Friday, February 26, 2010


…To this end, we call on the Governments of the world to encourage women everywhere to take a more active part in national and international affairs, and on women who are conscious of their opportunities to come forward and share in the work of peace and reconstruction as they did in war and resistance. “Eleanor Roosevelt, in his open letter addressed to ‘the women of the world’ during the inaugural meeting of the UN General Assembly in London, February 1946 where he was a delegate of the United States of America. 

Historical Background of Women’s Charter and CSW
Prior to the above Roosevelt’s noteworthy remark, the UN Charter on the Advancement of Women was signed in 1945 in San Francisco, interestingly by mainly men representatives (only 4 women out of the 160 signatories). Few days after the signing of the Charter, a sub-commission was established under the Commission on Human Rights to look into the status of women. Upon start of work, the first Chairperson of the sub-Commission, Bodil Bosterup, a Danish re-echoed the necessity as been claimed by many women and Non-Governmental Organisations for the setting up of a separate body specially dedicated to women’s issues. The Chairperson requested the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in May 1946 for a change to full commission status. In her efforts to pursue her case further, Bosterup said “Women’s problems have now for the first time in history to be studied internationally as such and to be given the social importance they ought to have, And it would be, in the opinion of this Sub-Commission of experts in this field, a tragedy to spoil this unique opportunity by confusing the wish and the facts. Some situations can be changed by laws, education, and public opinion, and the time seems to have come for happy changes in conditions of women all over the world”
The efforts of these women and their NGO partners was actualized on 21 June 1946, when the Sub-Commission was formally transformed into a full-fledge body called Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The commission was aimed at ensuring women’s equality and to promote women’s rights. Its mandate was to “prepare recommendations and reports to the Economic and Social Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields” and to make recommendations “on urgent problems requiring immediate attention in the field of women’s rights.” Shortly thereafter, the Section on the Status of Women of the United Nations Secretariat—which later became the Division for the Advancement of Women in 1978—was established in the Human Right’s Division of the United Nations to provide secretarial functions.
This proceeded the first meeting of the CSW in February 1947 in Lake Success, New York. It’s interesting to note that during this meeting all the 15 government representatives were women and this gave the Commission the unique character of gathering a majority of women delegates ever.
February 1947 session, the Commission also forged a close relationship with nongovernmental organizations. Several international women’s organizations addressed the Commission at the first session, and from then on, non-governmental organizations in consultative status with ECOSOC were invited to participate as observers. In the 1950’s, the average number of NGOs attending the Commission’s sessions rose to 30 and then 50. The openness of the Commission to civil society has continued up to the present time, and has allowed many NGOs’ contributions to be incorporated in its agreed conclusions and UN resolutions.
During the period 1946-1962, the Commission focused its attention on promoting women’s rights and equality by setting standards and formulating international conventions aiming at changing discriminatory legislation and fostering global awareness of women’s issues. However, the codification of the legal rights of women needed to be supported by data and analysis of the extent to which discrimination against women existed, not only in law but also in practice. The Commission, thus embarked on what could be referred to as a global research and polling of efforts to assess the status of women worldwide. Several questionnaires and studies were launched in order to collect information on the legal Status of women, their access to education, work opportunities and civil rights.
Member States provided the Commission with statistics, while non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other UN agencies provided additional information, especially of a more qualitative nature. These fact- finding efforts produced a detailed, country-by country picture of the political and legal status of women, which over time became the basis for drafting human right instruments.
The Beginning of Greater Awareness on Women’s Issues
The l960s and l970s were a time of profound change in the United Nations, whose membership had begun to expand dramatically with the emergence of newly independent nations. The organization began widening its focus to include the concerns of developing nations. The 1960s and early 1970s also saw the emergence in many parts of the world of a greater awareness of discrimination against women, and a rise in the number of organizations committed in combating those discrimination. The mushrooming international women’s movement influenced the approaches to women and development within the UN, thereby compelling the Commission to increase its focused on the role of women in development, both as beneficiaries and as agents of change.
