Today, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica is announcing a €2 million contribution by the European Union to the International Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. The announcement takes place in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where Commissioner Mimica is meeting with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr Denis Mukwege.
Commissioner Neven Mimica said: “Violence against women and girls is one of the gravest violations of human rights. It comes with tremendous costs to individuals, as well as to society. By contributing €2 million to this Fund today, we want to reach out to women who had to go through the unspeakable pain of sexual violence in situations of war and conflict – and provide them with the support they need to rebuild their lives.”
The Fund is built upon the commitments of the United Nations, the work of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, as well as the voices of survivors of conflict-related sexual violence worldwide. It is an innovative collaboration between multiple partners to provide survivors of conflict-related sexual violence with access to reparations and other forms of redress, and to help them reintegrate fully into their communities. It will also serve to provide technical advice, establish good practices, and advocate for reparations for survivors. Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad are leading the initiative in close collaboration and consultation with other public, private and civil society stakeholders.
Nadia Murad said: “Accepting responsibility and acknowledging the crimes committed is of utmost importance to survivors. It can enhance the healing process greatly”.
Dr Denis Mukwege added: “The importance of establishing this Fund for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence cannot be overstated. We have been advocating for such an initiative for many years. Seeing it come to fruition is a huge step forwards for humanity”.
The official launch of the Fund is expected to take place on 30 October 2019 at the United Nations in New York. Countries such as France and Germany have also announced their support to the Fund. At the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August 2019, the EU had announced a €1 million contribution to the Fund.
Dr Denis Mukwege is a Congolese gynaecologist. He founded and works at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he specialises in the treatment of women victims of rape and sexual violence by armed rebels. Nadia Murad is a member of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq. In 2014, she survived a brutal attack on her home village from the Islamic State. In 2018, Dr Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.
The European Union has been supporting Dr Mukwege’s Panzi Foundation with €19 million since 2004. Panzi Hospital is internationally recognised as a reference model for care provided to victims of sexual violence.
In addition, in 2018 the EU strengthened its ongoing stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in the Sinjar region in Iraq through a €1 million contribution to Nadia Murad’s “Sinjar Action Fund”. European development cooperation in the areas of the country liberated from Da’esh supports in particular the needs of displaced populations, vulnerable groups and local communities.
UNICEF reports uneven progress in 30 years of child rights treaty
Although the world has made historic gains over the past three decades in improving children’s lives, urgent action is required if the poorest children are to feel the impact, a new UN report published on Monday warns.
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, noted that while increasing numbers of children are living longer, better and healthier lives, the odds continue to be stacked against the poorest and most vulnerable.
“In addition to the persistent challenges of health, nutrition and education, children today have to contend with new threats like climate change, online abuse and cyberbullying,” she said.
“Only with innovation, new technologies, political will and increased resources will we help translate the vision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into a reality for all children everywhere.”
Uneven progress, emerging threats
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly adopted international treaty in history, and has been ratified by more than 190 countries.
It acknowledges childhood, which lasts through age 18, as a special time in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity.
UNICEF reported that since its adoption, the global rate for under-five mortality has dropped by around 60 per cent, while the proportion of undernourished children has almost halved.
The Convention has also influenced numerous constitutions, laws and policies that reflect its guiding principles, which include non-discrimination, the right to protection and acting in the best interests of the child.
However, the report shows that progress has not been even.
UNICEF said the world’s children continue to confront age-old threats while new hazards loom over their future.
The poorest children are still likely to die from preventable causes before reaching their fifth birthday. Millions of the most disadvantaged are still at risk due to poverty, discrimination and marginalization. At the same time, cases of the childhood killer measles are on the rise as immunization coverage rates have slowed down since 2010.
Progress in education also is dismal. The report reveals that the number of primary level children out of school has remained static for more than a decade.
“Many of those who are in school are not learning the basics, let alone the skills they need to thrive in today’s economy,” UNICEF added.
In recent years, young people have been speaking up and calling for action to address climate change. UNICEF said they are the ones most at-risk.
“Rapid changes in climate are spreading disease, increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, and creating food and water insecurity. Unless urgent action is taken, the worst for many children is yet to come,” the UN agency warned.
Inclusive dialogue planned
UNICEF believes that where there is political will and determination, children’s lives improve, as documented by the report, which has been released ahead of World Children’s Day on 20 November.
The study calls for more data and evidence to accelerate progress and advance child rights, alongside recommendations such as involving young people in creating solutions.
UNICEF will use the coming 12 months to promote an inclusive global dialogue aimed at making the promise of the convention a reality for all children.
As Ms. Fore, the UNICEF chief, stated: “The Convention stands at a crossroads between its illustrious past and its future potential. It is up to us to recommit, take decisive steps and hold ourselves accountable.”
UN: India should ‘unlock’ freedom curbs in disputed Kashmir
The people of Indian-administered Kashmir continue to be deprived of numerous basic freedoms, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Tuesday, before urging the Indian authorities “to unlock the situation”.
The appeal over the territory – which both India and Pakistan claim as sovereign – follows months of escalating tensions linked to earlier suicide attacks and the Indian Government’s decision in August to revoke majority-Muslim Kashmir’s special status, which for decades had allowed it partial autonomy.
At the time of the Indian Government decision, five UN-appointed independent rights experts warned that it had led to tighter central Government control, restrictions on peaceful protests and a communications blackout.
Curfew ‘still in place in large parts’ of Kashmir valley
In Geneva on Tuesday, spokesperson for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville acknowledged that an “undeclared curfew” had been lifted from much of Jammu and Ladakh regions within a few days.
