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, emphasized that women and girls were disproportionately affected by conflict and crisis situations, and stressed that collecting data and conducting investigations on gender aspects was essential in ensuring accountability for perpetrators of these violations and abuses.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it was important to examine the mechanisms through which pre-existing discriminatory practices were exacerbated by conflict, and urged the Council to put the justice and security reform at the heart of its decision-making, in order to counter gender inequalities.  Chile, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, rejected gender-based violence and stressed the international community’s responsibility to enhance the analysis of gender-based discrimination in conflict and post-conflict contexts.  Chile also drew attention to the necessity of the protection of human rights during peacebuilding operations in order to tackle structural matters related to gender inequality.

Canada, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, praised the United Nations for increasingly integrating a gender perspective into its fact-finding work and urged more attention to gathering of contextual information to uncover and analyse the root causes of gender-based human rights violations and abuses in conflict settings.  Meeting with women human rights defenders and civil society organizations should be built into the working methods of human rights investigation mechanisms.  Austria, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, stressed that the right to remedy and reparation for sexual and gender-based violence during conflicts was crucial for any successful reconstruction processes and ultimately sustainable peace, and highlighted how post-conflict situations and reforms could be viewed as an opportunity for the transformation of the societal structures and norms in place before the conflict.

European Union said that highlighting the gender dimensions and consequences of human rights violations allowed for action-oriented and tailored recommendations on ensuring the right to remedy and reparations.  Sexual violence in conflict was usually unreported and it could constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity or even a genocide.  Latvia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that gender mainstreaming was essential to work of the Council and its mechanisms, including human rights investigative teams.  Despite efforts to combat sexual violence, it remained widespread in humanitarian and conflict situations.  Greece found the topic of paramount importance as commissions of inquiries were tasked with formulating actionable, target-oriented recommendations.  Applying the gender lens in their mandates was crucial for the Council to get a full picture of the way events had unfolded.

Venezuela said that human rights violations of women during armed conflicts could amount to grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.  Venezuela said that the imposition of monitoring mechanisms by the Council was highly questionable, as they were costly and politicized.  Portugal said that the elimination of stereotypes was integrated in its National Strategy for Equality and Combatting Discrimination, and stressed that gender stereotypes were at the root of structural discrimination demonstrated in violence against women.  Qatar reasserted that the respect of the rights of women required providing them with every opportunity to enjoy their rights.  Education and access to healthcare were an integral part of that approach, as well as allowing women full independence.  Angola stressed the importance and added value of gender mainstreaming in development projects and as a vital instrument in the definition of social policies.  Angola would continue to cooperate with relevant Working Groups to eliminate existing inequalities regionally, nationally and internationally.

Office for the Protection of Citizens of Haiti informed that they had organised a consultation workshop to this effect.  They underlined that despite challenges in Haiti, they promoted women’s participation in society.  Their national action plan demonstrated the State’s commitment, however, further measures needed to be taken to address social inequalities.  International Service for Human Rights, in a joint statement with Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Forum-Asia, said that commissions of inquiry and fact-finding missions appointed by the Council needed a deeper approach to integrating gender in their work and findings.  They asked the Council for recommendations to the High Commissioner to ensure multi-stakeholder discussions involving survivors and human rights defenders.  Action Canada for Population and Development said that gender was not a synonym for women.  They saw how patriarchy and heteronormativity operated to minimise and homogenise the experiences of women.  States, United Nations agencies, independent experts and civil society should deepen and broaden rather than narrow gender analyses.

Remarks by the Panellists

SHUVAI NYONI, Director of the African Leadership Centre and former Gender Adviser of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and at the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, responding to the question about available protection systems for victims and survivors, cited the activities of local non-governmental organizations.  One of the ways of ensuring protection for victims and survivors was through referral pathways.  It was important to uphold confidentiality and ensure that those who spoke to investigators were not unduly put in a position of additional danger.  Ms. Nyoni highlighted the problem of time constraints. 

