Human Rights Day: Women, peace and security

On this day, 70 years later, around the world, pressure is increasing against freedom of speech, against civic space, through violent attacks, forced disappearances and punitive registration regimes. And we are asking; Les Droits de l’Homme, c’est pour quand? – Human rights – still some way to go


Human Rights Day: Women, peace and security

© photocredit

The Council adopted conclusions on women, peace and security (WPS). The Council recalls the comitments of the European Union and its member states to the full implementation of the WPS agenda, which consists of UN security council resolution 1325 and its follow-up resolutions, ensuring that it is fully integrated into all EU policies and efforts in promoting the important role of women’s engagement in support of sustainable peace, security, human rights, justice and development.

In its conclusions, the Council welcomes the new EU strategic approach to WPS. This approach emphasises the need for systematic integration of a gender perspective into all fields and activities in the domain of peace and security, and overall in EU external actions. It also emphasises the need for the EU to engage, empower, protect, and support women and girls in order to help all countries achieving sustainable and lasting peace and security as intrinsic components of human rights and sustainable development.

THE COUNCIL adopted the following Conclusions:

1. Gender equality and Human Rights are at the core of European values and constitute stand-alone priorities mainstreamed across all European Union policies. The Council recalls the commitments of the European Union and its Member States to the full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, which consists of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and its follow-up resolutions, ensuring that it is fully integrated into all EU efforts in support of sustainable peace, security, human rights, justice and development, in the context of EU cooperation with other regional and international organizations as envisaged by the EU Global Strategy. This shall be done by integrating gender perspectives into all EU policies, including security, conflict prevention and resolution, as well as long-term peace building. In this respect, the EU and its Member States support the implementation of the WPS agenda in the UN.

2. The Council welcomes the new EU Strategic Approach to Women, Peace and Security (EU Strategic Approach to WPS), which builds upon and replaces the 2008 Comprehensive Approach to the EU implementation of the UNSCRs 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security. The EU Strategic Approach to WPS emphasizes the need for concrete commitments and actions as well as the need to engage, empower, protect, and support women and girls in order to achieve sustainable and lasting peace and security as intrinsic components of human rights and sustainable development, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals and the Consensus for Development. In addition, the Council welcomes the approach of the WPS Agenda in addressing conflict-related sexual violence as part of a continuum of gender-based vulnerabilities and violence closely intertwined with persistent inequalities and broader attacks on gender equality, women’s and girls’ human rights, including online, digital and cyber violence.

3. The Council reaffirms that the WPS Agenda is to be given effect in all EU external action and as such is an important element of the Integrated Approach to external conflict and crises, given the challenges as laid out in the UN Global Study on UNSCR 1325. The Council recalls the commitment of the European Union and its Member States to continue to use gender analysis, collect disaggregated data (including but not necessarily limited to sex, age and disability) and mainstream gender perspectives as a key strategy, together with gender balance and specific actions to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, throughout all relevant policy frameworks including in the areas of foreign and security policy, development, trade, finance, humanitarian aid, migration, justice and education, as well as preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism.

4. The EU Strategic Approach to WPS identifies actions under the key areas of prevention, protection, relief and recovery and under the two overarching and cross-cutting aspects of gender mainstreaming and participation. These actions are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. The Council also welcomes that the diversity and intersecting elements of identities are acknowledged in the EU Strategic Approach to WPS including the emphasis put on its implementation by and for the benefit of all. In this context, it is important to continue to engage men and boys as positive agents for change.

5. The Council affirms that the implementation of the EU Strategic Approach to WPS should be achieved through political and diplomatic engagement of EU leadership, enabling women’s equitable and meaningful participation in all EU external action, not only on topics of women’s rights, but all action including on peace and security.

6. The Council reaffirms that the WPS Agenda aims to ensure that the rights, agency, and protection of women and girls are always observed and upheld before, during and after conflict. Thus, the WPS Agenda is universally applicable and must therefore be implemented internally within the European Union and its Member States, as well as in the external action so that actions can be coherent, credible and impactful. This will be achieved by integrating a gender perspective and women’s participation in all contexts, from conflict analysis to subsequent actions, including dialogue facilitation, mediation, peace negotiations and other conflict prevention and resolution tools. It will also be achieved by implementing specific measures, including training of military and police forces, aimed at gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

7. The Council recalls that the responsibility for the implementation of the WPS Agenda lies with the Member States as well as all other European Union actors, including the European External Action Service (EEAS), EU Delegations, the EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and WPS, the Commission services, EU Special Representatives, and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, which is crucial in the promotion and implementation of the EU Strategic Approach to WPS. It is important that the EU Strategic Approach to WPS is implemented by entities maintaining links with the EU, such as contractors or organisations funded by the European Union. The Council underlines the importance of reflecting the EU Strategic Approach to WPS in the development of National Action Plans by Member States.

