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U.S. Co-sponsors Joint Statement on Women’s Rights, Peace and Security
July 2, 2012

The United States co-sponsored the following statement read by the  United Kingdom at the Human Rights Council July 2 on behalf of 66 countries.

20th Human Rights Council
July 2, 2012

Women’s Rights, Peace and Security

We recognise women’s vital role in achieving and maintaining international peace and security and as such understand the need for equal political, civic and economic participation in times of peace, conflict and during periods of political transition. We also recognise that failure to respect human  rights impacts on the wider peace and security agenda and reaffirm that women are equally entitled as men to the same rights enshrined in the UDHR and the two international covenants.

As such, we call on States:

–          To protect the rights of women, especially in conflict and  post-conflict situations;

–          To promote equal involvement in all aspects of life during times of transition;

–          And to ensure women’s access to positions of  decision making in order to build and maintain democratic and stable societies

Madam President,

Sexual violence, specifically during periods of armed conflict, insecurity and transition as well as in post-conflict situations, disproportionately affects women and girls.  Such violence not only undermines the safety, dignity and human rights of women and girls, but also undermines the critical contributions they make to society and hinders s inclusive and sustainable peace processes.   Sexual violence must therefore be addressed throughout all stages of conflict resolution, starting with ceasefire agreements, and we encourage the presence of adequate gender expertise at the peace table.

The Vienna World Conference on Human Rights expressed its dismay at massive violations of human rights including systematic rape of women in conflict.  It stressed that perpetrators must be punished and such practices immediately stopped.

Sexual violence may constitute a war crime or crime against humanity and states are responsible for complying with their relevant international obligations to prosecute these crimes. We therefore commit to work through appropriate national and international mechanisms towards the prevention, early warning and effective response to sexual violence in conflict-related situations, including through tackling impunity and increasing the number of prosecutions.

We remind all States, particularly parties to conflict, of their obligations under applicable international law with regard to the prohibition of all forms of sexual violence.

Madam President,

Times of transition have many causes. Elections or political change,  conflict and natural disasters can all create uncertainty and upheaval.  Whatever the cause, these times can present a period of immense vulnerability for women, but also a unique window of opportunity.  Human rights violations and abuses must be prevented and the foundation for women’s longer term empowerment must be laid.

To this end, we call upon all States, including those affected by conflict and undergoing political transitions, to protect and promote the human rights of women including such rights as education and to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.  We encourage all States to take proactive measures to address the barriers that prevent and discourage women from meaningful civic, economic and political participation, such as gender-based violence, poverty, unequal access to financing and to justice; We urge States to ratify CEDAW and implement their obligations under it. We urge all States to implement fully Security Council Resolution 1325 and its follow-up resolutions on Women and Peace and Security and General Assembly Resolution 66/130 on women and political participation

Finally we reaffirm and express full support for the important role of the UN in promoting gender equality between men and women and advancing the status of women.  We welcome the role of UN Women and efforts to strengthen internal accountability and coordination. We especially note the role that the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures could play within their respective mandates in supporting implementation of 1325.