U.N. Security Council affirms Women, Peace and Security Agenda

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(New York)--Today, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2493 during the opening moments of the Security Council Annual Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and marks the tenth resolution since the adoption of resolution 1325 in 2000.

Said Rebecca Brown, Senior Director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“We commend the UN Security Council for taking action to reaffirm the rights of women and girls within the Women, Peace and Security agenda and acknowledging the devastating impact of conflict on women and girls around the world.

“Today’s strong demonstration of cross regional support of member states for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to safe abortion is vital in the face of an unprecedented level of conflict and crisis around the world and the highest levels of associated displacement on record. Current estimates indicate that over 135.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance globally. In 2015, these figures included 26 million women and girls of reproductive age, a figure most likely to have grown since.  

“The Center for Reproductive Rights also commends South Africa for its leadership and commitment to the rights of women and girls, and in particular, their sexual and reproductive health and rights during its presidency of the Council. We need UN member States to remain committed to their legal obligations to women and girls in conflict now more than ever.”

Although there is no explicit reference to sexual and reproductive health and rights or human rights defenders, resolution 2493 provides an important affirmation of the existing Women, Peace and Security agenda. Led by South Africa, 2493 both affirms Council consensus and secures the existing normative framework, including access to non-discriminatory and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services in conflict.

Next year the United Nations celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security agenda at the Security Council, the primary international body for the maintenance of international peace and security. Since this time, despite some progress at the Council and the establishment and delivery of the Minimum Services Package for reproductive health, women and girls continue to be denied their basic rights and access to essential sexual and reproductive health in conflict.

All women and girls need access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care services and information, but arguably nowhere is that need more acute than conflict affected settings. Further, access to SRH services, including abortion, have been recognized a fundamental human right. The rights of women and girls in conflict are protected by multiple, complementary bodies of international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international criminal law, and refugee law. The denial of care is a serious violation of these rights, and restrictions to non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health can lead to high rates of unsafe abortion, maternal mortality, low birthweight, miscarriage, premature labor, and sexually transmitted infections. Without access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, women and girls affected by conflict cannot access their full, meaningful and effective participation within the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.