As evidence began to accumulate in the 1960s that women were disproportionately affected by poverty, the work of the Commission centred on women’s needs in community and rural development, agricultural work, among others. The Commission encouraged the UN to expand its technical assistance to further the advancement of women, especially in developing countries. This call was further influenced by a 1970 study on Women’s Role in Economic Development. In 1968, long-term Commission member Helvi Sipilä, a representative from Finland, was nominated as special Rapporteur for the Status of Women and Family Planning Project and in this capacity launched numerous studies on the subject. The Commission also appointed a Special Rapporteur to report on ways to eliminate stereotypes in the mass media portrayal and coverage of women and girl child issues.
In an effort to consolidate standards on women’s rights that had been developed since
1945, the General Assembly requested the Commission in 1963 to draft a Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Four years on, the declaration came to light. On November 7, 1967, the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was ultimately adopted by the Genera] Assembly. However, the declaration didn’t achieve much because it was seen as a mere ‘Statement of Intent’. Their reporting procedure was voluntary, and thus the level of response from Governments was low. There was the need for a legally binding Convention that defined women’s rights—the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was ultimately adopted in 1979.
In the follow-up to a recommendation from the World Conference of the International Women’s Year, the UN declared 1976-1985 the United Nations Decade for Women
Equality, Development and Peace. The Decade contributed to bringing legitimacy to the international women’s movement, and moved women’s issues forward on the global agenda. Over the course of the decade, the belief that development served to advance women shifted to a new recognition that development was not possible without women.
The period 1986-1995 was considered as era of Putting Women on the Global Agenda. In 1987, the Commission began to meet annually instead of biennially. It took the lead in coordinating and promoting the UN system’s work on economic and social issues for women’s empowerment when the General Assembly mandated it to monitor the global implementation of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women. As a result, the Commission’s efforts shifted to promote women’s equality as a cross-cutting theme in economic development, human rights, political, cultural as well as social policy issues. Its approach was to deal with women’s issues as part of the mainstream rather than as a separate issue. The late l980s and early l99Os, the Commission, the CEDAW Committee and the Commission on Human Rights brought the issue of violence against women (which were then considered as a private matter, rather than a public or a human right issue requiring government or international action) to the forefront of the international agenda. This was encouraged by an active NGO movement that saw this issue as a major organizing tool for the women’s movement. The Commission undertook the drafting of the Declaration for the Elimination of Violence against Women in the early 1990s.
As the preparatory body for the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, the Commission was mandated by the General Assembly to play a central role in monitoring, within the UN system, the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and advised the Economic and Social Council. Multi-year programmes of work for the Commission were decided for 1997-2001 and 2002-2006, under which the Commission reviewed each of the 12 critical areas of concern, making recommendations on concrete measures to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action.
The 53 Commission on the Status of Women (53rd CSW)
Throughout its sixty three years of existence and its fifty third sessions, the Commission on the Status of Women has consistently promoted the advancement of women. It has been instrumental in expanding the recognition of women’s rights, in documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, in shaping global policies on gender equality and empowerment of women and in ensuring that the work of the UN in all areas incorporates a gender perspective. It continues to play a critical role by bringing together governments, UN entities, NGOs, and other international and regional organizations to promote women’s rights and advance gender equality.
The 53rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was held in New York from 2’ to 13th March 2009. The session brought together participants representing Governments and Non-Governmental Organizations all over the world. In an effort to incorporate a gender perspective, the 2009 session being the 53rd, has its theme as “equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men including care giving in the context of HI V/AIDS”. The session witnessed various presentations around the theme from governments and non government entities. Other sessions focused on policy issues, governance and actions already taken by government and their agencies in connection to the theme.
Whilst governments sessions were more focus and directed towards governance and policy issues facing various continents, regions and governments, the non governmental organizations and other civil society organizations, are more concerned with the implementation of those policy issues, advocacy for policy pronouncements and implementation.
The Gambia, which was represented by personnel from government including Her Excellency the Vice President Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy and other high profile representatives and Non-governmental organisations, have a lot of good and similar practices in relation to the theme of the 53 CSW. However, the scope and scale is minor and therefore needs more expansion and active involvement of male especially on State run events and programs so as to enable the male counterpart become more active and committed to the fulfilment of women’s rights specifically, their economic, social and political empowerment.