MADELEINE REES, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, reminded that there was so much emphasis on what had happened before conflict.  Non-governmental organizations brought so much expertise in that respect.  States were already aware of the context in which conflicts arose and knowing that they could think of how to use the knowledge from grass-roots to deal with conflicts.  It was necessary to look at what recommendations flew from and to pull them together, and to look at the early transformation of conditions in which gender inequalities arose before the conflict broke out.  Post-conflict responses could then build on that grass-root knowledge and hopefully be transformative.

PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syria, underlined that the mandates of the Human Rights Council should not operate in isolation, but in cooperation with other mandates.  For the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the problem was the access to the country.  It was almost surreal that for seven years, a Member State of the United Nations refused the Commission entry into the State.  This was completely unacceptable.  The Commission of Inquiry on Syria continued to operate without the cooperation of the concerned country.  The cooperation of the Commission with other United Nations agencies operating inside Syria was, thus, essential for the Commission of Inquiry.  It was important to never abandon the presence and participation of women.

Discussion

Italy said it agreed on the need to shift the framing away from an approach that looked at sexual violence as the sole type of gender-based violence experienced by an individual in conflict settings to an approach which explored how pre-existing discrimination was exacerbated by conflict.  Ireland highlighted how, during the negotiations on the 2030 Agenda, Ireland had advocated for gender equality to be reflected across the framework, and for it to include a specific stand-alone goal on gender equality.  Ireland recognized that ongoing discriminatory laws and practices continued to hamper improvements in advancing gender equality.  UN-Women highlighted how, since 2009, it had deployed a gender advisor or specialized investigator to Human Rights Council-mandated investigations, from its roster of more than 200 experts, who had played an integral role in uncovering grave gender-rights violations.  UN Women stood in solidarity with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, demanding that their voices be heard.

El Salvador shared that it had implemented a new normative framework which included numerous advances in legislation focused on the protection of women’s rights as well as supporting the elimination of discrimination against women and the promotion of gender equality.  El Salvador acknowledged that it needed to expand its national efforts to prevent different forms of violence against women.  Switzerland highlighted how conflicts and human rights violations affected men and women differently, and emphasized that an in-depth analysis of these differences was important to establish the adequate response for the victim.  Switzerland committed itself to reinforce its expertise in fact-finding missions.  International Development Law Organization drew attention to how, despite progress in some areas, legal and policy frameworks continued to fail to respond to gender-based violence and other forms of gender-based human rights violations.  Women had a critical role to play as judges, lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, in the administration of a more “gendered” justice.

Mexico said that the gender-perspective had to be cross-cutting through all aspects of society.  Making the gender perspective cross-cutting could be more present in country-specific resolutions, for example in countries where conflicts were present.  Spain worked actively toward a gender perspective and combatting gender discrimination.  The Spanish Government was predominately made up of women and Spain had laws on equality and gender-based violence.  The fundamental challenge was to break the silence of violence against women.  Iraq had adopted several steps to achieve gender equality.  The representative of the Secretary-General who had visited Iraq had praised it for women’s participation in social and political life: 28 per cent of parliamentary members were women.  What were the root causes of gender-based violence?

Brazil reminded the Council of the pivotal role of Brazilian diplomat Bertha Lutz to the inclusion of the reference to “women” in the United Nations Charter.  Brazil was convinced that women and girls played a vital role as agents of development and by integrating their human rights, Brazil would contribute to realising gender equality and empowerment.  Council of Europe had put in place a Gender Equality Commission, where more than 40 Gender Equality Rapporteurs served as gender mainstreaming ambassadors in their respective entities.  Gender mainstreaming required efforts, however, their commitment had led to pioneering standards and activities.  Albania had launched a series of legal initiatives and improvements to integrate a gender-based perspective.  Albania had also bolstered State support for structures that fought for women’s rights and improved staff capacities to combat gender discrimination. 

Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit - Coc Nederland, in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, noted that armed conflict deepened structural violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, who were particularly vulnerable in post-conflict and post-disaster situations.  They were denied access to camps and other basic services because their identification documents did not match their gender.  Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development stated that in order to protect the human rights of women and girls, it was important to fully implement international law.  Member States should take all available measures - policy and budgetary - in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to gender equality.  Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme reminded that women and children in Yemen suffered due to the raids carried out by the Saudi-Emirati Coalition.  Civilians in Yemen were not sheltered because of the theft of humanitarian funds.

