2008 Women PeaceMakers Conference: Panels 3 and 4, and Closing Session

Monday, September 29, 2008

The third and fourth panels rounded off the 2008 Women PeaceMakers Conference last Friday, September 26.  The third panel, moderated by IPJ Senior Program Officer Dustin Sharp, was titled “Advancing Inclusive Security in Multiple Settings: What are strategies, resources and good practices for security and civil sectors to prevent and respond to sexual violence?”  Panelists included Karen Grimm of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Sarah Masters of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), Nicola Popovic of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), i Deborah Avant of the University of California, Irvine, and Kathleen Staudt of the University of Texas, El Paso.  The panels were followed by a report back from the Knowledge-Building and Working Sessions held throughout the conference, and closing statements were by co-conveners.

Karin Grimm of the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) addressed the topic with her presentation, “Global need for gender justice in security sector reform.”  She called for an inclusive approach to security involving all possible actors and implementation in a variety of settings, including countries in relative peace.  Five main groups of security sector actors include:

1. Core security actors entitled to use force (armed forces, police, border guards, coast guards, intelligence, security services, etc.)
2. Security management and oversight bodies (parliament, relevant committees of security, ministries of defense, justice)
3. Justice and rule of law institutions (Justice ministries, prisons, judiciaries, courts, tribunals, human rights commissions)
4. Non-state security forces (guerilla and liberation forces, non-state actors, as well as private military and security companies)
5. Non-state civil society groups (media, advocacy, women civil society orgs)

Grimm highlighted the particular lack of security sector institutions in addressing gender-based violence (GBV) in security situations.  Further, she noted that security sector institutions are highly unrepresentative of the sectors they serve.  More women in security detail can mean more oversight and accountability, especially with regard to sexual harassment.

Security sector reform processes should also uphold full respect for human rights and the rule of law, and, Grimm stressed, be nationally-owned processes rooted in the particular needs and conditions of the country in question, while complying with international legal frameworks and standards.

Sarah Masters of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) presented “Being part of the security process – controlling arms.”  Masters began by explaining that discussion surrounding weapons involved in GBV is often missing, perhaps because they are seen as an instrument, rather than a cause, of GBV.

Masters relayed several significant statistics: Most small arms are in civilian hands, including security guards in private security.  875 million guns are currently in circulation worldwide, with a global annual trade totaling $4 billion in legal trade, and $1 billion in illicit.  “Half of the countries in the world produce small arms, and the rest of the world buys them,” she said.  Every day, about 1,000 people are killed, whether by homicide, war, suicide, or accidental death.  And though about 90% of those killed or wounded by gunshot are men, women, who are rarely the owners or users of small arms, are disproportionately affected.  Disability, injury, intimidation, trauma, gender-based violence, psychological and economic burden, the undermining of development and employment, and the legitimization of the use of force are both direct and indirect impacts of gun violence.

Masters stated that women need to be involved in the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process.  Women’s knowledge of trading groups and weapons storage, alone with perceptions of security and danger, should be taken into account.  Women should also be actively involved in the disarmament, collection, and monitoring of the destruction of weapons. Finally, there should be discussion surround removal of ammunition and licensing and registration in talks of reconstruction.

Groups like IANSA work in various ways including policymaking, assessment, increasing public awareness, training police, and promoting the inclusion of women in the arms movement. Women need to be involved in security sector reform (SSR) processes, including that of private security, governments will not be committed to banning small arms due to the lucrative nature of the trade.  Women must work within a patriarchal culture that in general supports the use of guns  and regards men as traditional protectors.

