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Panel Discussion on Somalia and the WPS Agenda

LAW organised a panel discussion on ‘Somalia and the Women, Peace and Security Agenda’ as a side event to the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. The event was hosted by the UK Mission to the United Nations in Geneva. Around 50 people, representing more than 15 countries, attended the event, which was held the at the Palais des Nations on 26 September.

Chaired by LAW Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, the esteemed panel included:

  • Somali Ambassador to the UN,  Faduma Abdullahi Mohamed;
  • Swedish Ambassador to the UN, Veronika Bard;
  • UK Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite; and
  • Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga.

The panel discussed key issues around the challenges and opportunities for Somalia’s post-conflict state-building process to pursue the Women, Peace and Security Agenda (WPS Agenda). Topics included the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill, the participation of women in Somali governance and what more the international community can do to assist Somali in implementing the WPS agenda.

In his opening remarks, UK Ambassador to the UN, Julian Braithwaite, noted “Countries in which men and women are treated more equally tend to be more stable and peaceful.” Despite recent improvements, Braithwaite also noted: “Somalia remains one of the worst places to be a women.”

At the event, LAW launched it latest short video documentary, which features a victim of rape advocating for the passage of the Somali Sexual Offences Bill. A key line from the documentary, “the laws don’t protect us,” stood out for the panellists. In respect of this, Independent Expert on Somalia, Bahame Tom Nyanduga said:

“I believe she is looking at the chaos that existed during the 20+ years of conflict. She is looking at the weakness of institutions, the police and the judiciary, and the failure to investigate violations occurring in most communities. But as she advocates for the adoption of the Sexual Offences Bill, it is a reflection of the hope I see in the people that I talk to in Somalia.”

 

Panellists welcomed recent strides in improving the status of women in Somalia. LAW’s Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey, highlighted, the marked increase in the number of female MPs and members of Cabinet in Mogadishu.

Somali Ambassador, Faduma Abdullahi Mohamed, also underscored progress in the development of Somalia’s National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which sets out the WPS Agenda. She stated:

“The challenge facing the government is not a lack of will … it is the lack of capacity and expertise. We have a strong momentum for women’s empowerment in Somalia, all we need is strong and timely support to take this agenda forward and to register tangible progress.”

 

Swedish Ambassador to the UN, Veronika Bard also described the importance of the internationalcommunity in supporting Somalia. She acknowledged that “we need to make sure nice words and principles trickle down into pragmatic action,” emphasising that there must be an awareness of rights enshrined in treaties like the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Ambassador Braithwaite echoed this, adding that outside governments must do more support local actors who can bring about the fundamental changes in culture and thinking to ensure that post-conflict laws and institutions can be effective.

The event was live-streamed on LAW’s Facebook page, where you can watch the panel discussion in full. You can watch LAW’s short video documentary, below.