Concluding Remarks

SHUVAI NYONI, Director of the African Leadership Centre and former Gender Adviser of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and at the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, speaking of the stigma associated with sexual violence, said that in her experience, it was important to recognize and always keep at the forefront the fact that communities and societies had certain ways in which they lived their lives.  Those were the norms and values that guided them.  It was, therefore, important to locate oneself in that society as a person who maybe an outsider but had come to try to understand local experiences.  Gender advisers needed to be able to communicate well about their work and how it could benefit a particular society.  Investigations normally focused on a moment in time when a violation took place.  But people lived beyond that moment.  Even as they discussed the difficulties of stigma and having disclosure, it was crucial for gender advisers or investigators to try as much as possible to connect with local communities, prioritizing the local context. 

Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, thanked Mexico for raising the issue of weapons in armed conflict and their enormous effect on gender-based violence.  What happened during a conflict, or even pre-conflict, when a country was flooded with weaponry, a militarized society was created.  The failure to look into the arms trade, both legal and illegal, was to fundamentally miss the point of context sensitivity.  It was absolutely vital that a commission of inquiry asked questions and did the research on the arms trade as part of its investigative work.  Ms. Rees stressed the need to address who was exporting weapons and to whom in order to sustain governments in positions of authority and the impact that was having on human rights.  It was necessary for this to become an integral part of investigations and inquiries more broadly.  The ideal scenario would be to implement a prevention strategy before arms deals were completed.  Ms. Rees said she was encouraged to hear the absolute commitment by Member States to incorporate gender analysis in all commissions of inquiry.  However, she expressed concern at what might happen subsequently, worrying that this commitment may not result in concrete solutions which reflected the commissions of inquiry, drawing a parallel to the children who remained in Syrian prisons despite the Syrian inquiry. 

PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said when the Commission had presented its report to the Security Council, members of Council had left the main room and had a dialogue with the Commission for two hours, and that had been immensely useful.  After many years of presenting the Commission’s recommendations to the Council, sometimes he had the impression that there was a benign neglect by countries.  Happily, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had made good efforts in terms of follow-up of recommendations.  Issues of sexual and gender-based violence remained massive in Syria, but the Commission continued to look beyond war crimes of rape and other acts of sexual violence that might amount to crimes against humanity.  The Commission recommended to look further at how conflict exacerbated previously existing gender inequalities and discrimination.  The root problems of issues had to be examined.  To illustrate, internal displacement had different consequences on men, women, boys and girls but female heads of households were particularly vulnerable in that respect.  It was of paramount importance that women be involved in any future reconciliation and peace processes in situations like in Syria.  Not because of male generosity but it was imperative that women be real actors in negotiations. 

SHURVAI NYONI, Director of the African Leadership Centre and former Gender Adviser of the Commission on Human Right in South Sudan and at the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, said one of the challenges was the objective for information in reports that pointed to crimes and violations and balancing that with lived realities and how that could be taken into account for resolutions.

PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said States involved in the Syrian arms trade shared involvement in crimes against humanity, yet they remained completely silent.  Every report and every comment was without reaction.  The Council should be more attentive to the 2014 arms trade report.

MADELEINE REES, Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, said that what happened in the Commission of Inquiry as mandated by the Council should have ramifications throughout the United Nations system and how agencies responded.  The arms trade was only one part of that approach.  Making the right recommendations and acting on them going forward, she said, the Council would encounter a moment where there would be no commission of inquiry because there would be no conflict.

EMILY KENNEY, Policy Specialist on Transitional Justice at UN Women and panel moderator, thanked everyone for their attention and comments.  It was clear from the comments from the floor that everyone agreed that reporting on sexual and gender-based violence and gendered human rights violence was absolutely essential.  The remarks from the panellists had reiterated that it was not an easy task.  Gender-responsive investigations demanded expertise, leadership and a continuous push from the United Nations and partners in civil society.  They also demanded political and financial support from Member States.   Ms. Kenney expressed hope that the discussion had inspired everyone to continue to invest in gender integration so that victims and survivors were treated with the dignity they deserved.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.149E