But he noted that it was reportedly still in place “in large parts of the Kashmir Valley, preventing the free movement of people, as well as hampering their ability to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and restricting their rights to health, education and freedom of religion and belief.”
Highlighting several allegations of excessive use of force against protesters that involved the use of “pellet-firing shotguns, tear gas and rubber bullets”, Mr. Colville said that there had also been unconfirmed reports of “at least six civilian killings and scores of serious injuries”, in separate incidents since the Indian Government declaration on 5 August across Jammu and Kashmir.
The Office of the High Commissioner had also received reports that armed groups in Indian-administered Kashmir have threatened some residents trying to work or go to school, the OHCHR spokesperson said.
In addition, “at least another six people have been killed and over a dozen injured in alleged attacks by armed group members, since 5 August”.
Web access blocked, politicians detained
And although restrictions on landline telephones were eventually lifted, and a state-run telecom company allowed to resume partial mobile phone services, all internet services remain blocked in the Kashmir valley, Mr. Colville insisted.
In line with the Indian Government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s partial self-rule, two separate federally-administered Union Territories are to be created this Thursday, the OHCHR Spokesperson explained, adding that “hundreds of political and civil society leaders” had been detained “on a preventative basis”.
While some political workers have reportedly been released, most senior leaders – especially those from the Kashmir Valley – remain in detention, he said.
Why we must urgently close the data gap to end violence against women
Having the full picture is crucial for effective action to end violence against women. Yet today, efforts to address this critical sustainable development and human rights challenge remain severely hampered by lack of data.
Violence against women is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality, reflecting and perpetuating deep-rooted patterns of discrimination. Violence and fear of violence permeate social, economic and political interactions between women and men, constraining opportunities, choices and access to resources and so limiting economic growth and hindering the achievement of sustainable development.
Ending violence against women and girls is a crucial part of both the Beijing Platform for Action – progress on which will be in focus at the Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October) – and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Beijing Platform calls for the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls—physical, sexual and psychological. The Sustainable Development Goals reiterate this, with two indicators designed to track changes in violence by intimate partners and by other perpetrators.
Yet tracking such changes is hard.
Reliable and comparable data on the incidence of violence against women are rare. The Beijing Platform for Action, back in 1995, recognized that the absence of adequate sex-disaggregated data makes it difficult to create and assess programmes designed to bring about change.
Administrative data such as crime records only cover incidents that are reported, and so are likely to underestimate massively the actual occurrence of violence, which often goes unreported due to fear of recurrence or reprisal, shame or perceptions of ‘honour’ within families. Trends in reported gender-based violence can also be influenced by changes in awareness and public perceptions, making victims more or less likely to perceive an act of violence as a crime or affecting their willingness to report it to authorities.
A clearer picture of the true scale of violence against women—and its impacts on their lives– must come from surveys designed specifically for this purpose. UNECE’s survey module, developed in 2011, provides a standardized tool for countries to produce indicators of physical, sexual and intimate partner violence. To date, few countries in the UNECE region have conducted targeted surveys to measure violence against women, and where they have been conducted they are one-off surveys offering no possibility to see trends over time.
An EU-wide survey conducted in 2014 by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency and an OSCE-led survey conducted in 2018 in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe take us a step closer towards the goals of international comparability.
However, until such surveys are conducted regularly the data gap will remain a major impediment to progress.
Violence against women – key trends in the UNECE region
Available data in the UNECE Statistical Database shows significant variations in patterns of violence against women across the UNECE region, as detailed in the Beijing+25 regional key trends paper.
The most serious manifestation of violence, homicide, is less likely than other forms of violence to go unreported and is less subject to variations of definition and classification between countries. Trends in homicides among countries can therefore more reliably be compared than other forms of violence.
Although two-thirds of the UNECE countries analyzed show low and unchanging levels of homicide of women, there are exceptions where high levels and/or large increases are seen in the past five years.
Among the 32 countries with available data, Azerbaijan had by far the highest female homicide rate in 2017, at 6.8 per 100,000, slightly down from 7.3 in 2012. Latvia and Lithuania also had high rates in 2017 (3.7 and 3.2 respectively). Fourteen countries had rates of less than 1 per 100,000 with very little change since 2012.
Homicides of women by partners and relatives
A large proportion of homicides of women occur at the hands of current or former partners or relatives.
In 2017, over 70 per cent of homicides of women were perpetrated by a relative in Albania (79 per cent), Croatia (74 per cent), Italy (72 per cent) and Slovenia (71 per cent). In all these countries, this percentage increased since 2012. The increase was particularly significant in Albania, where the percentage doubled in five years. Between 2012 and 2017 the percentage of homicides of women in a family context also increased significantly in Belarus (from 30 to 44 per cent), the Republic of Moldova (from 39 to 50 per cent), Tajikistan (44 to 53 per cent) and Georgia (from 15 to 23 per cent).
Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE Region
Progress in combating violence against women will be one of the areas in focus at next week’s Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 (Beijing Platform for Action) is the most ambitious road map for the empowerment of women and girls everywhere. In 2020, it will be 25 years since the Beijing Platform for Action outlined how to overcome the systemic barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life.
The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting (29-30 October 2019) will take stock of where the UNECE region stands on keeping the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action. Bringing together government representatives and key stakeholders from the UNECE region, the meeting will tackle a number of obstacles that keep girls and women from realizing their full potential. UNECE is joining forces with the UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia to deliver a two-day multi-stakeholder meeting to exchange concrete policies to accelerate the realization of gender equality. The outcomes of the meeting will feed into the global review of the Beijing Platform for Action taking place at the sixty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York from 9 to 20 March 2020.
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