Engendering the Responsibility to Protect: Women and the Prevention of Mass Atrocities

in Global Responsibility to Protect
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This article explores the relationship between the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the pursuit of the so-called ‘Women, Peace and Security’ (WPS) agenda at the UN. We ask whether the two agendas should continue to be pursued separately or whether each can make a useful contribution to the other. We argue that while the history of R2P has not included language that deliberately evokes the protection of women and the promotion of gender in preventing genocide and mass atrocities, this does not preclude the R2P and WPS agendas becoming mutually reinforcing. The article identifies cross-cutting areas where the two agendas may be leveraged for the UN and member states to address the concerns of women as both actors in need of protection and active agents in preventing and responding to genocide and mass atrocities, namely in the areas of early warning.




A/60/L.1, 20 September 2005, paras. 138-140. See Ban Ki-Moon, “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, Report of the Secretary-General.”


ICISS 2001a: 15.


ICISS 2001a: xii, 32, emphasis added.


Bond and Sherret 2006: 22.


 See Charlesworth, 2010: 240-243.


Ban Ki-Moon, “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, Report of the Secretary-General.” p. 11.


Ban Ki-Moon, “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, Report of the Secretary-General.” p. 16.


Charlotte Bunch, “Women and Gender,” in The Oxford Handbook of the United Nations, ed. Thomas Weiss and Sam Daws (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).


Charlesworth, 2010: 243.


Bunch, “Women and Gender.” p. 500.


Jeffrey Gettleman, “Rape Epidemic Raises Trauma of Congo War,” New York Times 7 October 2007.; Rachel Bonham Carter, “'Stop Rape Now': Un Agencies against Sexual Violence as a Tactic or War,” (UNICEF, 5 March 2007).


In early 2008, the General Assembly adopted a resolution urging states to take special measures to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of sexual violence. In February 2008 the Secretary-General launched UNiTE, a multi-year campaign aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women and girls. See A/RES/62/134, “Eliminating Rape and Other Forms of Sexual Violence in All Their Manifestations, Including in Conflict and Related Situations,” (United Nations General Assembly, 7 February 2008)., and http://www.un.org/en/women/endviolence/about.shtml


Rehn and Sirleaf, “Women, War, Peace: The Independent Experts' Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women's Role in Peace-Building.” pp. 112-113.


United States Government, National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (Washington: The White House, 2011), pp.7, 20. Accessed online at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/US_National_Action_Plan_on_Women_Peace_and_Security.pdf


S/RES/1960, 16 December 2010, Point 3.


Ban Ki-Moon, “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect, Report of the Secretary-General.” p.14.


Eve Ensler, “Ten Radical Acts for Congo in the New Year,” Huffington Post 11 January 2010.


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