The Socialists+Democrats in the European Parliament organized an event 14-15 April on women in the peace process. On the panel of 14 April, Kristalina Georgieva, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance spoke as well as Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy Human Rights commissioner and Veronique Arnault, Director of Multilateral Relations and Human Rights in DG RELEX. They talked about assessments currently undertaken, indicators of progress – which all agreed was there, but but not enough – and the need for leadership and coherent approaches.
After them Denis Mukwege from Congo DRC and Chekeba Hachimi from Afghanistan spoke. They stressed they felt there was a disconcerting gap between their realities and the interventions they had just heard. All the talk about indicators, assessments, leadership seems surreal while rape continues to be used as a “weapon of mass destruction” in Congo, as Mukwege convincingly illustrated. It destroys women, families and entire communities. According to Mukwege, the EU had not shown a strong enough political will to seriously influence the main actors to end conflict and impunity in Congo. Worse, under the “peace” agreement mass-rapist were recruited into the army, as he could confirm. Chekeba Hachimi concluded in a similar way that the EU was about to release funds and endorses a reconciliation process in Afghanistan in which women will have no voice whatsoever. She claimed that the international presence in Afghanistan over the last 9 years has had no significant positive influence on the situation of women in Afghanistan. Women continue to enjoy a legal status of semi-servitude, and mass illiteracy among women and girls and the total lack of voice of women means change will be slow. A law limiting women’s rights has been recently approved and nobody has even commented. Hachemi was very concerned that the “reconciliation” between Kharzai c.s. and the Taliban would further worsen the situation of women in her country, particularly she expected that opportunities for girls to get an education and learn about their rights as women would be further limited.
Marcus Schulz leader of the S+D group dropped by half-way the panel. He made a strong statement that the Parliament – given the changes under the Lisbon Treaty – would have a much stronger influence and could make sure that Human Rights (and women’s rights) issues are included in future treaties between the EU and others. He stressed the importance to include practical measures and mechanisms to verify compliance and sanctions for lack of such compliance. On the subject of women and conflict, Schulz seemed to be pleasantly surprised that resolution 1325 was translated in 100+ languages, suggesting it has a large constituency.
It is a pity Schulz did not hear the contributions of Mukwege and Hachimi. It seems that aside of future treaties, the EP and the member states of the European Union have more urgent things to do! They could use the translation of 1325 into Pashtun. Besides Pashtun the website maintained by the International League of Women for Peace and Freedom on Resolution 1325, also includes French, English, three ethnic languages spoken in DRC as well as Kinyarwanda. The words are there, in any imaginable language. Time for those in charge to act.