During the 32nd General Conference, UNESCO was called upon to strengthen its actions in favor of women and children living in conflict zones. Further to this request and in pursuance of the objectives of facilitating social transformations based on the universal values of justice, freedom and human dignity, the Social and Human Sciences sector (SHS) initiated a programme of action to promote the human rights and status of women living in the Great Lakes region in Africa.
Building on work carried out by UNESCO in previous years as well as on the recently developed SHS strategy for the promotion of women’s empowerment, the Gender Equality and Development Section (SHS/HRS/GED) is pursuing policy-oriented research, consultations, networking, and capacity building. A central objective is to assist in women’s participation in post-conflict resolution, democratization, and governance, as called for in the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Peace, Security, Democracy and Development in the Great Lakes Region, First Summit of Heads of State and Government, 20 November 2004.
The SHS/HRS/GED strategy was also inspired by the United Nations Security Council S/RES/1325 which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and the need to implement fully international humanitarian and human rights law that protects the rights of women and girls during and after conflicts. In light of the SHS mandate in UNESCO, particular attention was given to the need to
• Increas[e] the representation of women at all decision-making levels
• Support women’s grassroots organizations in their peace initiatives, and
• Ensur[e] protection of and respect for the human rights of women and girls
In that context, a consultation was organized in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 30 May – 1 June 2005. The purpose of this meeting was to bring together policy and decision makers, academics and other specialists on women and gender issues, and representatives of women’s NGOs from the Great Lakes Region to discuss their priorities and needs in the social and human sciences and to agree on the main lines of a plan of action for gender equality and development. The Agenda and Timetable of the consultation is attached in Annex I.