Archive | November, 2011

Women, RtoP and the Media

21 Nov


In a recent interview posted on The Daily Beast, Abigail Disney recently interviewed Major General Patrick Cammaert to comment on the pervasive and distressing issue of rape as an instrument of war. In response, Major Cammaert described ways in which we can act to deal with such crimes as through increasing women’s participation in policy, through training sessions, and through media—in particular using films as tools to educate the public and promote accountability. But, what is missing throughout the interview is any notion of state responsibility to protect women from such crimes; ending impunity but also preventing them from occurring in the first place.  

The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) norm was first affirmed in 2005 with the aim to protect civilians from crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. RtoP has three pillars: Primary responsibility to protect lies with the state. The international community has a responsibility to assist states in fulfilling this primary function. If a state proves unwilling or unable to protect civilians, then the international community can take collective, protective action, primarily to prevent violence but also to halt violence in situations where less coercive measures have failed to do so.

While RtoP has gained additional acceptance since its initial affirmation, there are still issues regarding the use of force and the full participation of women in all aspects of RtoP policy and practice that remain unresolved. On the implementation side, there is widespread concern that the Security Council is unresponsive to ‘early warning’ signs of atrocities, preferring to respond to fires than heading the smoke. Moreover, the Council refuses to conduct vigorous assessment of resolutions and mandates that could help prevent ‘mission creep’ or ensure that all preventive measures have been exhausted before military options are proposed.

 And with regard to gender, there is concern that states have not done enough on the prevention end to eliminate any and all possibilities that rape could be used as a war tactic, nor has the international community been sufficiently robust in its efforts—despite welcomed legal attention by the ICC—to end impunity for gender violence, especially that authorized or committed by states and their agents.

However, in addressing these other concerns, women’s perspectives and voices must also be fully incorporated into the conversation to ensure that their needs are met practically and their skills and capacities are integrated successfully. Societies characterized by women who are full participants in social and political life can play a tremendous role in mobilizing other women to support more robust priorities towards increasing participation and ending impunity. As part of this mobilization, Major Cammaert notes, film can play an important role in educating local women about rape and inspiring women to work on behalf of victims. Likewise, in the broader discourse on gender and RtoP, media of all forms can do more to educate women about a state’s responsibility to protect, highlight the gender gaps in RtoP policy and implementation, identify work that still needs to be done in the protection area, and inspire cultures that promote and support “women as agents of change.”


For more information on the interview, please visit:


–         Melina Lito

Looking Towards the ATT in 2012

17 Nov

As the First Committee of the General Assembly has come to a close, delegations appear ready, some enthusiastically and others more hesitatingly, to move towards the final negotiations. Whether this negotiating will be based on the most recent Chair’s Paper from Ambassador Moritan or not, it seems that member states are anticipating transition from the preparatory process to concrete Treaty text.  It is to be assumed that the very ambitious Chair’s Paper from July 14, 2011 will not be entirely replicated in the text, but it surely lays forth the existing proposals that will require honest and practical vetting over the three-week period of the Conference. Ambassdor Moritan’s presence at the First Committee enabled member states to hear, once more, the various proposals and divisions that still exist around the ATT underscoring the vast challenges that lie ahead. Ambassador Moritan is under no illusions regarding the complexity of the process as he noted the levels of ambition regarding the ATT are vastly different. The final PrepCom in February will be focused on the parameters and so-called rules of engagement for negotiations rather than a broad thematic discussion of scope and content specifics.

We continue to advocate for strong emphasis on diversion risks as this issue remains at the heart of curbing the illicit arms trade. Addressing this issue will require special attention to the practice of diverting arms from legitimate end users to non-state and unauthorized parties who may use such weapons for criminal, corrupt, and abusive purposes. It is often in this indirect, and sometimes unintentional on the part of governments, manner that the arms trade becomes a harmful practice. The strength of the language on this issue in the Treaty text is still undecided. As the Chair’s Paper from July 2011 noted, “A State Party shall not authorize a transfer of conventional arms if there is a substantial risk that those conventional arms would…” undermine peace and security in various forms such as to commit violations of international human rights law. One major question for advocates of a strong humanitarian instrument in the ATT is whether the words “shall not” will be changed to “should not,” which inherently alters this responsibility from obligation to suggestion.

This issue of diversion language is but one example of difficult work ahead. We submit that the first iteration of the Treaty may not be ideal for all states parties, but it is the responsibility of all negotiators to take into account that such a Treaty should function as a floor and not a ceiling for improving state arms transfer controls. Implementation of ATT language in national practice will be just as important as the text itself for without implementation the language is empty wording. Therefore, sufficient discussion next year must be focused on implementation support and corresponding structure. We also encourage delegations to put in place a sound review process that will allow for ATT negotiations to continue well passed 2012 such that the ATT can effectively respond to changing international security risks.