8. The Council welcomes the complementarity and synergies between the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP II) and the EU Strategic Approach to WPS. The Council underlines that the EU Strategic Approach to WPS and GAP II are both relevant policy frameworks for eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence that women and girls suffer from. Furthermore, the Council encourages the EEAS and the Commission services to continue to explore simplified, user-friendly and effective ways of measuring, monitoring, evaluating and reporting progress in this area.

9. The Council further looks forward to the establishment of a concise, specific, measurable and achievable Action Plan by the first quarter of 2019 for the effective implementation and promotion of the EU Strategic Approach to WPS. This Action Plan is to be synchronised with the GAP II.

10. The Council welcomes the prospect of strengthening and establishing partnerships and alliances with other international, multilateral and regional organisations, and in particular, the proposal to establish formalised platforms for cooperation at all levels. These should include the setting-up of appropriate fora to exchange experiences, best practices and foster interaction amongst practitioners, including gender advisors and WPS focal points, as well as supporting existing networks of women mediators for the effective and sustainable implementation of the EU Strategic Approach to WPS.

11. The Council welcomes the inclusive process followed for the preparation and drafting of the EU Strategic Approach on WPS through dialogue with Commission services, EU Member States, Gender Advisors from the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, civil society partners, representatives of academia and other multilateral and regional partners. An inclusive approach should remain as the standard working practice also for future drafting processes.

12. The Council underlines the importance of the close engagement and cooperation with third countries, partners, and civil society, including local, regional and international civil society organisations, grassroots activists and women’s rights organisations, at all stages of implementation of the EU Strategic Approach to WPS and throughout the policy cycle, from design to evaluation. Such cooperation should take place in an inclusive and objective manner.

13. The Council invites the High Representative to come back to report on the activities and progress of the EU Informal Taskforce on Women, Peace and Security and on the most effective ways and concrete steps to achieve the overarching EU objectives on gender equality, women’s empowerment and the full implementation of the WPS agenda.


§ NATO/EAPC Policy on Strategic Approach to Women, Peace and Security [2018]

§ EU Statement – United Nations Security Council: Promoting the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda and Sustaining Peace through Women’s Political and Economic Empowerment, [25 October 2018]

Declaration by  the EU on Human Rights Day

10 December 2018 – On this day, 70 years ago, the Member States of the United Nations came together to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This step brought the world together after the greatest tragedy in human history. We have come a long way since then.

The Universal Declaration has proven to be the cornerstone of international human rights law on which many countries have built a strong and resilient human rights architecture. Today, the number of people living in good human rights conditions is higher than ever in the history of mankind. The Universal Declaration’s 70th anniversary is an opportune moment to look closer at how human rights have had an overall impact on our societies.

This is why together with partner countries from different parts of the world, the European Union launched this year the ‘Good Human Rights Stories’ initiative – showing to the world that promoting and respecting human rights allow our societies to grow stronger and more resilient.

While reflecting on these stories can be a source of hope and optimism, we cannot take human rights for granted. We know the struggles that are still taking place across the world: the human rights violations, the undermining of democracy and the shrinking space for civil society.

Ever since the adoption of the Universal Declaration, civil society and human rights defenders have contributed to the promotion and protection of human rights through peaceful dialogue and building pluralistic democracies.

Around the world, pressure is increasing against freedom of speech, against civic space, through violent attacks, forced disappearances and punitive registration regimes. The EU remains a staunch supporter of civil society and we will continue our efforts to act and speak out against harassment and intimidation of civil society, including women and youth organisations. Support for human rights defenders, including women human rights defenders, is at the core of the EU’s external human rights policy and one of its major priorities. The EU is the leading worldwide donor to local civil society organisations, providing €2 billion each year, two thirds of the global support.

On this day, the EU also reaffirms its firm commitment to the multilateral human rights system as the platform for the international community to best address human rights violations and to seek accountability, both at international and regional level. By implementing the international human rights framework within our Union, we hold ourselves to the same standards that we expect from our partner countries across the world. This includes our continuous quest to improve the human rights situation at home and abroad.

By doing so, we continue to honour the commitment made 70 years ago, at the heart of which lie the fundamental fact that all human beings are born free and equal, and the notion that we all need to act in a spirit of respect and solidarity.

Federica Mogherini
the High Representative

§ Promoting and protecting human rights [background information]

§ Déclaration de la haute représentante, Mme Federica Mogherini, au nom de l’Union européenne, à l’occasion de la Journée des droits de l’homme, le 10 décembre 2018 [Version française]

* Belgium MFA Didier Reynders welcomes conclusions of Foreign Affairs Council on Women, Peace and Security – Didier Reynders se félicite des conclusions du Conseil des affaires étrangères sur les femmes, la paix et la sécurité – Didier Reynders tevreden met conclusies raad Buitenlandse Zaken over ‘vrouwen, vrede en veiligheid’ [Full Textes]

* #StandUp4HumanRights | 70ste verjaardag van Universele Verklaring van de Rechten van de Mens | 70e anniversaire de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme | 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [Full Textes]

Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Cartooning for Peace present a preview of the exhibition

With 30 newspaper cartoons, the exhibition reminds us of the relevance of the Universal Declaration against a background in which its values and principles are currently under serious threat.

