With the mission of presenting the first ever civil society monitoring report on UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the organisations Society Without Violence and Women’s Resource Centre were selected to represent Armenian civil society in New York last week.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh started in 1988. In 1994, with the involvement of the Minsk Group, a ceasefire was achieved. Since then the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is defined as a frozen conflict.
Armenia being a very patriarchal society and experiencing several hardships at this time (the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Armenia, blockade and an earthquake) totally neglected the issue of sexual and gender-based violence during the conflict and post-conflict period. But the war seriously affected women living in the southern part of Armenia, who were directly involved in the conflict.
In 2013 a monitoring group for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (mainly consisting of women’s groups) was established in Armenia. Thanks to the involvement of the expert Emmicki Roos from Operation 1325, and with support of Kvinna till Kvinna, it was possible for this group to launch the first ever civil society monitoring report in Armenia. I would say, that quite a few challenges arose when trying to produce this report, since Armenia does not have a National Action Plan (NAP) under the UNSCR 1325, which made the collection of necessary data quite hard.
But women in Armenia never give up and seven civil society organisations, CSOs, (Goris Women’s Development “Resource Center” Foundation, Society Without Violence, Democracy Today, Women’s Resource Center, Peace Dialogue, Women’s Rights Center, Armenian Young Women’s Association) took the ownership of collecting the data from relevant entities and institutions. Governmental entities were quite resistant in providing the data and sometimes responded to official enquiries from CSOs, that they, due to state secrecy couldn’t provide such data. This mostly happened because of two reasons:
- Lack of baseline data on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), as no data was collected during the conflict period and furthermore during the frozen conflict situation. CSOs need to call for the Armenian government to allocate more human and financial resources to data collection on SGBV. This would ensure that complete and overall research is being done on sexual and gender based violence, particularly in areas directly affected by the frozen conflict.
- Lack of governmental advocacy on UNSCR 1325 in Armenia is another challenge that the CSOs faced while preparing the monitoring report. As it turned out, the UN Armenian Mission based in New York, I would mention in a very luxurious apartment in New York downtown, has expressed high interest and taken active participation in the meetings on UNSCR 1325. Unfortunately this has not spread to the Armenian reality, where the knowledge and information on 1325 is very low. Armenian CSOs, together with the experts to share best practice and exchange experiences, definitely need to advocate more strongly regarding 1325 and push the government to adopt a NAP.
The New York event, where these highlights were presented, was arranged by Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), as one of several events to commemorate the 13th anniversary of UNSCR 1325. It was held at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN.
I must admit that it was quite challenging for the Armenian delegation to raise these issues and make our voices heard during a very limited timeframe and to this high and responsible audience, which hosted policy makers, donors, highly ranked UN officials and others. It was my pleasure to speak on behalf of Armenian women and highlight the needs and challenges that Armenian women human rights defenders face today.
And guess what, we did not have to wait long for feedback. The Office of the UN Secretary-General Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict expressed a high interest in highlighting the issue of sexual violence in the frozen conflict countries Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Special Representative herself, Ms Zainab Hawa Bangura, wanted to have a meeting face to face and discuss the possible development of a work stream addressing this. This means that there is a quite high possibility that a new platform will be provided for CSO representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh to bring the issue of sexual violence in the frozen conflict situation onto the agenda of the Special Representative’s office.
Presenting the monitoring report by CSOs at the high level platform of UN is a huge step forward for a country which does not have a NAP under 1325 and where the interest and political will to put it on the priority list is low.
There is a huge need to advocate strongly for the implementation of resolution 1325 in Armenia and to involve experts for data collection research mechanisms and methodology for a better and more complete monitoring report for 2014. It would be highly desirable to roll out a civil society monitoring report process in Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh, which definitely would contribute to having a more complete picture on how conflict has affected women living in these three areas.
For me, 1325 calls women to be agents of change in a broader sense, rather than victims of war crimes. It is very important to acknowledge women as peace builders, make their voices heard and have their presence at the negotiation table for winning peace vs winning war.
Society Without Violence