Personal Recommendation for Further Events
Ø It’s always good for those participating in the CSW from the same country to team up as one delegation and strategies on who to attend which session and what to contribute. Meaning, the Gambia’s delegations from both government and NGO would teamed up and divide themselves on different thematic issues Most counties at the session has country delegation that employed this strategy and share a debriefing session at the end of the day
Ø The delegation to the CSW should always be more than one. There are so many interesting events being organized at the same time and so if there is more than one representative it would be easier for the delegates to attend as much forum as possible.
Ø There were side events organized by country’s permanent mission to the UN in collaboration with its national and international NGOs, and civil society organizations. In this kind of events, country specific experiences are shared from government and non government entities. Most Countries’ permanent missions had organized side events; such as Nigeria and Philippines. It would be great if The Gambia could do the same and use the platform to share experiences and challenges on the status of women.
Ø It is absolutely important for countries to gather data and shared them in audio visual forms. People are more likely to listen and watch audio visual materials than just verbal or power point presentations. Even though I shared the findings of the situational analysis I conducted before attending the session, people wanted to have copies of it in CDs because it is much easier to carry and store.
Ø It is always advantageous and good for first time delegate to the CSW to be chaperone/mentored/coach by someone who had participated in the event before. This will help the new recruit to understand how the whole process works. I was grateful I had the opportunity to be briefed adequately about this meeting.
The Author (Muskuta Badjie) is a Staff of the Child Protection Alliance and member of the Gender Action Team of the Gambia. She was an NGO Representative to the 53rd Commission on the Status of Women. Her participation was funded by African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHR S).

source: Foroyya

Statement delivered by Fatou Bom Bensouda at The Gambia Bar Conference "Legal Practice in the 21st Century"

, February 23, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for being here, and thank you to the Gambian Bar Association for this kind invitation.
60 years ago, with the Nuremberg Trials, for the first time, those who committed massive crimes were held accountable before the international community. For the first time, the victors of a conflict chose the law to define responsibilities. In the word of the Nuremberg Prosecutor Justice Robert H. Jackson:
"That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injure stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgement of law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason."
Nuremberg was a landmark. However the world was not ready to transform such a landmark into a lasting institution. The Cold war produced massive crimes in Europe, Latin America, and Asia; Africa was still under the rule of colonialism and apartheid.
In the end, the world would wait for almost half a century after Nuremberg, and would witness again two genocides - first in the Former Yugoslavia, and then in Rwanda - before the Security Council decided to create the ICTY and the ICTR, thus connecting peace and international justice again.
The contribution of the ad hoc Tribunals is yet to be fully recognized and measured. They developed the law, prosecuted the worst perpetrators, Generals, members of Governments. They contributed to restore lasting peace in conflict-torn regions. 
The ad hoc tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda paved the way for the decision to establish a permanent criminal court.
The International Criminal Court is a new instrument of peace in a world where conflicts transcend borders. The ICC is not only about altruism, it is also about our self-interest. If States don't deal with massive crimes, there are no safe borders for the global community. A global problem needs a global solution. The ICC is more than a Court; it is a comprehensive and global criminal justice system.
In Rome in 1998, participants including civil society and countries with different legal traditions debated the creation of the Rome Statute from different perspectives, but all shared the same sense that this Conference was not just an exercise in putting ideas on paper. They knew that the new legal design would profoundly impact the way international relations are governed. Accountability and the rule of law would be the framework.
Under the Rome Statute, substantive law has been codified into one detailed text; States have reaffirmed their duty to prosecute the worst criminals; an independent, impartial and permanent International Criminal Court has been established; and authority has been vested in the Court to intervene if States fail to carry out their own responsibility to conduct genuine proceedings, while at the same time providing an incentive to States to assert their own responsibilities in the cause of international justice. The Court is complementary to national jurisdictions. But let us understand well the meaning of complementarity: if the States do not prosecute those most responsible, the ICC will do it. Impunity is not an option.
Furthermore, the drafters of the Rome Statute clearly recognized the intrinsic link between justice and peace. As stated in the Rome Statute Preamble, by putting an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, the Court can and will contribute to the prevention of such crimes, thus having a deterrent effect.
Today, we are building a global community; new technologies and globalization have deeply contributed to this evolution. Communities and people that were isolated before are today coming together, exchanging and communicating at a tremendous speed.
This global community has also led to the consolidation of global criminality. Global crimes, that transcend borders, that affect entire regions and continents, but with no global government to fight it, and with poor institutional backing. With prevailing impunity.
