Events

Panel Discussion: Preventing Atrocities with a WPS Perspective: A Myanmar Case Study

Description:

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the adoption of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), as well as the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the UN Secretary-General’s annual report on R2P analyzed where issues related to gender and R2P overlap, from identifying risk factors for atrocity crimes to the prevention and response to such crimes.

As highlighted in the report, gender permeates genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in many ways. The case of Myanmar highlights the value of closely examining the gendered dimensions of a particular situation. As this year’s R2P report reflects, the international community must do more to ensure a holistic, consistent, and gender-inclusive approach to atrocity prevention and response.

This webinar was co-hosted by the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the Global Justice Center and featured remarks from:

  • Karen Smith, UN Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect
  • Savita Pawnday, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  • Akila Radhakrishnan, Global Justice Center
  • Moon Nay Li, Kachin Women’s Association
  • Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum, Cardozo School of Law

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The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar: A Genocide Incited on Facebook

Description:

History has shown that hate speech often precedes the commission of serious human rights violations and atrocities. In some situations, online hate speech has had a significant impact in the offline world. One of the gravest cases of the past few years took place in Myanmar where inaction against incitement to violence on social media platforms, mainly Facebook, contributed to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim community. These human rights violations have been widely condemned by the global community.

While the government in Myanmar failed to put an end to hate speech offline, ungoverned online hate illuminated Facebook’s failure to address the systematic anti-Rohingya campaign of hatred orchestrated by the Myanmar military. UN human rights experts investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar subsequently said that Facebook had played a “determining” role in spreading hate speech there.

Today, the crisis in Myanmar stands out as a case study of groups harnessing social media to incite violence and of the failure of social media platforms to take action. What role did online hate speech and misinformation play in the resurgence of oppression and human rights violations? What are the lessons learned from this crisis for all stakeholders (Big Tech, states, civil society) to prevent this from happening again?

The third session of the “Decoding Hate Speech” series will focus on the weaponization of social media in Myanmar and address whether this case marks a turning point in Big Tech’s realization that they must consider the human rights impact of their platforms.

Moderator: Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS)

Panellists:
Senator Marielou McPhedran
Grant Shubin, Legal Director of the Global Justice Center
Myat Thu, independent expert based in Myanmar

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Beyond the Pandemic: Opening the Doors to Meaningful Participation

Description:

The United Nations Department on Political and Peacebuilding Affairs is hosting the virtual event, “Beyond the Pandemic: Opening the Doors to Women’s Meaningful Participation”, on Wednesday, 28 October, at 10:00 AM (NY Time). The event celebrates the 20-year anniversary of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security with the participation of the following speakers in an interactive dialogue:

  • Ms. Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA)

  • Ms. Jeanine Plasschaert, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)

  • Ms. Kaavya Asoka, Executive Director of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security

  • Ms. Huda Ali, Feminist Peace Activist and Member of MANSAM, a Sudanese coalition of Women Civic and Political Organizations

  • Ms. Erika Brockmann, former member of the Bolivian national parliament (1997-2005) and currently a master trainer for the National Democratic Institute

Facilitation will be conducted by Akila Radhakrishnan, President of the Global Justice Center.

Access to SRHR in EU humanitarian aid: the case of safe abortion

Description:

This webinar addresses the plight of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) under EU humanitarian aid, in particular their access to safe abortion.

In 2015, former VP/HR Mogherini and former Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Mr Stylianides stated that “in cases where a pregnancy threatens a woman’s or girl’s life or causes unbearable suffering, international humanitarian law and/or international human rights law may justify offering a safe abortion rather than perpetuating what amounts to inhumane treatment”. The Commission has continuously reaffirmed this policy since then. However, the provision of abortion services on the ground by humanitarian health actors remains incomplete. This webinar will thus explore possible steps to ensure that the EU can continue to guarantee equality of care to survivors of armed conflict.

The EU Commissioner for Crisis Management will deliver a keynote speech and panelists will share the experiences of humanitarian organisations on the ground.

Speakers: 

Sophie in ‘t Veld (MEP), Renew Europe, Co-chair of MEPs for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Petra de Sutter (MEP), Greens/EFA, Co-chair of MEPs for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Janez Lenarčič - EU Commissioner for Crisis Management

Akila Radhakrishnan, President, Global Justice Center

Rajat Kohsla - Senior Director, Research, Advocacy and Policy, Amnesty International

Cyprien Masaka Lepepo, Deputy Reproductive Health Coordinator, International Rescue Committee DRC

Manisha Kumar - Head of the Task Force for Safe Abortion Care , Médecins Sans Frontières

Michael Koehler, Deputy Director General, DG ECHO, European Commission

Rohingya Crisis into Fourth Year: Challenges in Securing a Sustainable Solution

Remarks from GJC President Akila Radhakrishnan

Thank you for having me on such a distinguished panel of speakers and experts today, and I want to echo Simon’s thanks for the inclusion of civil society in this conversation. As Ambassador Rae mentioned,  I am Akila Radhakrishnan, the president of the Global Justice Center, an international human rights organization dedicated to advancing gender equality through the rule of law. And as an organization, we have been working on Myanmar since 2005, particularly justice and accountability for sexual violence against ethnic minorities. 

