During the UN Security Council’s Open Debate Week, Signatories for the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA) unveiled a new monitoring framework which will drive forward accountability on the rights of women and girls in conflict and crisis.
Accountability is needed more than ever, participants heard, as women have poured into the streets of Iran in recent weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody. Elsewhere, Afghan women and girls are facing a reversal of twenty years of hard-won rights and women peacebuilders in Libya are receiving death threats.
Close to 300 participants attended the event on 21 October which was held in-person at UN Headquarters in New York and online.
Opening the event, Paivi Kannisto, Chief of Peace, Security, Humanitarian and Resilience Section at UN Women announced that the Compact is desperately needed at a moment when the rights of women and girls have rolled back in nearly every area of progress.
“The Compact is our shared movement to ensure that we are coordinated, informed and empowered to fulfil our commitments and uphold the rights of women and girls,” Kannisto said.
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
New Compact Co-Chairs Inaugurated
That movement includes the efforts of 185 signatories to date who have invested in more than 1000 actions since the Compact was launched last year at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, said Harriette Williams Bright, Head of the Compact Secretariat at UN Women. It will also be guided by new Board co-chairs Norway and the Global Network for Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), who will serve for a one-year term.
“Our ambition is to mobilize even more Member States and organizations through the Compact,” said Signe Guro Gilen, Norway’s Special Envoy for Women Peace and Security. “The lived experience of women and girls and the ability to uphold their rights is rapidly deteriorating in many countries, especially in conflict zones. This mismatch between words and reality should concern us all.”
According to Katrina Leclerc, Program Director at GNWP, it was for this reason that it was crucial to have a standalone mechanism on women, peace and security as one of the outcomes of the Generation Equality Forum, as well as to have a monitoring framework which drives accountability. “Far too often we’ve seen mechanisms fail to achieve their goals because they’ve lacked the ‘3 C’s’: coordination, collaboration and coherence,” she said.
Matching Reality to Rhetoric
The Compact intends to achieve those 3 C’s through its robust monitoring framework which has been developed over the past six months. Compact Board and Catalytic Members including the African Union (AU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPO), the UN Department of Political Affairs and Peacebuilding (DPPA), and a number of Member States and civil society organizations provided input to the framework to ensure that it was achievable and did not duplicate existing efforts.
The new framework was presented at the event by David Coffey, the Compact’s Humanitarian Lead and Roya Murphy, the Compact’s Monitoring and Reporting Lead.
According to Coffey, the Compact uniquely brings together peace and security and humanitarian response, providing an overlapping set of actions which more comprehensively address the gaps in supporting conflict-affected women and girls.
“The siloed approach that separates humanitarian response from negotiating peace and from developmental durable solutions such as economic empowerment and livelihoods is no longer viable,” he said.
Murphy added that the monitoring framework was designed to be relevant, as well as inclusive and easy to use, ensuring that local organizations can participate in the reporting process and obtain vital information for carrying out field work.
One crucial element that the framework addresses is ensuring that the added burden of reporting is limited for Signatories. Numerous reporting mechanisms already exist for governments, civil society leaders and other stakeholder groups. The Compact Monitoring Framework will address the missing links to compile data in one place so that stakeholders can learn from each other and tackle problems in a coordinated manner.
The Only Solution for Women and Girls is Radical Transformation
Closing the event, participants heard from a panel of Compact Signatories including experts, peacebuilders and human rights defenders.
Panelists included Peggy Hicks, Director, Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR); Zahra’ Langhi, Co-founder and CEO of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace; Kaoru Magosaki, Minister of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN; and Flor De Lis Vásquez, Counsellor for Gender Issues at the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN. Additionally, participants heard from a young Iranian activist who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.
Each panelist highlighted the need for better reporting in order to tackle conflicts and crises from Libya to Afghanistan to Iran.
“Iranian women and girls are risking their lives to protest for their freedom,” said the activist from Iran, grounding the Compact event in the urgent crises that women and girls are facing in real time around the world.
“Announced death tolls and arrests have horrifying numbers. Activists are tracked and detained. We have reached a point in time where the only solution to the problem is a radical commitment to transformative change,” she added.
These are threats which Vásquez says that Mexico, and other Compact Signatories like Norway and the UAE, have worked hard to elevate as members of the UN Security Council. “We recognize the reprisals and threats these women are facing in the field,” she said. “The Compact has helped us place women’s rights at the heart of our diplomacy and multilateral action.”
Magosaki also drew attention to the sexual violence which many women and girls face in conflict and crisis, adding that Japan has committed several million dollars toward accountability programs, which is also one of the actions it is taking through the Compact.
Langhi, who has been actively working on peace negotiations in Libya, further highlighted the assassinations, kidnappings and attacks against women politicians and activists in her own country. “There’s no protection and there’s no security, especially for Libyan women,” she said. “It’s time we walk the talk.”
This lack of protection often prevents women from having full and meaningful participation in peace agreements or other decision-making, Hicks added. “Women leaders, whether in formal positions or at the community level, as well as women human rights defenders are often the most visible targets, including as victims of both online and offline attacks,” she said.
Closing the session, Williams Bright thanked the women activists and peacebuilders for their courage in risking their lives to uphold their rights.
“We’ve heard today that lip service is not enough,” she said. “Urgent action is needed. Accountability is needed. The Compact and the commitment of its Signatories to women and girls is needed.”