States must protect women human rights defenders working in conflict and crisis-affected settings: UN expert (Press Release)

NEW YORK (13 October 2023) – The probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years increases by 20 percent if women are involved, a UN expert told the General Assembly today, urging States to recognise the role women human rights defenders in achieving just and sustainable peace.

“Women human rights defenders provide support to civilian populations, document human rights violations, gather evidence to secure future accountability and work to maintain or create space for the active participation of women in public life. In doing so they bring peace and justice closer,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders in her report to the General Assembly.

“However, they operate in environments where, in addition to facing violence, legal restrictions, physical attacks, intimidation and criminalisation as a result of their human rights work, they often must also battle against deeply embedded patriarchal values that do not see them as equal or legitimate actors,” the expert said.

“The risks they face are exacerbated if they hold multiple identities and often start as soon as a woman becomes vocal in demanding or asserting rights. Those working on gender equality and LGBT rights are among the most targeted in such contexts,” Lawlor said.

While acknowledging an increase in the emphasis on women’s participation in peacebuilding initiatives since Security Council resolution 1325, the Special Rapporteur said there had been less focus on dealing with the deeply gendered fallout of this increased participation of women and women human rights defenders.

She urged States to prioritise the protection of women human rights defenders in conflict, post-conflict and crisis settings in order to allow them to meaningfully participate in efforts to bring about peace.

“The work women human rights defenders do in conflict, post-conflict and crisis-affected settings is a key element to winning the peace,” Lawlor said. “I call on States to ensure women human rights defenders are fully and safely integrated in the women, peace and security agenda.”


The expert: Ms Mary Lawlor (Ireland) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.


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