In Nicola Popovic’s “Reforming toward equality: Integrating a gender perspective into security sector institutions and policies,” Popovic stressed that gender is not exclusively a woman’s issue. Men’s issues are also absent from discussion, due to taboo, lack of funding, space to share, and access to justice for male victims of gender violence.  She also shared practical tools and specific ways to conduct gender mainstreaming in program design as well as in measurement and evaluation (M&E):

•    Data disaggregated by sex, age, religion, ethnic origin, sexual preferences, disabilities
•    Gender sensitive indicators (i.e., How do men measure success?  How do women?)
•    Gender balance in the personnel of security sector institutions
•    Gender-sensitive security policies
•    Codes of conduct
•    Gender mainstreaming in program analysis and budgeting

Specific M&E mechanisms offered included key questions from a Gender Audit  assessment tool to measure how gender sensitive an organization is.  For example, how many women and men are there, who makes the decisions, who has access to justice, is there gender-sensitive capacity-building and expertise?  Another tool is an SSR Assessment Key, which provides a survey of questions to assess actors involved in prior reform efforts.

Finally, Popovic shared the Gender Sensitive Training and Capacity-building Training Cycle, which includes the components of preparation, implementation, evaluation, and feedback and follow-up, all of which must feed into the other in a continuous loop to ensure balanced integration of gender perspectives in security sector institutions and policies.

In her research, Deborah Avant of the University of California, Irvine, has asked “What does privatization mean for security?  Avant commented that as we look at human security in general and how to protect vulnerable groups, we not only have to think about states and rebel forces, but we increasingly have to think about private security actors. Private security actors are working under contract through private companies doing things soldiers normally do: Personal security details, site security, building and reconstruction, rescuing, and sometimes also shooting and harming.

Avant alerted that we often forget that the some 190,000 other private security personnel the United States has deployed to Iraq does not include those working for news and oil companies.  Avant argued that because all these actors employ security personnel and therefore develop security policies for their personnel, we have to take them into account.

In her book, “The Market for Force: The Consequence of Privatizing Security,” Avant looks at three primary relationships:

1.    Governments and violence forces:  Privatization of security refers to demolition of state power to private actors.  Private security delivery and financing thereof has grown immensely in the last twenty years. That the government contracts private forces rather than operating through military channels means that there are great shifts in control, depending on whether it is a strong government, like in the U.S., or a weak one, as in Sierra Leone
2.    Governments and violent actions of their citizens abroad:  Since the mid-19th century, states have recruited forces from their own territories and deployed them abroad but restricted the ability of its citizens to conduct violence outside of that state structure.  The U.S. is a prime example of a state having much less control over their citizens abroad given market demands.
3.    Private corporations and NGOs and other private actors:  These organizations develop their own security plans and policies, and they increasingly play a political role in conflicts, though they should be playing an apolitical role.  With guns and barbed wire fences, these organizations have intrinsically political effects, and sometimes disastrous consequences.

Avant remarked that it has become routine for international organizations to be responsible for maintaining their own security in unstable parts of the world.

Kathleen Staudt of the University of Texas, El Paso, spoke about the use of democratic spaces to confront U.S. border security and immigration policies.  Staudt noted that while the United States is not engaged in a war with Mexico, the nation’s second largest trading partner, the U.S. has built high walls and installed high-tech surveillance equipment to detect individuals crossing the border into the U.S.

Staudt distinguished the U.S. as a national security state, meaning that it is state-centered.  This makes the U.S. a highly militarized country that tends to criminalize people, including the undocumented, in order to gain control.  Countries employing a human security approach, on the other hand, operate at the community level and work on strategies to open opportunity and redistribute resources between women and men.

Staudt noted that in addition to sharing a 2000 mile-long border, built by private contractors, the United States and Mexico share a host of human security problems.  500 of the 2000 miles is fenced or walled-off, and there are currently 18,000 U.S. border patrol agents along it.  There has been murder, rape, torture, death and mutilation of persons trying to cross this border from Mexico into the U.S.  Another potential hazard for potential migrants are the harsh conditions in the desert.  Heat and lack of water certainly also have contributed to the number of deaths.

