R2P + WPS = preventing SGBV
20 August 2012
Widespread and/or systematic sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) can be an act of genocide, a war crime and a crime against humanity, three of the four crimes listed in the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle. As such, the protection of those at risk of SGBV is not just part of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda at the UN, it is a fundamental responsibility for all states as part of their commitment to R2P. However, there remain a variety of different views concerning the merits and utility of aligning WPS with R2P. In particular, views differ as to whether there is anything to be gained for the WPS agenda or for the R2P principle by advancing action to tackle widespread and systematic SGBV in the UN system, including the Security Council, as part of a coordinated strategy for implementing R2P and WPS.
Are opportunities being missed by failing to align the prevention and protection agendas in WPS and R2P? What are the potential costs and benefits of aligning the two agendas in some respects? And, how are the common interests of the two agendas best advanced? (…)
To examine the potential relationship between WPS and R2P, we at the Human Protection Hub with our research partners, the Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, are preparing a workshop with policy makers and academics in October 2012 that will focus on whether these areas should be aligned with the prevention and protection aims of R2P. We have four broad questions:
1. Alignment of R2P with WPS – where is the value best added?
2. The relationship between R2P and WPS for conflict prevention and civilian protection in international policing and military missions
3. Operationalisation of WPS in humanitarian response
4. Positive relationship between the ‘responsible state’ and WPS: building on knowledge of the specific drivers and national benchmarks that promote peace and security
The central focus in the workshop is on the potential advantages and pitfalls in aligning R2P with WPS. As stated above, there are concerns that aligning the R2P lens with WPS undermines the protection of civilians and peaceful empowerment focus in the WPS agenda. Is the ‘natural’ alignment between R2P and WPS primarily about identifying women as victims of sexual violence rather than empowered individuals able to protect themselves? Or alternatively, may a ‘R2P lens’ highlight the enduring responsibility of all sovereigns to promote and protect the normative goals of WPS? One thing is certain: it is vital that we better understand the drivers that prevent widespread and systematic SGBV. This knowledge is crucial for both the R2P principle and the WPS agenda. Our hope is to generate dialogue on the scope for cooperation and opportunities that will produce practical outcomes that empower women.
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