WILPF CSW 56 Statement

Thursday, December 22, 2011
United Nation Theme: 
WILPF, NGO & Advocacy Documents

Here you will find the written statement submitted by WILPF.

Translations available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish.

Statement submitted by Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council

The Secretary-General has received the following statement, which is being circulated in accordance with paragraphs and of Economic and Social Council resolution1996/31.

On the occasion of the 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 56), the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) takes this opportunity to express our continued support for the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform of Action (BPfA) and the Agreed Conclusions of CSW 55. For nearly a century, WILPF has concentrated on the links between gender inequality, socioeconomic injustice and the root causes of war. Since the last CSW, women from around the world convened for the WILPF International Congress in San José, Costa Rica (July 30-August 6, 2011) to reaffirm our position and refocus on work to prevent conflict and insecurity through advancing the rights of all.

In light of the theme of CSW 56, “the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development, and current challenges”, WILPF draws attention to cross-cutting issues: participation; land rights and access; indigenous rights; natural resources; food security, and the particular challenges and impacts of disasters, conflict and insecurity on the lives of rural women.

Rural women are often subject to particular rights' violations, exclusion, isolation, and poverty, and are acutely affected by natural and manmade disasters including economic crisis, climate change, militarization and conflict. To draw attention to some common themes, WILPF will highlight cases from our national sections, which exemplify the complexity and range of challenges facing rural women.

WILPF continuously emphasizes the participation of women at all stages and levels of decision-making as being essential for achieving better standards of living, the eradication of poverty, the promotion of democracy, the pursuit of sustainable development, and just peace. Despite this, women particularly rural women, continue to be excluded from local government and are rarely represented at the national or international level. Further, the misrepresentation of women's political concerns exacerbates the particular economic and social challenges that they face.

WILPF-Pakistan emphasizes that the empowerment of rural women is essential to facilitating real participation. We recall the recommendations from the Annual Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy conference on Rural Women Day held in Islamabad with over 800 participants, mostly rural women from all over Pakistan. The recommendations called for: Rural women representation at all levels of decision-making, including, within village Union Councils and District Peace Committees; a new Line Item (maad) to be added in all district annual budgets; and an implementation mechanism for Anti-Sexual Harassment Law. WILPF stresses here that women should not be see only as victims, but rather as the agents for change in their communities.

Rural women have long suffered the negative impacts of globalization, liberalization and privatization. Women are discriminated against and excluded by policy regarding ownership and use of natural resources, including land, water, food, and mining goods. WILPF-India advocates that before the State acquires land from farmers women should be consulted and the exchange should not be considered legal until consent from women is granted. Currently, Indian farmers, especially female farmers, are coerced into giving up their land, then forced to move to urban areas where they join the unskilled work force which often culminates in a significant decline to their standard of living due to lack of access to education, health, and decent wages.

For farmers who remain, the environment becomes polluted and farming becomes a greater challenge for rural communities. The stripping of natural resources causes severe degradation of the environment, in turn making agricultural land more susceptible to flash flooding, erosion, and even drought. These effects on rural communities, especially women who bear much of the burden of work in rural areas, is devastating; taking an unimaginable economic, social, and cultural toll on rural communities. Environmental degradation and its incapacitating effect on sustainability and community health is similarly caused and exasperated by conflict, the military industrial complex, arms production and consumption and moreover by the dangerous use and lasting effects of depleted uranium, the remnants of war and unsustainable mining.

WILPF-Nigeria, WILPF-Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and WILPF-UK, like WILPF India, underline the importance of protecting our natural resources and food security. Agriculture remains the main employment and basis for survival of rural women. In fact, the majority of farmers worldwide are women; yet these women fail to receive equal access to technologies, training, credit, land and support. Empowering rural women in regards to food security may substantially affect available food supply in coming decades.

In DRC, natural resources and food supply are severely negatively affected by ongoing insecurity and conflict, which has resulted in forced displacement of communities to camps where they become dependent on insufficient food aid. In addition, where natural resources, including water and land, become less readily available due to natural or non-natural causes, the potential for re-occurring and protracted violence increases. Furthermore, rural women are at a heightened risk of experiencing attacks including sexual violence when they must leave displacement camps or communities to farm their lands. WILPF emphasizes the importance of ensuring the protection of rural women, their access to natural resources and ability to farm safely. WILPF sections demand that women and men have fair and equal access to all natural, economic, and political resources, that women are included in programs and processes, and that they are consulted on how their protection and conservation.

WILPF sections in Costa Rica, Colombia, and Mexico specifically highlight the historical and ongoing exclusion of indigenous women, which has seen them forced to inhabit remote regions with extremely limited access to resources and services. These communities continue to suffer extreme economic and social marginalization and lack of access to basic human rights enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We call on all government, civil society, and private sector actors to reverse the marginalization of rural indigenous peoples, particularly rural women, and to ensure that these communities are granted equal access to basic rights and services as members of society.

These examples have showcased the broad range of challenges facing rural women, challenges exasperated by violence and conflict as experienced by WILPF members around the world including in Pakistan, DRC and Colombia. In conflict-affected rural communities, while men engage in war, women sustain families, manage the economy, provide food and take care of all matters private and public. Right now, our sisters in many places such as Yemen and Syria are suffering and struggling to keep their families alive in amidst brutal violence. WILPF strongly condemns all forms of violence and calls for immediate end to the oppressive use of force wherever and whenever it takes place. In addition, we call on governments and relevant actors to ensure that all women receive adequate protection from and reparation for acts of violence.

In all societies, the proliferation of weapons continues to facilitate grave crimes and human rights violations including sexual and gender-based violence. In addition to the impact of weapons, there are direct and indirect links between excessive military expenditure, the arms trade, violent conflict, and a reduction in resources available for social, economic, and rural development and gender equality. WILPF demands implementation of the BPfA, Critical Area E[1] which calls for the control of excessive arms expenditure, and the UN Charter which calls for the “least diversion for armaments of the world's human and economic resources” (Article 26).

We urge States and UN officials not only to support us with words, but also to invest in prevention of violence, discrimination and conflict, and to challenge militarism and its negative impacts on women and communities, especially in rural areas. We call on all stakeholders to work towards effective and robust disarmament, and regulation of the arms trade as well as appropriate control of the circulation of existing arms. In this regard, we advocate that the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) under current negotiation is used not merely as a procedural authorization of arms transfers, but as a mechanism to aide the prevention of armed conflict, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to significantly reduce the culture and economy of militarism.

In addition to the BPfA, WILPF demands the full implementation of obligations to protect women's human rights and promote participation of women and gender equality, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), particularly Article 14 on “Rural Women”; and full implementation of all Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.

WILPF reaffirms our commitment to the realization of sustainable peace based on human dignity. We look forward to working with partners around the world to dismantle the prevailing culture of militarism and to create a culture of peace, wherein, racism, discrimination, economic injustices, violence and all forms of oppression are absent and in which women, including rural women, are full and equal participants.

Document PDF: 

WILPF Statement CSW56