The Center for Reproductive Rights welcomes the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (HRC) adoption by consensus in Geneva today of a resolution titled “Promoting, Protecting and Respecting Women’s and Girls’ Full Enjoyment of Human Rights in Humanitarian Situations.” (See link to Spanish translation below.)
The resolution recognizes that humanitarian situations—such as those caused by conflicts and natural disasters—may cause and exacerbate gender discrimination and existing inequalities.
The resolution is the first ever to meaningfully consider women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations as a stand-alone issue, and highlights the applicability of human rights for all women and girls, in all contexts.
“Women and girls in humanitarian settings face barriers when seeking justice for the human rights violations they have endured,” said Rebecca Brown, Senior Director for Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Rights-based accountability must therefore be prioritized and we commend the core group for their leadership in putting this issue on the agenda of the Human Rights Council.”
Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Sweden, and Uruguay formed the core group behind the resolution.
In 2018, an estimated 34 million women of reproductive age, at least five million of whom were pregnant, were in need of humanitarian health assistance due to conflict, according to a recent report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and LEDAP. The Boko Haram insurgency, for instance, has resulted in hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people living in settlements in Nigeria, where there have been countless stories of abuse with no accountability. Between 2009 and 2016, according to the United Nations Population Fund, over 2.2 million people were internally displaced because of the insurgency, and as many as 7,000 women and girls abducted.
The resolution, which enjoys the support of 47 UN Member States, advances a comprehensive approach to promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations and highlights the need for accountability, as well the need for the agency and experiences of women and girls in humanitarian situations to be central in humanitarian response.
Resolution Recognizes Increased Barriers Faced by Women and Girls
This is the first resolution that gives a mandate to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights to report on a comprehensive approach to promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations.
- Acknowledges the interlinkages and complementarity of international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as the applicability of international human rights law in humanitarian situations.
- Defines humanitarian situations as situations including humanitarian emergencies, forced displacements, armed conflicts and natural disasters, including sudden-onset natural disasters, and slow-onset events.
- Recognizes that humanitarian situations have the potential to exacerbate pre-existing, or create new, patterns and structures of discrimination and inequalities, and further undermine access to health care services and information, housing, water, sanitation, education and employment, and may disrupt protection systems, resulting in a disproportionately negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights by women and girls.
- Recognizes that in humanitarian situations women and girls face increased barriers to access to justice and remedies for all human rights violations and abuses they experienced, thus hindering accountability from being ensured.
- Emphasizes the importance of women’s and girls’ meaningful participation, empowerment and leadership, including that of survivors and victims, in efforts to prevent, reduce risk of, prepare for, resolve and rebuild from humanitarian emergencies, as well as the need for a comprehensive approach to promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations.
- Requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit to the Human Rights Council at its 49th session an analytical report on a comprehensive approach to promoting, protecting and respecting women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights in humanitarian situations, including good practices, challenges and lessons learned at the national, regional and international levels, with input from all relevant stakeholders, including Member States of the United Nations, United Nations bodies, agencies, funds and programmes, the treaty bodies, the special procedures of the Council, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, and women and girls in humanitarian situations.
All women and girls in humanitarian settings urgently need sexual and reproductive health care and services. The provision of sexual and reproductive health information and services is a crucial component of rehabilitation and reparations for victims and survivors and should not be overlooked.
The Center for Reproductive Rights works on ensuring respect for, and protection and fulfillment of, women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in humanitarian situations through various projects in nations including Colombia, Nigeria and Uganda and at the global level at the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council.