NAWO Quadrennial Review, 2007 – 2010
Aim and Purpose
NAWO, the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, is an umbrella group representing and supporting women’s organisations and individual members based inEngland. NAWO promotes gender equality and social justice utilizing the internationally agreed human rights instruments for all women. NAWO works alongside sister organisations inWales,ScotlandandNorthern Irelandas the UK Joint Committee on Women, theUnited Kingdom’s national body representing the concerns and needs of women in theUKat the European Women’s Lobby.
a) Led European (ECE) Regional Caucus in partnership with other Regional Caucuses at CSW in important and successful lobbying of governments against any weakening of language in the Agreed Conclusions, so as to diminish women’s rights as set out in the Beijing Platform for Action. This was in reference, especially, to their rights to reproductive health and services.
b) Worked with GEAR campaign to ensure establishment of UN Women.
c) Worked with other leading NGOs on the needs and concerns of older women enabling the introduction of the General Recommendation no 27 in CEDAW on the rights of Older Women.
d) Began latterly to accredit under our auspices young women (16-18 year olds) and some young men to CSW, thus enabling them to gain experience of the global NGO community concerned about gender inequality and the lack of access to their human rights of girls and women globally. This Youth Caucus presented a whole range of side-events using drama as well as more traditional panel methods and is directly relevant to the theme of women and men boys and girls working in partnership and with equal responsibility for women’s equality and advancement including in caring roles.
i) Participation in the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies and/or conferences and other United Nations meetings
Since 1999, NAWO has attended and played an active role in NGO participation at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). As well as submitting written statements which become part of the official documentation of the Session, NAWO has lobbied particular delegates and has also taken the opportunity to meet with the European Union delegation and European NGOs whilst attending CSW. In addition, NAWO works together with other NGOs in a larger geographical grouping through its membership of the European Women’s Lobby [EWL]. During this period, NAWO’s Chair represented theUnited Kingdomon the Board of the European Women’s Lobby and, as elected Vice-President. also led the EWL delegation to the UN for two sessions. In this capacity, she convened the European (ECE) Regional Caucus at CSW.
Commission on the Status of Women: 51stth session New York. USA. March 2007
A written statement was submitted and representatives from NAWO attended CSW. In partnership with other UK NGOs NAWO actively supported the side event entitled ‘Why Me?’ Media Exploitation of girls as a form of violence against girls’.
Commission on the Status of Women: 52nd session New York. USA. March 2008
A written statement was submitted on “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”. NAWO representatives attended CSW and ran a side event in partnership with the UK UN Mission supported by other UK NGOs entitled “PeaceBuilding: Is it a Women’s Job?”
Commission on the Status of Women: 53rd, session. New York. USA. March 2009
Representatives from NAWO attended, a written statement was submitted on ‘the the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including care giving in the context of HIV/AIDS’. NAWO organised and ran its own side event using the example of observatories at international level (European Observatory established by the European Women’s Lobby) and National Observatories on Violence Against Women to illustrate how women can lever change and influence decision making.
NAWO Board members attended the preparatory NGO forum in Geneva in December 2009 which was part of the European and ECE Regional Prepcom for CSW54. NAWO worked with other participating NGOs to ensure language on trafficking for sexual purposes and on mechanisms for reform of the UN was as progressive as possible.
Commission on the Status of Women: 54th session. New York. USA. March 2010
Representatives from NAWO attended. The side event NAWO organised and ran was entitled Age Shall not Wither Us. The issue of older women has risen higher on the agenda of the UN especially since CEDAW now has included General Recommendation Number 27 on the rights of older women so that it is clearly under the lens of the major human rights convention for women. NAWO worked with other leading NGOs such as member organisation, the Older Women’s Network,Europe, to get this recommendation adopted. The work now is to keep the item high on the agenda and NAWO continues to bring it to the attention of the UK Government and to work with other NGOs globally to ensure measures are taken in line with the recommendation.
ii) Co-operation with United Nations bodies
Visit of UN Special Rapporteur, Dr Yakin Ertürk to meet with European and UK NGOs
In the Autumn of 2006 NAWO began negotiations with the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women with the objective of hosting a European Regional Consultation, this was accepted and confirmed for January 11-13, 2007. NGOs from Europe and from within the UK gathered to hear Dr. Yakin Ertürk speak and to develop understanding on how the Special Rapporteur’s Office worked and could be accessed by NGOs and individuals with complaints. This was a major three-day event inLondon. All funding, including the costs of the UN Special Rapporteur and her assistant, were raised and funded by NAWO. This was the first time such an event had been held inEurope. Alas, it remains unique – the costs are very high.
Working on CEDAW – Shadow Reporting
During the same period NAWO consulted widely throughout the membership in preparation for its contribution to the Government response to CEDAW and especially to the Shadow Reports.
A Human Right to Peace
NAWO has also supported the campaign for a new UN Human Right to Peace led by David Fernandez Puyana, Director of the World Campaign on the Human Right to Peace. The Declaration will be brought to the attention of the Human Rights Council and its Advisory Committee as a final contribution from international civil society to the international codification process of the right to peace. The United Nations and itsmemberStatesand experts will have before them a solid text, which should be the basis of the official codification of the right to peace.
