What does the watering-down of UN’s rape-in-war resolution mean?


The omission of critical clauses in the recent UNSC resolution narrates the disastrous tale of misuse-of-power by the Veto bloc to defend conservative domestic policies.

Ujjawal Krishnam

In 8514th meeting of Security Council, on April 23, UN passed a historic resolution [2467:2019] to adopt measures on ending sexual violence in conflict. But the resolution passed by UN omitted crucial terminologies related to sexual violence. Among them were ‘reproductive healthcare’ and ‘formation of working groups to review progress on ending sexual violence’.

Trump’s tactics

US actually threatened to veto the resolution over its language on reproductive and sexual health. US and Russia along with China opposed the creation of a new working body to monitor and report the sexual atrocities. Even after these terms were removed from the resolution, Russia and China abstained from voting.

It is important here to understand that the purpose of watering-down of the initial resolution by United Nations was just to appease Trump’s administration. US State Department did not respond to Foreign Policy’s request for comment as it ran an exclusive story on this development. It becomes clear that US Government did not want any global outrage emanating from UN negotiations and resolutions against its domestic stance on anti-abortion legislations.

US Government also tried to quash the use of ‘gender’ word from rape-in-war resolution. since it could ‘promote’ transgender rights. Quite ironically, US in UNSC debate refused to agree on previously agreed 2013 resolution [Legal situation:19Para] which recognised the importance of providing non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health.

What is on the stand?

The resolution can be credited to Nadia Murad, an untiring force behind the movement demanding the abrogation the use of sexual violence in war and armed conflict. Nadia, 2018 Nobel Peace laureate, runs Nadia’s initiative- an organization dedicated to help and re-build lives of women and children affected by war atrocities.

Nadia Murad recalled that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) enslaved thousands of Yazidi girls and women as the resolution passed.  She pointed out that her repeated calls for the creation of a working group to rescue those still missing or held in captivity have fallen upon deaf ears. None has been tried for sexual enslavement and other crimes committed against Yazidi girls and women, she insisted.

Nadia was right from the very beginning that the resolution wouldn’t be passed in its original form. The obstruction suffered from the most ‘intellectually progressive and economically developed’ countries only highlighted that those who are not citizens of these countries would simply deserve inhumanity.

United Nations: Helpless?

Just within a week of historic resolution, Israel has killed two pregnant women and a minor in airstrikes. The power of UN Secretary-General, António Guterres is only limited to verbal condemnation in ‘strongest terms’. The ongoing vicious cycle of violence, UN report says, in over a year, took close to 200 Palestinians, including more than 40 children and over 1,300 have been injured.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace, has appealed for the de-escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine. Violation of Egypt-brokered and UN-backed cease-fire illustrates the insignificant diplomatic posturing of United Nations.

Silence following Gaza bombings shows that the backing of veto countries is important to maintain a neat geopolitical image. As US is set to recognise Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights, the changing US policy in Middle East may trigger turbulence when it comes to defending US-supported countries like Israel. It is uncertain whether these countries will agree upon UN rape-in-war resolution.

Way Ahead

Veto bloc is not a new threat. The basic idea behind the amalgamation of veto power was to defuse war-like situation between powerful countries thus minimising the chances of next world war. However, the present scenario comprises of conflicts which are not global in nature — they are distributed across different theatres and are usually bilateral. Here, the role of veto power doesn’t matter much. Oppositely, this has been unscrupulously appropriated by the veto countries. China blocking Masood Azhar’s listing on UN blacklist is a testimony to it.

The diabolical stands of US administration mark the fall of this world power on democratic principles it had pledged to defend. It is almost equally disappointing to see UN’s submission to American fantasies.

The only option UN members have, for facilitating the proper functioning of the world body, is to urge UN to outlaw veto bloc. For, admitting countries like India or Japan or Brazil in this bloc will further complicate the working of UN amidst multipolar geopolitical turmoil.

UN rights charter along with strong resolutions like UNSC’s rape-in-war resolution cannot be successfully implemented unless the power disparity among countries is addressed. It is unlikely that veto powers like US will ever face the Nuremberg moment.

Author is an editor at Academia.edu and Wikiprojects, contributes to Getty Images, and writes on Indian polity and jurisprudence.


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