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Our analysis suggests that gender inequality indices alone are as likely to identify risk of SGBV atrocities. This leads us to the view that related early warning frameworks must regularly engage with gender-specific indicators, Of course, attention to genderspecific indicators is insufficient for effective early warning frameworks, but so too is it insufficient for gender-specific indicators to be continually excluded from these frameworks. Cooperation between different agencies and mandates is required in order to use these frameworks to undertake preventative actions in high-risk situations.
At this stage, we argue, the logic for suggesting such analysis could be best promoted by the alignment of the R2P and WPS agendas.
Conclusion It was right to argue in the past that R2P paid little attention to hard-won advances by WPS advocates in the three pillars of prevention, participation and protection. While the two agendas remain distinct in terms of their definition and scope of their application, a shared interest in prevention of atrocities in the first place is an important cross-cutting theme. The risk, at present, is that both communities ignore potential complementarities stemming from this shared ambition, and thereby miss chances to bring interested and engaged partners together to promote the prevention of atrocities. Without an alliance, evidence-gathering exercises and advocacy for preventative action will remain disjointed. Moreover, connections from shared data, shared evidence and shared policy responses amongst the R2P and WPS communities could address, as we see above, the gaps in understanding the relationship between gender-based human rights abuses, gender inequality and the commission of mass atrocities.
The obligation of states, as well as regional and international organizations, to fulfill their ‘responsibility to protect’ requires gendered participation in the prevention and mitigation of mass atrocities. The main message from the R2P principle post-2005 has been to advance efforts on the prevention of mass atrocities. As SecretaryGeneral Ban Ki-Moon noted at the 2013 UN General Assembly Informal Interactive
Dialogue on ‘The Responsibility to Protect – State Responsibility and Prevention’:
‘Let us…remember that the responsibility to protect seeks not only to protect populations at the eleventh hour but, first and foremost, to prevent crises from erupting at all’ (Ban 2013c). The WPS agenda has established an equally strong record in advocating for political will to address gender inequality as a conflict prevention measure.
However, in the area of mass atrocities crimes – which can occur outside of the conflict environment – understanding how gender inequality heightens risk of these crimes and how to bring gender-based atrocity crimes to the attention of the UN Security Council has remained politically challenging. The challenge is for the Security Council to agree to be briefed on SGBV atrocities outside of armed conflict, which will likely persist if gender inequality remains a relatively unacknowledged indicator of risk in early warning frameworks – as stated in the recent UN SecretaryGeneral’s report on R2P (Ban 2013b: 5, 7-8). Existing early warning frameworks have little ability to establish the relationship between gender inequality and the risk of mass atrocities that could have been of particular assistance in recent situations such as Mali, Syria and Central African Republic, where widespread and systematic targeting of women and men for sexual torture, rape and slavery was reportedly deployed against ethnic and political groups prior to the onset of these conflicts (Ban 2012b).
Therefore, we propose, as a first step that the WPS and R2P communities, primarily located in New York, should be brought together to discuss shared areas of focus and cases of mutual concern. This could be facilitated as a working group on women and R2P – a suggestion put forward by the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. There must also be deeper engagement with gender inequality, gendered discrimination and the role of the R2P principle in assisting states to address these human rights violations. It would be an important step forward for R2P friendly states to specifically address this issue at their annual Ministerial Meeting of the Responsibility to Protect, organized by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect, undated).
The Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Special Adviser for the Responsibility to Protect, to date, have not addressed the role of gender inequality and gendered violence in early warning frameworks. It would be valuable for this Office to provide an exploratory paper on R2P and WPS that details the state, regional and international level responsibilities to address the relationship between gender inequality and human rights atrocities; deeper knowledge of this relationship is vital not just for the prevention of SGBV crimes but also for broader atrocities prevention measures, as noted in the 2013 UN SecretaryGeneral R2P report (Ban 2013b: 5).
It is not enough to say R2P must have a gendered approach without the WPS community being engaged in the development of this approach. The WPS agenda has a long history at state, regional and international levels that will be valuable to the R2P community in progressing mutual agendas, particularly the prevention of mass atrocities. Conversely, the R2P community’s emphasis that addressing the conditions that lead to mass atrocity crimes, including widespread and systematic sexual violence, is the primary responsibility of states adds political and normative force to implement WPS commitments in at state, regional and international security institutions to address structural gender inequality. As this article has identified, there are presently few early warning frameworks to advise on a gendered approach to preventive diplomacy that is directed at the prevention of mass atrocity crimes.
Engagement with this task alone, of mutual interest to WPS and R2P communities, would go a long way towards establishing a roadmap for states and the international community to uphold their responsibility to protect and women’s peace and security.
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