International Development Law Organization

No peace without gender equality

Sustaining peace in post-conflict countries and ensuring gender equality for women and girls were top of the agenda on day two of IDLO’s 2017 Partnership Forum, held in conjunction with IDLO’s Assembly of Parties at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in Rome on November 28 and 29, 2017.

The Partnership Forum was resumed with a special address by H.E. Xanana Gusmão, the former President of Timor Leste. President Gusmao made an inspiring statement on behalf of the group g7+, which represents 20 conflict-afflicted countries that are in transition to sustain peace and promote sustainable development. The group includes five countries in which IDLO is implementing programs: Afghanistan, Burundi, Liberia, Somalia and South Sudan.

“We, the members of g7+ group, are aware that our countries present very particular development challenges,” said President Gusmão. “We advocated for the inclusion of Goal 16 in the 2030 Agenda, since we know that without peace, justice and sound and efficient institutions, it would be very hard for us to implement any of the other SDGs.”

President Gusmão emphasized the importance of promoting the rule of law and ensuring equal access to justice in fragile or conflict-affected states. He elaborated that consolidating the justice sector is fundamental for state-building, increasing trust and attracting investment: “No one will invest in the economy if there is not a legal system ensuring that the law is upheld. And without investment there is no employment, and without employment there is no peace.” President Gusmão called for international cooperation to find common solutions to global problems such as poverty, inequality and extremism. IDLO’s Director-General Irene Khan said she looked forward to a fruitful partnership between the g7+ and IDLO.

The Partnership Forum moved on to a discussion session: ‘Can there be Peace and Prosperity without Gender Equality?’, which was opened by Néziha Labidi, Minister for Women, Family and Childhood of Tunisia. She spoke of gender issues in her country and the role of legislation in shaping attitudes towards women. For instance, the repeal of a law mandating that women must obey their husbands constituted a “revolution”, shifting the mentality in Tunisia from one of obedience to one of mutual respect. The DG Irene Khan said it was both a privilege and honour for IDLO to be able to contribute to a very impressive and ambitious legislative agenda of her Ministry, which aims to improve the situation of women and children in Tunisia.

IDLO’s Director General highlighted “that being a woman has actually got worse in 2017,” according to the Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum. She explained that based on the report, it would take 100 years for men and women to achieve parity in health, education, political empowerment and economic participation. “So, in fact, the differences are growing.”

However, she emphasized the need to move from global analysis to what is actually happening in each country, at the national level. Citing an example of Kenya’s report on inclusion by the Institute of Management, where findings reveal the situation has actually improved from 12 per cent to 18 per cent, she said, “there were encouraging stories as well”.

The interactive discussion included panellists Arkel Benitez, Secretary-General of the Conference of Ministers of Justice of the Ibero-American countries; Marie-Anne Birken, General Counsel of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); and Luisa Cabal, Special Adviser on Human Rights and Gender at UNAIDS.

Ms. Birken from EBRD explained that in their efforts at creating an enabling environment to support women entrepreneurs, the organization was focusing on increasing access to justice from a legal reform angle. She cited the project with IDLO in Jordan and Egypt, with the objective of understanding the barriers to creating a gender responsive commercial environment. She added that research has shown that the cost of enforcing contracts is actually higher for women.

Ms. Cabal from UNAIDS talked of “two blind spots” on gender, health and the law, which would come in the way of keeping up the promise of the 2030 Agenda of putting rule of law central to development. Her first point was that rule of law conversations should not be confined to corridors of justice, but should be expanded to other corridors such as of health, education etc. Her second point was on the need “to ensure that rule of law advances gender equality, because rule of law often rules women out”.

Giving the example of health and HIV, she said, “while much progress has been made on HIV, missing out, or not fully owning the discussions around the rule of law in the HIV agenda have meant that we are not where we want to be in terms of social justice and access to treatment”.

Further illustrating her point, she said that from around 37 million people currently living with HIV, around 21 million have access to treatment. “But, globally, adolescent girls and young women account for approximately 7,000 new infections every week. And, in sub-Saharan Africa, three in four of these new infections were among girls. In addition to failing these women and girls by not providing access to treatment, or not doing enough on prevention, the story behind it is also a story behind gaps in the rule of law. We are not doing enough to eliminate the discrimination in law, in policies, in regulations that don’t allow these women and girls to feel empowered, to have an enabling social, cultural and legal environment that will allow them to protect themselves. We need these conversations around the rule of law and we need to double our efforts to eliminate discriminatory laws and policies, and also ensure that these women and girls have access to justice when violations occur.”

For further information on IDLO’s 2017 Assembly of Parties and Partnership Forum, please visit