Police check points along the border requiring proof of citizenship and national security numbers have drawn protests by women activists and other El Paso human rights and faith-based activists.  The check points have resulted in over 800 deportations of illegal immigrants.  Humanitarian agencies have been sued for leaving water in the desert for the immigrants trying to cross the border.   Staudt called for national action for comprehension and reforms to end violence in the U.S.

Panel Four, “Enforcing Gender Equality Mandates as Central to Peace and Security: What is the New Vision of the Role of Law?” discussed new legal tools for enforcing equality rights during conflict and essential for transition to peace which restructure governmental bodies based on gender parity.  The panel was moderated by William Aceves, professor of law and associate dean for Academic Affairs at California Western School of Law.

Andrea Friedman of the Global Justice Center, who on the first panel emphasized how the law is relevant to all aspects of conflict, post-conflict, and building stable societies, focused this talk more specifically on the advances in international law through transitional justice processes.  In Rwanda and Yugoslavia, international criminal tribunals brought to the forefront the issue of criminal accountability for violations of international law, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.  They were major advances in recognizing that rape and other sexual violence could be a form of all of these crimes, not just an incidence of war, and should be prosecuted as such.  Through the international tribunals, women’s right to autonomy were recognized.  This has been particularly important in advancing women’s access to justice.

Friedman offered that international tribunals can be helpful to the advancement of women if they:

•    Develop international jurisprudence and recognize sexual violence as a sort of international crime, define rape as gender-neutral, discuss what consent means in a situation of conflict, and other kinds of jurisprudence that helped make the law more real and accessible to women.
•    Have women judges at both the domestic and international level.  If the individual charged with interpreting the law interprets with a patriarchal, old, male-dominated perspective on what sexual violence should mean, violations against women will not be recognized as the crimes that they are.
•    Are removed from the domestic forum where there are a lot more challenges around religion and culture.  They must take place in more neutral territory.  Judges need to be made to see the connection between their role as judges on international tribunal and as leaders in society.

Friedman concluded that international justice must move beyond trying the world’s five worst criminals at the Hague.  One piece of this is defining access to justice and how socioeconomic rights play a part therein.  She called upon women to take this opportunity of a changing and maturing law to define it and interpret it to best advance women and women’s rights moving forward.

Alma Perez, in “Translating gender international mandates into domestic policies & instruments: How do we do that?”, presented useful ways to apply international commitment, mandates, and translate them into policy instruments at a national level, whether advocating from within the government or without.

1.    Have a legal framework. If the country already has signed and ratified treaties, the country has commitments on the international level.  Being aware of these commitments enables one to ask for them when they are not fulfilled.
2.    Identifying entry points, both at the international and national levels.  One instrument is a treaty organ, which contains mechanisms that can be used to set complaints, to right situations, and to go to countries with reporting obligations and hold them accountable.  Another instrument is the Universal Periodic Review, which systematically reviews human rights for every U.N. member state every four years.

If at the international level the goal is to find commitments, at the national level we need to determine how gender policy can be implemented.  This involves staying away from stereotypes, overcoming polarization, and collaborating with other NGOs and men as well.  Perez reiterated Lousie Arbour’s point that while it is persons who make things happen, without institutions, nothing with last.  She suggested trying to set up a permanent commission on gender equality that addresses economic, social and cultural rights, engages in complementarity, and uses available accountability resources to strengthen the national system.

Helen Mack, who founded the Myrna Mack Foundation, spoke about “Women’s Encounter with Justice.”  Before she was a human rights activist, Helen Mack shared that she was first a victim of the system.  Her transformation came from a series of traumatic events, one of which was the execution of her sister, Myrna Elizabeth Mack, on September 11, 1990, her sister.  Myrna Elizabeth bled to death from more than 50 stab wounds in the vital parts of her body, inflicted by the military in Guatemala.