The current global governance system is using old techniques against new threats. New models need to emerge.
The ICC and the Rome Statute are one of them: creating global governance without a global government but with global/international law and courts.
New challenges require new models. The Rome Statute defined three crimes that required global regulation ? genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It called in its Preamble for the need "to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of [the most serious crimes of concern to the international community] and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes."
There is a need for innovative, strong and consistent diplomatic and political action by all actors to ensure compliance with the Court's decision. When it comes to perpetrators of massive crimes, there should be only one answer: the full and transparent implementation of the law.
I will focus primarily on sketching out what challenges the Office of the Prosecutor, as an organ of the ICC, has faced in investigating and prosecuting crimes in the context of complex modern conflicts. 
1. The most challenging area for the ICC and the OTP is cooperation. The Rome Statute establishes a comprehensive regime for the repression of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. However, while the Court has the necessary judicial powers, it does not have an independent mechanism to enforce its decisions. Accordingly, the successful implementation of its work depends on cooperation with the international community, in particular States Parties - although our needs often need to be met by States which are not part of the Rome system. Cooperation is necessary, for instance, in assisting the Court with the protection of victims and witnesses, the execution of warrants of arrest, the transfer of suspects to the Court as well as logistical and administrative matters.
While cooperation in these fields is requested primarily from the territorial States, we have seen how the support of other States and organisations, particularly that of the UN in the context of the DRC, will often be essential to achieving arrests. 
While it is for the relevant actors to decide how best to facilitate arrests, we have in particular called on all State Parties to consider the following:   
(1) Support to those States on whose territory suspects are located through, for example: sharing information on suspect tracking; logistical support and specialised training for arrest operations;
(2) Investigating issues of supply and support and tackling these networks through domestic or international action, for example UN Security Council sanctions and freezing assets;
(3) Including, where feasible, provisions enabling cooperation with efforts to bring to justice individuals responsible for crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court within the mandate of relevant peacekeeping missions (and ensuring that the necessary resources are provided to effect arrests); and
(4) Creating operational groups comprised of relevant States and organisations to exchange information and coordination on military and diplomatic efforts to secure arrests.
Let me re-emphasize here that the assistance and support of States Parties and other international actors is indispensable for the Court to function effectively.
I would like to point out that 30 African States are State parties to the Rome Statute, which clearly demonstrates the high level of responsibility expressed by the African States, including the Gambia. ICC core values are consistent with African norms. Furthermore, it is clear that even those African countries that are not yet States Parties to the Statute share our objective of working for greater accountability.
2. Another challenge faced by the OTP specifically relates to how to initiate its investigations. For the Prosecutor and myself, our mandate is clear. We have to apply the law.  As an independent Prosecutor, with propio motu powers, the Prosecutor has the responsibility to select the cases of the Court. This was seen in Rome as the most sensitive of issues. But selection of cases is, at the end of the day, straightforward. The Prosecutor investigates those most responsible for the most serious crimes of the gravest situations under our jurisdiction. Nothing more. Nothing less. That is what we did and what we will continue to do.
As a result of the application of the law, we are prosecuting Thomas Lubanga for recruiting child soldiers.
We are prosecuting Joseph Kony and other leaders of the LRA for abducting children and transforming them into sexual slaves and killers.
We are prosecuting Germain Katanga and Matthew Ngudjolo for killing and raping civilians.
We are prosecuting Jean-Pierre Bemba, for a campaign of rapes and pillages.
We are prosecuting Harun and Kushayb for attacking civilians in villages.
We have requested an arrest warrant against Al Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
We are prosecuting Abu Garda for attacking AU peacekeepers in Haskanita on 29 September 2007.
As announced late November, we are seeking authorization from the Court?s Judges to open an investigation proprio motu regarding the situation in Kenya and the crimes committed during the post-election violence in December 2007.
We are also carrying out analysis activities in four continents, including in Colombia, Palestine, Georgia and Afghanistan.
3. As a permanent Court, we have to work in situations of ongoing conflict, which is also a constant and considerable challenge. In fact the challenges continue to increase in scope: in Uganda, the investigation proceeded in the midst of violence. In Ituri, we proceeded as local institutions had entirely collapsed. Darfur was the most difficult challenge: it was entirely impossible to protect witnesses in Darfur.
