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In March 2024, the WWoW team travelled to New York to take part in the UN's 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68).

Invited by the French delegation, WWoW, at the request of the Ministry for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination and the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, organised France's ministerial side-event, with the participation of Minister Aurore Bergé and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten.


What is the CSW ?

The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional Commission of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). It was established by Council Resolution 11 (II) of 21 June 1946. It is the world's principal intergovernmental body dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Each year, the CSW organises a major event bringing together government representatives, NGOs, activists and other stakeholders to discuss progress, challenges and solutions concerning the rights of women and girls worldwide. This year, the 68th session of the CSW took place from 11 to 22 March 2024. This year's priority theme was :


"Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by fighting poverty and strengthening institutions and financing from a gender perspective".


Our world is going through turbulent times, and women and girls are being hit hard. In conflict zones around the globe, women and girls are suffering most from wars waged by men.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, during the opening ceremony of the CSW68.

Our side-event

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Aurore Bergé, the French Minister for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination, opened the debate by emphasising the crucial importance of feminist diplomacy and multilateral action to overcome this global challenge.

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Today, sexual violence in conflicts persists on a widespread and systematic scale throughout the world, despite the efforts being made to remedy the situation.

Faced with this unbearable reality, it is up to the international community to come up with more effective and concerted responses. For this reason, our ambition for this event was to bring together a wide range of stakeholders, from civil society organisations and survivors to Member States, international organisations and the private sector. The aim was to draw up a comprehensive overview of the situation, to highlight the persistent challenges and to stimulate collective thinking around concrete, innovative and appropriate initiatives.

We are NOT Weapons Of War (WWoW) is honoured to have been chosen by the French Ministry for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination to organise France's CSW side event in 2024.

This event was organised by WWoW, with the support of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination, with the co-sponsorship of the Permanent Missions of France, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in partnership with the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in charge of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence:

"Conflict-related sexual violence: how can we make progress and combat impunity? What role for United Nations bodies, Member States, survivors, civil society and the private sector?


The event was marked by a series of poignant and informative speeches, which effectively highlighted the urgent need for collective action to combat conflict-related sexual violence.

Pramila Patten, SRSG on sexual violence in conflict, then highlighted an alarming 49% increase in cases of sexual violence in conflict, underlining the importance of justice and admissibility in reversing this trend, despite the challenges of resources. She announced the addition of 3 country situations to her annual report, including Israel and Burkina Faso. Finally, the SRSG stressed the need to always protect victims and to act as a sympathetic listener, in order to respond to their specific needs.

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"We are living at a time when violence against women has never been so widespread (...). The only way to reverse this trend is through justice and accountability."

Céline Bardet, President and Founder of WWoW, called for greater support for civil society and a better understanding of the situation through a global study on sexual violence linked to conflicts and crises, stressing the need to listen to and protect victims, while firmly condemning the perpetrators. She also reiterated the importance of always approaching the issue of sexual violence linked to conflicts and crises with renewed determination, overcoming the relativism of these crimes in order to protect the victims and condemn the perpetrators.

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"We must remain firm and upright, despite winds and storms, to say clearly:
One Victim. One Voice. The same, EVERYWHERE."

The complete speech by Céline Bardet (in French):

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WWoW's choice for this event was to focus on the civil society representatives, actors and survivors of the areas concerned.

The panel was also chosen to provide invaluable contributions, notably from Anastasiya Nenka, Hala Al-Karib, Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner and Erika Veloza. Anastasiya Nenka, Director of the Women's Information Consultative Center (WICC) in Ukraine, highlighted the importance of cooperation between civil society and institutions. WWoW is working with WICC in Ukraine and with Stand Speak Rise Up! to prepare a symposium in Kiev on Ukrainian civil society and survivors of sexual violence linked to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

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"Il ne faut pas continuer dans le silence et donner la voix aux survivantes, aux victimes et nous voulons le faire intégrer au droit humanitaire international." 

Hala Al-Karib, Regional Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), highlighted the disproportionate impact of the conflict in Sudan on women. She also drew attention to the lack of expert support for documenting the crimes, and in particular the sexual violence, committed in Sudan, a region that rarely makes the headlines in the media. WWoW is exploring how this documentation work can be better supported.

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"The war in Sudan is being waged on the bodies of women and girls".

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Erika Veloza, Director of the Colombian NGO Genfami, presented the work of the Peace Tribunal in Colombia, and the pioneering efforts on gender mainstreaming throughout the transitional justice process underway in Colombia. She also emphasised the importance of feminist diplomacy in securing adequate reparations for survivors, rounding off the diversity of perspectives and recommendations presented at the event.

"Sexual violence against women has had a huge impact in this very patriarchal societal context where there is a normalisation of violence against women and girls".

Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner, President of the Women's Forum, spoke of the crucial role of companies in the fight against sexual violence, the need for more ethics in business processes and the need for the private sector to be more involved in issues of sexual violence linked to conflicts and crises. Ms Heilbronner also called for better representation of women in decision-making processes and stressed the urgent need to involve men and boys in equality issues, an approach that was widely applauded.

"It is alarming to see a decline in women's rights and an increase in violence during health or climate crises and in countries in the grip of conflict or governed by extremist and fundamentalist regimes".

