Bringing Women to the Peace Table in the 2019 Federal Election
Women-led grassroots organizations are laying the foundations for sustainable peace in the world’s most volatile regions. Despite being victimized many times over in conflict and post-conflict situations as a strategy of war situations, women and women’s organizations play key roles in conflict prevention and resolution, as well as in building and sustaining an inclusive and just peace.
This critical role of women in peacebuilding has been recognized by the United Nations, and more recently in Canadian policy.
KAIROS wants to ensure that efforts to support women’s participation in peacebuilding efforts, especially at the grassroots level, are sustainable and fully funded as part of a robust international assistance policy.
Questions for candidates:
- Will your party commit to increasing Canada’s Official Development Assistance to 0.7 percent of its Gross National Income, in adherence with international guidelines?
- Will you commit to ensuring that Canada supports grassroots women’s peacebuilding efforts around the world as a core component to the next government’s foreign policy?
The Women, Peace and Security Agenda has emerged from a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, including United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 (created in 2000), which protect women from sexual and gender-based violence in times of war, and recognize the important contributions they make in building and sustaining an inclusive and just peace. Peace agreements have a 35 percent greater chance of lasting at least 15 years when women help draft them, according to Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies. And yet, only five percent of international funds dedicated to peace and security are allocated to creating equality between women and men or to the empowerment of women.
The KAIROS Women of Courage program empowers women human rights defenders and women’s rights organizations to participate effectively in peacebuilding, reconciliation and human rights processes at all levels in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Philippines, South Sudan and the West Bank.
Canada has taken important steps towards becoming a global leader in supporting gender equality and women’s effective participation in peace-building through its Feminist International Assistance Policy and National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. The Feminist International Assistance Policy promotes gender equality across our development projects around the world. Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security seeks the full participation of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding in Canada and abroad.
Yet, Canada is a long way from fully funding and implementing its Feminist International Assistance Policy. Moreover, its official development assistance accounts for only 0.26 percent of the country’s gross national income, well below the 0.7 target set by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1970 and reaffirmed more recently by the United Nations General Assembly.
Corporate Accountability and Women Human Rights Defenders
After more than a decade of grassroots efforts on the part of civil society, labour unions, and religious groups—including KAIROS and its members—the Government of Canada announced the creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Business Enterprise (CORE) and the Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Body on Responsible Business Conduct Abroad (Advisory Board) in January 2018. The office of the CORE was to be independent and empowered to investigate allegations of human rights abuses connected to Canadian companies operating abroad; the Advisory Board’s purpose was to, among other things, advise the Government on corporate social responsibility and human rights.
This past April, the Government announced the appointment of the Ombudsperson and revealed that the CORE would have no investigatory powers, effectively breaking its promise. In July, all 14 civil society and labour union representatives of the government’s Advisory Board tendered their resignations. The unanimous decision to resign was due to the erosion of trust and confidence in the government’s commitment to international corporate accountability.
This lack of corporate accountability is particularly concerning in a context where Canada’s global involvement in the extractive sector is frequently accompanied by human rights and environmental violations, often on or near Indigenous communities, where resource extraction projects are typically found.
Questions for Candidates:
- Will you commit to creating an independent corporate watchdog with the power to investigate and report on human rights and environmental abuse allegations linked to Canadian corporations operating abroad?
- Will you commit to making the implementation of Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders mandatory at Canada’s foreign missions?
- Will you support the Government of Canada’s adoption of all the recommendations in Raising her Voice: Confronting the Unique Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders?
- Will you commit to passing legislation that requires Canadian agencies and crown corporations to undertake due diligence in a manner that is transparent and does not obscure outcomes? Will you ensure that these agencies and corporations not finance, insure, or support companies that have been found to be involved in environmental and human rights abuses in their business operations?
KAIROS continues to advocate for an independent Ombudsperson with the power to investigate allegations of human rights and environmental abuses overseas to address corporate misconduct in the extractive sector. Furthermore, KAIROS calls on the Government of Canada to actively work towards legislation and regulation to hold the Canadian private sector accountable when it does not abide by local, national, and international human rights and environmental laws when operating abroad, either directly or through subsidiaries.
Concurrently, KAIROS urges the Government of Canada to implement additional initiatives and adopt recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of human rights defenders, especially women who are frequently at the forefront in the defense of land and water.
According to the federal government, Canada serves as the headquarters to more than half of the global extractive sector. Tax incentives and federal regulations make Canada an enticing locale for corporations seeking to establish mining operations, both nationally and internationally.
Unfortunately, Canada’s global involvement in the extractive sector is frequently accompanied by human rights and environmental violations, often on or near Indigenous communities, where resource extraction projects are typically found. Too often, extractive projects provoke spills, contamination of fresh water sources, and destruction of habitats. Indigenous communities have the right to be involved in decision-making spaces regarding megaprojects but are often criminalized, harassed, or physically attacked when they seek to be consulted, reject a project through democratic processes, or call attention to the negative impacts of resource extraction. Local law enforcement and private security personnel linked to Canadian companies are routinely hired to diffuse conflicts over land and water.
At the same time, there has been an alarming global rise in the number of human rights defenders killed. More than 300 defenders were killed across the globe last year; seventy-seven percent of defenders killed in 2018 were targeted for their work protecting their collective rights and the environment. Colombia, Mexico, and the Philippines, where KAIROS partners with grassroots organizations, account for about 66 percent of those reported killings. Women land and water defenders are further stigmatized for their work, experiencing multiple forms of violence from their community, local governments, and actors linked to the Canadian extractive sector.
Corporate accountability is clearly needed.
KAIROS maintains that the Government of Canada must require all Canadian foreign missions to implement the recently updated version of Voices at Risk: Canada’s Guidelines on Supporting Human Rights Defenders. These guidelines provide missions with a basic framework on how to best support human rights defenders. Without their promotion and compulsory implementation at foreign missions, however, the guidelines will do nothing to bolster the security of the people and communities defending human rights in the context of resource extraction or otherwise.
Simultaneously, KAIROS strongly favours the Government of Canada’s adoption of all the recommendations brought forth by the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in Raising her Voice: Confronting the Unique Challenges Facing Women Human Rights Defenders. The report concludes that the Government can and must do more to support women across the globe, including land and water defenders, who are targeted for defending and protecting human rights and the environment.
KAIROS believes that the measures outlined and recommended in Voices at Risk and Raising her Voice are not to be understood as substitutes for an Ombudsperson, but that they be carried out in conjunction with legislation and an autonomous investigatory body that address Canadian corporate accountability abroad.
KAIROS asserts that the Government of Canada must actively work towards legislation and regulation to hold the Canadian private sector accountable. To accomplish this, the Government of Canada must legislatively require Canadian agencies and crown corporations to undertake due diligence in a manner that is transparent and does not obscure outcomes. Companies found to be involved in environmental and human rights abuses in their business operations should not be financed, insured, or supported.