The overwhelming trend in conversation in this year’s Committee has been support for both the preparatory process and the leadership of Ambassador Moritan as well as the inarguable need for better regulation of the arms trade. Building on these consensus points, we are hopeful that next year’s conference will, in fact, yield an ATT that will improve the global arms trade process. The question of its robustness and expansiveness, however, remains unanswered.

For more information on the ATT, follow @DisarmDialogues, @controlarms, @TheIANSA, and @VinoThorsen on Twitter and follow the ATT blog featuring various contributors from different organizations working on this issue.

-Katherine Prizeman

Where are the Women Mentors in the Media?

16 Nov

As a young professional working in the field of ‘Women, Peace and Security,’ I continue to be surprised by the lack of mentors available to women and young girls and, in particular, the lack of media attention- at least among popular media outlets—focused on educating women and young girls on these issues in order to inspire a generation of active participants.

It has become obvious to me just how narrowly women are portrayed in popular media, from music videos to periodicals. These sources tend to focus their attention on body image issues or trying to instill an image of self-confidence, which in turn only works to make women more self-conscious about their appearance. While body image and self-confidence are important issues, there is not much attention on the barriers that affect women’s participation- where is the attention on the barriers that rural women face in accessing resources, education, employment? Where is the support for those women trying to have a voice at decision making tables? Where is the education for those trying to overcome the community stigma of having fought in combat? Where are the mechanisms for overcoming the cultural stigma that prohibits women’s participation in patriarchal societies? Thinking practically, we all face the same challenges. For example, domestic violence is an issue that affects all women, regardless of their ethnic or social backgrounds. The circulation of weapons and small arms that often leads to women as victims of gun violence is an issue of worldwide concern, yet you rarely see this covered in popular media. Accessibility issues, along with institutionalizing women’s participation at decision making tables, and the stories of how these women overcome such difficult circumstances, are not typically covered by the more popular periodicals.

Here at GAPW, we work to promote women’s full participation in social and political life and promote women as agents of change. Our work is solidified by the emphasis and promotion of women mentors who encourage and support women in their struggles of participation. But, this hard work becomes even harder without the support of the media. Media outlets are a viable source for showcasing mentors and inspiring adoption of a norm of ‘women as agents of change’ rather than strictly victims. The need for highlighting women mentors is necessary to educate future generations that to be a confident woman is not just about body image, but also about how to change and overcome the barriers that get in the way of full participation.

-Melina Lito

The CCW4 and Cluster Munitions

15 Nov

Currently, in Geneva, diplomats are convening the 4th Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW4) Review Conference. The Convention, negotiated by 51 states in 1980, seeks to outlaw specific types of conventional weapons used in armed conflict to protect military personnel from inhumane injury as well as non-combatants from harm. When the treaty entered into force in 1983, it covered  incendiary weapons, mines and booby traps, and weapons designed to injury through very small fragments. In 2001, the Convention was voted to cover intrastate conflict as well as international ones under all its provisions. There are five protocols in force: (1) Non-detectable fragments, (2) Landmines, booby traps, and other devices, (3) Incendiary weapons, (4) Blinding lasers, and (5) Explosive remnants of war.  A related piece of international law, the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), comprehensively bans the use of cluster munitions and was signed and ratified by 111 states.

The controversy now rests in the negotiations of a new protocol on cluster munitions for the CCW (Draft available here). Many advocates are concerned that this will severely undermine the ban under the CCM by providing cover for the future use of cluster munitions, which ultimately causes indiscriminate harm as well as the threat of explosion well beyond the end of the conflict in areas inhabited by civilians. Arms control advocates are arguing that this protocol will “provide a specific legal framework for their use.” The US and allies such as Israel, Brazil, India, and China, cite the ‘humanitarian’ provision in the protocol draft that bans the use of cluster munitions produced before 1980, although post-1980 munitions also cause indiscriminate harm to civilians and these older munitions would most likely have to be destroyed regardless of the protocol because of their age. The most recent use of cluster munitions reported in April 2011  used in civilian areas in Misurata by Qadaffi loyalists were contemporary weapons surely produced after 198o. The draft also allows for a deferral period of 12 years, which ultimately allows for use of weapons that will eventually be banned by the protocol.

As a back drop to adoption of a framework that allows for the use of cluster munitions is a larger normative problem: adoption of an instrument of international humanitarian law that is weaker than a previously (and generally accepted) adopted law. This is a dangerous undertaking that we hope the US and others will reconsider.

For up-to-date information on the negotiations, follow @marywareham, @banclusterbombs, and @nashthomas on Twitter.

-Katherine Prizeman

Arms to Syria: Fueling the Fire of Violence

14 Nov

On Saturday, the Arab League voted to suspend Syria’s membership revoking the country’s voting rights, while also seeking to impose sanctions. Furthermore, the UN has reported  more than 3,500 deaths since the protests against President Bashar al-Assad and his government began underscoring just how tense and precarious the situation remains. It is clear that violence is undoubtedly facilitated by the flow of weapons, which not only are used in the clashes among parties to the conflict, but also to intimidate and to create a culture of fear destabilizing communities and stymieing any chance for a peaceful resolution. The flow of arms is surely ‘adding fuel to the fire’ and is strikingly irresponsible behavior as the death toll rises with no sign of a negotiated end. Onlookers are increasingly frightened by these heightened tensions and the Assad government’s severe lack of willingness to negotiate.

