Forgotten conflicts, still a responsibility


June 6, 2013 - WILPF International

During the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, WILPF and our partners World YWCA and Femmes Africa Solidarité organised a side event on forgotten conflicts to discuss how the Human Rights Council could address all armed conflicts in a more holistic way. We invited distinguished panellists from Madagascar, Western Sahara and the Central African Republic.

Photo of the side event on forgotten conflicts

Indeed, the South of Madagascar, Western Sahara or the Central African Republic, these and many other so-called ‘low intensity conflicts’ are often forgotten or ignored by the international community, focusing on hotspots where violence is higher.

However, serious human rights violations such as forced displacement, repression, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, enforced disappearances and violation of freedom of speech, often take place in these contexts. Furthermore, when conflicts remain unaddressed, the danger of violent outbreaks remains and can be hastened at any moment by the flow of arms from neighbouring conflicts and vice-versa.

The stagnation of conflicts also prevents the social and economic development of the population, including the realisation of gender equality. On the contrary, it contributes to the militarisation of society through the uncontrolled flow of small arms. This has devastating effects on violence against women, domestic violence and other forms of violence.

Nevertheless, global attention will often not come until violence is very widely spread and the presence of arms is out of control. A participatory approach to support the struggle of women for their equal participation in conflict prevention, peace-building, post-conflict reconstruction, ensuring women’s groups are included at all stages in the international peace and security process, will be essential.

A serious process in addressing the prevention of the outbreak of violence by the Human Rights Council would include a follow up mechanism of low intensity conflicts safeguarding the principles of prevention and participation.

WILPF, World YWCA and FAS recommend:

  • That States address the root causes of violence
  • That the HRC is vigilant to have a universal scope and to emphasize on the prevention of conflicts rather than limiting their response to addressing the armed conflicts already taking place
  • That the HRC pays attention to the impact that the flow of arms has on the population and especially on women and children and that they strictly refrain from selling arms to areas where human rights violations are taking place
  • That States implement the UN Security Council resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960 and fully include women and civil society in the prevention and mediation of armed conflict and other conflict situations
  • That States sign, ratify and apply the Arms Trade Treaty