This campaign also seeks to debate the necessity for and eventually establish an International Observatory of the Human Right to Peace integrated in the SSIHRL. This institution would, inter alia, promote and implement the Declaration on the Human Right to Peace world-wide. It would also ensure that the current process comes to a successful conclusion in the UN General Assembly.
NAWO’s particular contribution has been to keep the issue of a gendered lens and a gender focus to the fore in all the work on the Human Right to Peace.
NAWO considers that all the activities it undertakes towards the empowerment of women are in line with the Millennium Goals, especially since much of its work is educational in the broadest sense. If the UN body including accredited NGOs are active and actively involved in the arguments against women’s continuing poverty, experience of violence, lack of basic freedoms, prevention of the girl child from attending school, lack of the right to freedom of movement and so forth, then globally its status and its actions are strengthened.
Locally, at UK Government level, NAWO has argued extensively against the abolition of the Women’s National Commission in January 2010 which had been established 41 years previously in response to the United Nation’s request that governments should set up national mechanisms to listen to women. The Government Equalities Office has taken over the functions of what had been an advisory independent, albeit government-funded, body. NAWO has worked to have a new gender architecture established which could go some way to enabling women whose national infrastructure was thus removed, to provide a collective voice to government and to communicate effectively amongst themselves. Thus far, NGOs (overwhelmingly women’s organisations) remain without such support. It is ironic that at the same time as we were campaigning for UN Women and Gender Architecture Reform at the UN, which the UK Government then and now supports, we lost our own.
 Text from Programme of the INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS ON THE HUMAN RIGHT TO PEACE, Santiago de Compostela –Spain; 9-10 December 2010
NAWO Letter to President Obama
DRAFT LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA FROM THE NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF WOMENS ORGANISATIONS (NAWO)
8 November, 2011
Dear President Obama
I write on behalf of The National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO) regardingUnited Statescompliance with its international obligations under international humanitarian law to provide non-discriminatory medical care to women and girls raped and impregnated in armed conflict, including their right to receive abortion services.
NAWO is the umbrella of women’s organisations headquartered inEnglandthat, working with sister organisations in the other three countries of theUK, (Scotland,WalesandNorthern Ireland) contributes to the UK Joint Committee on Women which is the co-ordinating full member organisation of the European Women’s Lobby for theUK.
NAWO works across the board on issues of gender inequality and women’s human rights. Its membership varies from very large to very small; to service level and grass roots to international campaigning organisations – all committed to the values and implementation of CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action.
Many NAWO members are involved in the problem of violence against women because it is a fundamental result of gender inequality and its practice increases gender inequality. As an organisation working in support of women’s rights and reproductive health, we therefore urge you to take urgent action on this matter.
The current US ‘no abortion’ policy, attached to all humanitarian aid, including aid to countries in conflict, contains no exception for rape or for situations where the pregnancy threatens life. Given the broad reach and influence ofUSforeign aid, this policy is a major reason for the omission of abortion from medical services in humanitarian settings.
The ongoing and systemic use of rape as a weapon of war is a gross violation of international humanitarian law, threatening global peace and security. TheUnited Stateshas taken a leadership role in addressing these international crimes, including by proposing Security Council Resolution 1820 which acknowledges that ‘rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.’
Rape and forced pregnancy are part of horrific violent attacks in armed conflicts intended to kill and mutilate girls and women. All victims of armed conflict are entitled to receive complete, appropriate and non-discriminatory medical care under international humanitarian law. The deliberate omission of the option for abortion from medical services provided for victims of war not only violates international law, it prolongs victims’ injuries by forcing on them continued pregnancy and childbearing. Without access to safe abortions, their only alternatives are to commit suicide or resort to life-threatening clandestine abortions.
The right to abortion for victims of war rape arises directly from their status as ‘protected persons,’ including as the ‘wounded and sick,’ under the Geneva Conventions. States in armed conflict have the primary obligation to provide non-discriminatory medical care to the wounded and sick under common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocols I and II and customary international law. In addition, rape in situations of armed conflict has been recognized as a method of torture, and the denial of abortion to women who become pregnant as a result of being raped has also been considered to constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
TheUSabortion restrictions on humanitarian aid undermine the rights of victims of rape in armed conflict to non-discriminatory medical care including abortions. They also violate US obligations under common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions to ‘respect’ and ‘ensure respect’ for the Geneva Conventions in all circumstances. This obligation requires theU.S.to ensure its own compliance with the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, and, in addition, to take affirmative actions with respect to states that are perpetrating or supporting violations. Rather than advocating for non-discriminatory medical care for rape victims, theUSattaches its abortion prohibitions on aid to the 22 countries currently deemed to be in armed conflict.
We urge you to issue an Executive Order explicitly lifting the restrictions on abortion services for victims of war, thereby ensuring that US humanitarian aid relieves, and not perpetuates, human suffering.
Thank you for the opportunity to express our views on this important issue.