Myrna helped found AVANCSO, an association dedicated to empowering the social sciences as a means for understanding national problems and seeking solutions.  They were convinced that the political opening in Guatemala, following the end of military rule and installation of civilian and democratic regime, was the propitious development of social sciences.  Myrna studied internally displaced persons fleeing from communities due to irrational violence by the army, and documented human suffering at the hands of cruel State policies.  She was passionate about her work, and it was this passion that drew military intelligence to order her killing.

Through the judicial system shaped in part by the Myrna Mack Foundation, those people who were responsible for Myrna’s death were identified and punished.  As a result of the Foundation’s work, human rights violations are now studied judicially and are subject to criminal investigation, prosecution, trial and sentencing.  The Foundation prepared systematic data showing how and when impunity was produced and who are its agents.  Systematic analysis of problems, situations, and persons have allowed the proof of patterns of denial of justice, the flaws and anomalies, the weaknesses and the deficiencies in justice institutions and how all these factors combined to create conditions for impunity.

The judges of the InterAmerican Court of Human Rights validated evidence condemning the State of Guatemala for its role as assassin, accomplice and in covering up execution of Myrna.  In the sentence that condemned the State, handed down in November 2003, the InterAmerican court described in detail the justice institutions that had promoted impunity and denied justice.  Thanks to that sentence, Guatamala now has a list of lawyers individually named in the condemnation and censure of the InterAmerican court for having manipulated the system in order to deny justice to the Mack family.  With this ruling the candidacy of several men and women who had some point opted in favor of impunity have now been successfully vetoed.

Mack remarked that the battle against impunity has been led by women: “From the field of justice administration to social organizations, and even within the academic world, the media, the arts, women are developing discourses and concrete activities to challenge the mechanisms of impunity and their agents.”  In the fourteen years of Mack’s work, five guilty sentences have been given against the military and one international sentence against the State.

Peter Sampson, from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, has worked closely with a network made of U.N. states, NGOs, and academic institutions called the Forum on Early Warning and Early Response.  Discussions with the network regarding the reconstruction of the rule of law and justice programs in the Great Lake region created the background to his talk, “Justice and the Rule of Law in Central Africa.”

Sampson shared that in Africa, it is estimated that 50% of post-conflict countries return to conflict within five years.  Despite improvements over last ten years, such as the reduction of the prevalence of rape in Eastern Congo, elections held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi and Rwanda, and growing awareness of gender-based violence, on a daily basis, the situation has not improved and sometimes has gotten much worse.

In general, the court system does not function for the majority of people, as they are less than 2% of women in judicial system, an overlack deficiency of 1,250 judges, a general lack of trust, and dearth of expertise in GBV in any of the 500 national courts.  Sampson stated that even if there were enough judges to fill 1,250 empty positions, about 80% of the population does not have access to any kind of legal system; even if there was a program to put all necessary tribunals in the DRC, it would take an estimated 25 years.
For now, Sampson reported there is an interesting overlap taking place between customary and national justice structures. The law in the DRC is such that if the population does not have access to national court within 100 kilometers, then customary or informal law can apply.

Sampson stated that during the peace process and the peace agreement, the main objective is not for people to participate, but simply not to return to conflict.  In the post-peace process and agreement, the last stage of the conflict cycle, suddenly participation becomes of utmost importance.  All members of society are expected to engage with the government at only this last stage.  Sampson suggested that perhaps we should look at a pluralistic legal system when re-establishing rule of law, since “in different places, different laws may apply to different people.”

During the closing session, regional caucus groups from Latin America, South Asia, and Africa read statements compiled throughout the conference.  The statements were followed by a report back from working group sessions.  Closing statements were made by Dee Aker, interim executive director of the Institute for Peace & Justice, and Stephanie Ziebell of UNIFEM, co-convener of the conference.  Ziebell thanked the IPJ, the 2008 Women PeaceMakers and PeaceMakers of years past, and to all those participants and panelists who came from far away to attend the conference and share their experiences and expertise.

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