EWL News

WILPF - Upholding human rights: the link between security and economic rights

[Brussels, 24 May 2012] The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom [WILPF], a member of the EWL, organised yesterday an event ahead of the Universal Periodic Review of the UK, which was heard today, 24 May, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, highlighting the gendered impact of current security and defence policies.

Permanent Missions were invited to hear from an expert panel, including Ceri Goddard of The Fawcett Society, Rebecca Johnson Acronym Institute and Rebecca Gerome from the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Madeleine Rees, WILPF Secretary General, moderated the discussion around policies being pursued in the UK on defence and security, the arms trade and the economic deficit from a human rights perspective and its gendered impact. This discussion is an ongoing one within WILPF and was the topic of an issue group at the recent EWL General Assembly, entitled, “You Get What You Pay For – Human Security Not Military Security.”

Critical issues were addressed such as the development and deployment of nuclear weapons, including costs and humanitarian consequences; the arms trade and protection of civilians; and the importance of enhancing human rights to fully achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The UK government, say WILPF, has failed to comply with its human rights obligations. WILPF is deeply concerned that continuing high expenditure on nuclear and military equipment, including Trident , means higher cuts in budget allocations to health, education and social services, which disproportionately affect women and children here in the UK.

According to the Fawcett Society, the UK government’s austerity measures will decrease living standards for Britain’s families by more than 10% until at least 2014, harming the poorest 30% of households the worst. Current austerity measures are likely to increase gender-based inequality: women will be hit hardest by job cuts in the public sector; services and benefits on which many women and families rely are being drastically cut; and women will be left filling the gaps in care (for example for elderly or disabled relatives) as state services are withdrawn.

WILPF argues that prioritising nuclear and military spending over health, education and social needs is to disregard basic principles of state obligation under the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) vis Article 2, “to maximise the use of available resources,” and “without discrimination of any kind.”
Madeleine Rees, explains,

“The UK needs to improve its policies that are detrimental to women’s human rights, peace, security and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in conflict affected countries as well as UK territory. We want to know what steps the Government UK will take to cut its military expenditure, in particular its expenditure on nuclear weaponry.”

It is estimated that one-and-a-half billion people live in countries affected by internal conflict or large-scale, organized criminal violence and have yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal (World Development Report, World Bank, 2011). WILPF say that repeated cycles of conflict and violence translate into human, social, and economic costs that last for generations. Irresponsible arms sales and excessive military spending undermine achievement of all MDGs in these countries, both by fuelling escalation of violent conflict and crime and by diverting funds from social spending such as education, health care and social welfare. Such spending can also contribute to unsustainable debt service payments, which further reduce resources for social spending.

The panel pointed to discussions towards the creation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which present an important opportunity to regulate the international trade in the conventional arms and ammunition. Of these, it is most often small arms and light weapons (SALW) that are used to facilitate and commit various forms of violence and crimes against women, both during and outside of armed conflict.
Madeleine Rees said,

“We want the UK government to comply with its own human rights index on arms exports and cease exporting arms to countries where there are extensive human rights violations. On the one hand the UK has fully committed to the MDGs and has prioritized maternal health as part of its aid package whilst on the other, its arms trade serves to compromise its obligations to fundamental human rights.”

WILPF will continue to make the link between security and social economic rights, raising questions about human rights violations of countries up for their Universal Periodic Review. and of course monitor and lobby in the UK, particularly given its position as the fifth largest global spender with an increasing budget (Global Zero, 2012).
Read the full Summary Notes for Permanent Missions here: http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Resources/HCR/UK-UPRsummarynote.pdf

Lorraine Mirham International Board Member from the UK, with small edits from Martha Jean Baker,
WILPF

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