The preview of the Cartooning for Peace exhibition will take place on 10 December 2018, International Human Rights Day, at the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs in Paris.


* Beginning of a partnership between Cartooning for Peace and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

* Preview on 10 December 2018 at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs

* Travelling exhibition as from 2019, including Strasbourg

* 31 panels with drawings by international cartoonists who are members of Cartooning for Peace

* Publication entitled “Les Droits de l’Homme, c’est pour quand?” (“Human rights – still some way to go”), with a preface by Christiane Taubira, former French Minister for Justice, Cartooning for Peace collection, Éditions Gallimard

Cartooning for Peace

Set up in 2006 on the initiative of Kofi Annan, Nobel Prize for Peace winner and former UN Secretary General, and the cartoonist, Plantu, Cartooning for Peace is an international network of cartoonists committed to promoting freedom of expression, human rights and mutual respect between peoples of different cultures and beliefs through the universal language of newspaper cartoons. [Cartooning for Peace]


§ La Commissaire Dunja Mijatović, le Ministère français de l’Europe et des Affaires étrangères et Cartooning for Peace présentent en avant-première l’exposition [Les Droits de l’Homme, c’est pour quand ?]

OECD: Discriminatory laws and social norms still hamper gender equality

The pace of progress on gender equality around the world remains slow, despite advances in some countries, according to the 2019 edition of the Social Institutions and Gender Index [SIGI]

Since the last edition of the SIGI in 2014, 14 countries criminalised domestic violence and 15 countries strengthened their legal frameworks to delay the age of first marriage by eliminating legal exceptions allowing girls to marry. Similarly, some social norms that are detrimental to equality have become less prominent. For instance, social acceptance of domestic violence has decreased respectively from 50% in 2012 to 37% in 2014 and 27% in 2018.

However, in many of the 180 countries covered by the database, political commitments, legal reforms and gender-sensitive programmes are still not being translated into real changes for women and girls. Despite regional variations, gender-based discrimination remains stubbornly persistent and hard to address. Throughout the world, 16% of girls aged 15-19 have been married before turning 18 in 2018 compared to 19% in 2012. At this pace, it will take over 100 years to eradicate girl child marriage.

“The last few years have seen an unprecedented surge in support for women’s rights. And as much as  acknowledging the facts is a decisive step forward, now is the time to turn the rhetoric about gender equality and women’s empowerment into action”, said Juan Yermo, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’ Secretary-General, while presenting  the fourth edition of the OECD Development Centre’ SIGI today in Brussels.

First launched in 2009, the database looks at the gaps that legislation, attitudes and practices create between women and men when it comes to rights and opportunities. It also points at where more efforts are needed to achieve effective equality. The SIGI covers four dimensions in the areas that affect the life course of women and girls. Specifically, the new data highlights progress and remaining challenges regarding women’s rights in the family (e.g. early marriage), physical integrity (e.g. female genital mutilation, violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights), access to productive and financial assets (e.g. access to land, workplace rights), and civil rights (e.g. political representation).

This fourth update of the SIGI contains a new cross-country ranking which classifies 120 countries according to their level of discrimination in social institutions; 180 individual country notes including comprehensive information on legal frameworks and action plans to protect women’s rights and promote gender equality; and a new database summarising all discriminatory laws, social norms and practices worldwide.

The new data points out the importance of enforcing new legislation to enhance equality and abolish discriminatory laws, including through gender-transformative programmes and action plans. Laws -what is legally feasible – and social norms – what is socially acceptable – are double-edged swords for women: they can act as either barriers or drivers of change. Social expectations on gender roles still stigmatise working mothers and women in politics, negatively affecting their economic and political leadership: globally, half of the population believes than children will suffer when their mother does paid work outside the home, and that men make better political leader than women. Similarly, laws continue to subordinate women’s status to their husband’s authority: 41 countries recognise the man solely as the head of household; 27 countries legally require women to obey their husbands; 24 countries require women to have permission of their husbands or of a so-called legal guardian (brother, father) to choose a profession or work.

Drawing on the wake-up call carried out by thousands of women around the world, progress has been made, but the path towards achieving gender equality remains slow. Gender-based discrimination remains a lifelong and heterogeneous challenge for women and girls. Locally designed solutions combined with adequate legislation are needed for more social change to take hold. SIGI’s new Policy Simulator enables policy makers to explore reform options and assess their likely effects on gender equality in social institutions. It enables users to compare a specific country with a range of other selected countries.

>> More information on SIGI 2019

§ [Access the SIGI 2019 results: ]

§ [180 country notes: ]

§ [The Gender, Institutions and Development Database (GIDDB 2019):]

§ [Policy Simulator]

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