4. In the Courtroom, we are setting the framework for entirely new procedures:
- Victims are participating at all stages, with a right to send information to the Prosecutor to form the basis of the opening of an investigation, and to present their views and concerns during proceedings; they will benefit from a comprehensive system of reparations.
- Witnesses and victims are protected in accordance with statutory requirements while at the same time information is disclosed to defendants; it is a key part of fair trial concept; and one of the most serious challenges we are faced with. Over the last four years, no ICC witnesses or staff have been wounded or killed. This must remain so.
This Court is building the foundations of an international criminal system for centuries, based on the highest standards. This is justice done and not only seen to be done. Fair trials are the cornerstone of our legitimacy.
Possible perspectives on how the ICC and the Gambian Bar Association  can work together
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the long term, the success of the Rome Statute will be the effective prosecution of these crimes at the national level and the prevention of such crimes through ending impunity around the world. This is an area in which I believe we can work together, since our separate mandates can complement each other. One of the tasks of the Prosecutor is to make it clear to States that he will do his part, but that a positive understanding of the idea of complementarity is essential. It is the key to the success of the system.
What does this mean in practice?
1. We firmly believe that a positive understanding of complementarity means making sure that firstly the Court is taken seriously as an enforcer of the Statute. We believe that we have after five years now crossed a critical threshold where the public and in particular governments realise that the rules have changed and that they have to act. This means for instance implementing the provisions of the Rome Statute into national legislations. This is an area in which the Gambian Bar Association can contribute in a crucial manner.
2. This is the first and necessary aspect of building the system. Secondly, we have created the practice of being as transparent as possible so that States and the public in general will know whether there are situations which may require investigations to be carried out. This gives the relevant States an appropriate opportunity to act: it also allows the public, and victims in particular, to organise themselves and do whatever they feel is correct either in relation to national proceedings or international proceedings.
3. A third thing that the Office can do and has done in the past is to use its access and experience to help broker certain kinds of assistance to national prosecution and judicial authorities. In all of the countries where we are engaged there are efforts to strengthen local justice systems. Wherever possible we have tried to contribute meaningfully in the light of our experiences to those developing such programs so that areas of particular priority might be strengthened and allow the national authorities as quickly as possible to be in a position to carry out genuine national proceedings.
4. The fourth thing that we can do that is addressed by the Statute is that we can provide information to national authorities that we have obtained in the course of our investigations. We are of course willing to do that but any such information will only ever be transmitted if we are satisfied that the security of witnesses can be adequately addressed by the national authorities in question. The Bar Association?s efforts to develop and strengthen the national legal system are complementary to this issue. We have a statutory duty to protect our witnesses and we will always take that duty extremely seriously and avoid putting them in danger.
There are some limits to the kinds of activities we can undertake in trying to make the system of the Rome Statute effective. We must maintain an objective relationship with national authorities because we must be in a position to evaluate impartially the genuine nature of their efforts. Here again, the Gambian Bar Association work regarding the promotion of the rule of law and the development of domestic legal systems can complement ours.
5. We can also work together in more general terms in order to enforce accountability for those who bear the greatest responsibility for the most serious crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court; the ICC could also benefit from the Gambian Bar Association's support in its outreach activities towards victims and affected communities in areas of concern for the Association.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Africans, we have drawn a universal lesson from the terrible crimes that have plagued our families, our communities, our continent; impunity is not an academic, abstract notion. This is true for Northern Uganda, Eastern Congo, the Central African Republic, Rwanda and Darfur.  Impunity and the continuation of crimes are obstacles facing all actors engaged in helping Darfurians.
For our part, as the OTP, we stand ready to discuss mutual concerns and areas of common interest. We have met in several occasions with lawyers in Africa in various fora; lawyers engaged in the promotion of international criminal justice and the need to put an end to impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the ICC. The OTP has also developed over the years informal cooperation networks with different partners, such as civic organizations, NGOs, academia, lawyers' associations...
We would be happy to look on how the Gambian Bar Association and the ICC can work together in order to enforce our mandates and support each other's work. I would be interested to hear your views on this.
Thank you for your attention.
Source: Picture: Fatou Bom Bensuda

Violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and lives.