The Russian Federation just announced its intentions to honor all arms contracts with Syria despite the continued government crackdown. Citing the lack of official restrictions (i.e. an arms embargo) against Syria, Russian officials have affirmed their commitment to uphold their ‘business transactions.’ Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, warned against a repetition of the “Libyan scenario.” Dzirkaln also noted that the Russian government is keen to resume arms sales to Libya– both existing and prospective deals. However, it is clear that selling arms to a country in the midst of severe violence is much more than a business transaction and has ramifications far beyond an exchange of weaponry for a monetary price. Libya stands as a glaring and recent case in point. The proliferation of new arms and the unregulated flow of exisitng ones continue to wreak havoc on the political transition in Libya (see prior post “Controlling arms in the new Libya: The bigger picture.”) Many of the so-called anti-Qadaffi rebel groups have refused to disarm for fear of losing leverage and bargaining clout perpetuating the cycle of instability and fear of violence. Reports of missing weapons and unaccounted for ammunition stockpiles are a grim reality with which the new Libyan government must deal and a situation that is making a difficult situation even more grueling and intractable.

As a backdrop to continued arms sales to Syria, a political stalemate at the UN remains. There is certainly a hesitation, most notably on the Security Council from the Chinese, Russians, and South Africans, to re-create any situation resembling Libya in any form from military intervention, referral to the ICC, or even adoption of a resolution condemning the violence. Dissatisfaction with the implementation of Resolution 1973 has become the ‘elephant in the room’ in the Council chamber seemingly halting any action on Syria whatsoever.

The ambivalence to move forward on Syria is both glaringly apparent and dangerous. Exacerbating this ambivalence is the continual flow of weapons fueling violent outbreaks on the parts of both the government and the anti-Assad protesters. First and foremost, the violence must stop. And so does the proliferation of arms.

–Katherine Prizeman

Controlling arms in the new Libya: the bigger picture

10 Nov

As the dust tries to settle in the new Libya, loose arms left over is a major problem. With a future unclear and much internal competition, who wants to give them up? A level of progress has been made in some disarmament but the revolution created an explosion of guns, with many factions – including Al Qaeda affiliates – wanting to keep their weapons for now. Russia was quick off the mark drafting a Security Council Resolution calling on Libya and its neighbors to stamp out the proliferation of looted arms. With the resolution passing unanimously, the Council expressed concern over arms falling into the hands of al-Qaeda and others – with the main threats considered to be militant groups using man-portable surface-to-air missiles – or as we’d see on the news: shoulder-launched rockets. NATO had destroyed many weapons during its operations but officials remain unclear as to how many were still in circulation; in a confidential briefing, NATO revealed that it had lost track of some 10,000 missiles. With  a population of just 5.7 million, that’s a lot of loose missiles. Officials have argued that there is now a race to secure the weapons.

The UN argued that  mopping up weapons: small arms and light weapons will accelerate peacebuilding and peacemaking in the region. While the resolution will facilitate international cooperation, tracking and monitoring, it’s a long road ahead. This is clearly a big problem for the new government and the international community. With competing militias and Al Qaeda in the mix, it seems unlikely that Libya can return to normal anytime soon.

– Kees Keizer

Street Crud

10 Nov

Those of you in the New York area or with internet access are urged to check out the back cover of today’s Daily News.   The picture is of a riot scene in State College, PA after the dismissal of football coach Joe Paterno.

Part of our job at GAPW is to read the tea leaves, not only regarding diplomats but also the culture in which we act and that we seek to change in some fairly fundamental ways.

Those of you who have been following this case at all — and it has been hard to avoid in the US — understand how sordid this affair is.  The behavior is bad enough, but the focus on the ‘best interests’ of the university rather than of the abused kids is worse.  And now this.

What could these students possibly have been rioting about?   On harassment-obsessed campuses were they outraged that things like this could happen under their noses?

One could only wish that it were so.   The stronger evidence points to the triumph of celebrity over ethical conduct.   In an isolated, academically-mediocre town, Paterno and the football program represented the only ‘celebrity’ available.   Any peer inquiring about school choice and hearing ‘Penn State’ in response would default to the football program as the main motivation for matriculation.

In my adult life, the veil has been taken off universities.   They are businesses, pure and simple.  They develop careers, not character.  They make false promises to students who incur massive debt on a risky bet that future earnings will offset the pain.  They provide safe havens from life until students can be assured of lifestyles that will prove acceptable to themselves and their peers.

Paterno is a football coach.   He gave back to the school that made him rich.   He failed a simple moral test that endangered children’s lives.  Anyone rioting in ‘Happy Valley’ to mourn the loss of their local celebrity has more to mourn than they imagine.