Saturday, August 08, 2009

UN to prioritize fight vs. sexual violence just as Harper government weakens Canada's stance

Update (7:00 p.m.) below.

Will the Harper government support this UN proposal? Signs point to no: "UN mulling top official to fight sexual violence." As we know from recent reporting, the Harper government is no longer calling for "justice" for sexual violence in significant conflicts around the world such as in the Congo (referenced below). That is, Canada is no longer calling for prosecutions of those committing these atrocities at the International Criminal Court but we are instead dialing down our position to supporting only the "prevention" of sexual violence. This foreign policy position clearly takes us offside proposals such as the following which call for full prosecutions of perpetrators:
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Friday he was considering naming a top official to lead the fight against sexual violence and urged the General Assembly to create a dedicated institution for women's rights.

"Despite some progress over two decades, the deliberate targeting of civilians through acts of sexual violence continues on a widespread and systematic basis," Ban told the UN Security Council during a debate on "Women, Peace and Security."

The debate was called to discuss the implementation of a Security Council resolution adopted last year that elevated rape and sexual violence to the status of a war crime when perpetrated as part of a systematic attack.

Ban highlighted ongoing conflicts in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan as particular areas where rape is routinely used as part of warfare.

In the DRC alone more than 3,500 women have been raped since the start of the year, according to a UN report.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice also stressed the need to put the fight against sexual violence at the top of the UN agenda.

"Efforts to combat sexual violence must be placed squarely on the political agenda as well when countries are searching for lasting stability and peace," she said.

"The UN and its member states and future mediators should address sexual violence in today's peace processes and include them from the very start in future peace talks," she added.

Both Ban and Rice suggested measures to tackle the issue in conflict zones, including beefing up the ranks of female peace mediators, and fully prosecuting perpetrators who often go unpunished
. (emphasis added)
More from AP on the prosecution aspect and the U.S. position:

She called for stepped up efforts ''to ensure that rapists and other perpetrators of sexual violence are identified and punished'' and said the United States will support domestic, international, or hybrid bodies that investigate and prosecute these crimes.

Will Canada support this effort? Judging by the Harper government's recent policy changes, the answer would seem to be no. That's where we are, Canada, the world is stepping up and we're falling back. The worsening situation in the Congo was big news this week. You've got to hand it to the Harper Conservatives, just as a policy foray or political play makes news, they're frequently immediately undercut by the facts these days (see also Poilievre Thursday, Statistics Canada Friday, for e.g.). That's the problem when your policy making is not grounded in the facts.

Maybe someone should ask Lawrence Cannon what the position of the government of Canada will be on these UN and US led efforts in light of our recent foreign policy evolutions.

Update (7:00 p.m.): An email on this today:
Of course they will support...they'll support it by putting the words they excised back in...not verbatim of course, that would be too obvious but I suspect a weakened version of what was already there.

Then Harper the master strategist pats himself on the back, starts a press tour touting his new and shiny respect for womens rights - all the while hoping for that elusive portion of the electorate to give him a few more votes.

Yeah, call me cynical, but theses Reformers have driven me there. Question is, if they do this will they get away with it in the press? Their recent rewriting may have been done so quietly as a way to set this scenario up.
Guess we and the media will have to watch the Canadian moves at the UN. It wouldn't be surprising at all for the Harper government to mouth support publicly but continue to act as reported, quietly undermining Canada's commitments to gender equality. They've done it on environmental matters, why not this?

And hopefully the reporting from Embassy on the foreign policy re-writes will be present as context in media coverage, if the above UN proposal garners a response from Canada.