Protecting Women’s Rights in Conflict: New Developments and Next Steps in the Synergy Between CEDAW and the WPS Agenda

Citation: O’Rourke, C. and Swaine, A. (2020). Protecting Women’s Rights in Conflict: New Developments and Next Steps in the Synergy Between CEDAW and the WPS Agenda. LSE Women, Peace and Security Working Paper Series, 26/2020. London: Centre for Women, Peace and Security, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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About: In 2013, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted its landmark General Recommendation No. 30 on the rights of women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations. The General Recommendation was significant for several reasons, not least because – for the first time – it brought the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee into direct conversation with the Women, Peace and Security agenda (WPS) of the UN Security Council. Writing in 2015 and in 2018, we identified the pursuit of synergies between CEDAW and WPS as a unique and important new opportunity to redress several of the identified shortcomings of the WPS agenda as defined and implemented by the UN Security Council. Principally, we identified these as, first, to enhance state accountability for the WPS agenda; second, to refocus WPS on women’s equality and rights, and to challenge narrower and more securitised definitions of women’s rights in the WPS agenda; and finally, to offer broader and more meaningful opportunities for civil society participation in influencing and implementing the WPS agenda.

We commence with an introduction to the legal, institutional and practical relationships between CEDAW and its Committee and the UN Security Council and its WPS agenda. Since our initial writings, the pursuit of CEDAW-WPS synergies has gathered significant momentum in three essential directions: from within the UN, most notably from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Informal Experts Group on WPS; from CEDAW state parties, in particular through their National Action Plans on WPS; and from civil society. In this working paper, we outline these developments, reflect on their efficacy, and offer suggestions for their further strengthening.

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