In reflecting on the topic for today’s panel, “Rohingya Crisis in the Fourth Year: Challenges to Securing a Sustainable Solution” - I am left with the sense that the questions we are asking ourselves four years on are almost identical to the questions we were asking ourselves 4 years ago, and frankly those for those of us who have long worked on Myanmar, much longer. 

As I prepared my remarks for today, I spoke to a wise colleague about this issue and he pointed me towards some statements that Government of Myanmar has made with respect to the Rohingya, including that “there was no discrimination based on religion,” that allegations of misconduct were “fabricated by some big countries and certain foreign news agencies”, that the “Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar either historically, politically or legally”, and that the Tatmadaw is a “methodically and systematically organized institution made up of highly trained and disciplined personnel”, and that the “grotesque allegations made against the Tatmadaw were totally false.”

While these statements sound like they could have been made by Myanmar yesterday, they are in fact statements made to the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance in 1992. I use this to show how while the face of Myanmar’s government since then has changed, how little the Government's rhetoric or posture has changed not only in the four years since this “crisis” began, but rather in the decades of oppression of the Rohingya. And this should be a rallying cry to the international community that business as usual on Myanmar cannot continue. Myanmar should no longer be allowed to set the terms of the debate and the scope of action. 

And nowhere is this more stark than when it comes to the deeply rooted gender issues at the heart of the Rohingya genocide. SRSG Patten has powerfully laid out how crimes of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, including transwomen, as well as men and boys was systematically used by the Tatmadaw in their operations so I won’t repeat what she has said and instead pick up briefly on some key issues that are essential to delivering gender justice and changing the conversation on Myanmar.  

As a starting point, there can be no true justice for the genocide of the Rohingya if acts of sexual and gender-based violence are not at the center of all accountability proceedings at the international and domestic level. And here, countries like The Gambia, Bangladesh, Canada, and the Netherlands and institutions like the ICC, OHCHR and the IIMM need to be commended in their efforts to take bold steps to move the justice and accountability conversation forward. And in particular, I must say thank you to Canada and the Netherlands for their commitment to addressing crimes of SGBV in their intervention at the ICJ. But while international efforts move forward, it has been profoundly disturbing to see members of the international community continue to validate and legitimize deeply flawed domestic processes, in particular the International Commission of Enquiry. 

As an advocate for gender-justice, that fact the ICOE’s executive summary categorically dismissed evidence of rape and gang rape, despite extensive documentation of these crimes, should immediately disqualify this report.  If the ICOE is to be the evidentiary base for domestic accountability proceedings, where does this leave those who were subject to acts of sexual and gender-based violence? While there is little to no transparency around Myanmar’s court-martials, it can be assumed that none of the court-martials that have been announced on the basis of the ICOE report will include charges of sexual and gender-based violence, including those that were announced yesterday. And even outside of the cases it may underlie, just the matter of its dismissal and exclusion from the ICOE’s report is a step in the erasure of gendered experiences.  

The concerns are compounded with larger concerns over the ICOE, including their limited and flawed mandate, to questions about their independence, impartiality and methodology, and its findings. However, in looking for openings to address the seemingly intractable situation in Myanmar, most states have chosen an approach of selective acceptance and “constructive” engagement with regards to the ICOE, even as they have yet to see the full report. This is what operating on Myanmar’s terms looks like.

In fact, just last week, the joint statement released following yet another closed-door Security Council meeting on Myanmar called for the implementation of the recommendations of the ICOE. It is not possible to divorce the recommendations of a report from the analysis and narrative that underlies it, and the continued legitimization of this report, signal the international community’s comfort with the erasure of gendered experiences in pursuit of “solutions.” Rhetoric decrying sexual and gender-based violence is not enough, the international community must ensure that all of its actions on Myanmar are undertaken with a gender perspective. 

Second,  while justice is an important part of the larger accountability picture, it cannot be the sole focus. Rather, accountability needs to be holistic and survivor-centered and should seek to address and transform the root causes of violence--including patriarchal structures and misogyny--both in Myanmar and in the Rohingya community itself. Therefore, punitive measures against individuals cannot alone address it; to comprehensively address SGBV takes much more: reparations and redress, including guarantees of non-repetition, and access to comprehensive medical and psychosocial care for survivors, including essential sexual and reproductive health services such as safe abortion.

And as accountability proceedings are underway, it is crucial that the Rohingya themselves, including Rohingya women and girls, are able to determine their own priorities for justice and restitution. To borrow a phrase from American reproductive justice activists, “nothing about us without us.” And on this, while I deeply appreciate being included in this conversation, I note with disappointment that the direct voice of Rohingya women is not represented today. Rohingya women and girls must be the architects, not objects, of their future. 

Thank you so much for the ability to participate.