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Leonor Zalabata Torres, Colombia's Ambassador to the United Nations, Zénon Mukongo Ngay, the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ambassador to the United Nations, and Iryna Postolovska, Ukraine's Deputy Minister for Social Policy at the United Nations, shared their countries' specific initiatives, highlighting the importance of establishing participatory processes, creating safe environments for victims, and access to justice and reparation.

"These children are entitled to recognition, the right to health and education, reparations and psychological support. How can women and girls rebuild their lives economically when they are raped and have children, have no means of supporting themselves and find themselves isolated?"

Mildred Mapingure, a Zimbabwean survivor, spoke in a video broadcast during the event. She denounced the absence of laws and the refusal of the police to register complaints, and called for greater recognition of victims and children born of rape, highlighting the difficulties of registering civil status and the importance of reparation. This was the first time that Mildred had appeared in a video with her daughter Vimbai, born of her rape. She received a standing ovation from an emotional audience. It was important for WWoW to give a voice to survivors at this event, to remind them of the importance of giving them back a role in their own lives and not locking them into a permanent status of victim.

WWoW is very proud to have organised this year's event, described as the "blockbuster of the year" by the French Ambassador to the United Nations, Nicolas de Rivière. On 11 March, there was a very long queue outside the entrance to the room where the event was held, reflecting the interest shown by governments and civil society in the issues of sexual violence linked to conflicts and crises. The high regard in which the event was held and the positive reception it received from those who were able to attend testify to the growing interest in and topicality of the subject of sexual violence linked to conflicts and crises.

The full video of the side-event:

Parallel events

At the heart of the CSW are the parallel events organised by civil society outside the UN premises. The WWoW team attended several of them, meeting activists and agents of change from all over the world. These meetings provided an opportunity not only to explore certain topics in greater depth, but also to address issues closely related to our NGO's work on eliminating sexual and gender-based violence. WWoW took part in side-events on the situation in Gaza and Palestine, the conflict in Ukraine, access to justice, the role of men in gender equality and women's leadership in the armed forces. The week also provided an opportunity to hold a number of working meetings with the team from Pramila Patten's office, with Forum Dvora and with many other teams on site.

Expert-level meeting

We were particularly pleased that our President was invited to speak at an expert meeting on the effectiveness of UN Security Council tools to deter and penalise conflict-related and terrorism-related sexual violence at the French Mission. Participants included representatives from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), UN Women and civil society, the International Peace Institute, as well as a panel of experts from Security Council member states. The inclusion of sexual violence as a constituent element of sanctions is still underdeveloped, and the CTED has initiated significant work on these issues with the publication of several reports.
CTED's latest report on CRSV.

The issue of sanctions for CRSV linked to terrorism is one that our NGO has been working on for several years and which led to the adoption of sanctions against Libyans in 2018. WWoW wishes to continue its work against impunity for such violence, attributable to the lack of expertise within national and international systems on conflict- and crisis-related sexual violence. WWoW also welcomes CTED's announcement to develop further cooperation with civil society. 

The Counter-Terrorism Committee

In 2001, the Security Council unanimously approved resolution 1373, creating a committee dedicated to the fight against terrorism, known as the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC). The Committee is supported by an Executive Directorate (CTED), which is responsible for implementing its decisions and conducting assessments in the 193 Member States of the Organisation.

Alexandra Dier from CTED identified several key challenges regarding CRSV within the Security Council and the sanctions system. These challenges include a lack of prioritization and awareness of sexual and gender-based violence in counter-terrorism efforts, the perception of CRSV as solely a women's issue, and insufficient expertise within national systems on how to conduct investigations and ensure victim participation. Additionally, Dier emphasized the need to promote good practices by member states, such as reforming criminal laws to include cumulative charges under terrorism and international criminal law.

These obervations were confirmed by Pauline Brosch of UN Women, who underlined that there are no dedicated SGBV experts dealing with sanctions. Further, she mentioned the shocking fact that in the sanction regime of the 1267 committee dealing with ISIL, no gender issues are mentioned despite the fact that ISIL’s use of sexual vioelnce is well documented. This is similar to the Al-Shabab sanctions regime, where Brosch said that the lack of awareness is the main reason gender issues are not included. She recommended that meetings on sanctions should include briefings from experts with gender expertise and the other way around, sanctions experts should be invited to Women Peace and Security meetings.

With its expertise, WWoW can be a key actor to counter these challenges. Capacity building is one of the pillars of WWoW’s activities, with trainings for different actors such as national and international institutions, armed and police forces, civil society organisations, rights defenders and more. The expert level meeting in New York provided us with an opportunity to exchange with different stakeholders and talk about our experiences and challenges in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence.

Security Council

During this week in New York, WWoW was also able to attend the special session of the Security Council held on 11 March 2024, during which Pramila Patten presented the elements of her report on the sexual violence committed in the context of the attacks of 7 October 2023. The report concludes that there is a need for independent documentation of the sexual violence and gender-based crimes committed on 7 October.  WWoW has been working on this since November 2023.

The WWoW team in New-York

Céline Bardet, Founder and President

Marine Guyard, Expert Advisor

Lilit Grotjahn, Project officer and analyst

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