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        Economic and Social Council
19 February 2003


Fifty-ninth session
Item 12 of the provisional agenda


Written statement* submitted by Pax Christi International,
a non-governmental organization in special consultative status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

[19 December 2002]


*This written statement is issued, unedited, in the language(s) received from the submitting non-governmental organization(s).

The Board of Directors of the Global Fund for Women
The Board of Directors of the Global Fund for Women, a diverse group of women leaders from many nations, including Brazil, the United States, China, South Africa, India, Nigeria, and Palestine, is deeply concerned about the current climate of Militarism that dominates world affairs. Wars and conflict adversely affect all people, but disproportionately hurt women and children. They are most likely to suffer physical harm, including sexual violence, as a consequence of military action. They are also the most likely to become refugees as they flee from weapons that mutilate, maim and kill.

For 15 years, the Global Fund for Women, an international grant-making foundation, has supported thousands of women’s groups committed to realizing their vision of a world that is premised on the ideals of justice, peace and equality for all. From Israel and Palestine, to Colombia, Rwanda and Kosovo they have provided leadership in peace movements and persevered in reconciliation efforts that value the sanctity of all life. Women have always understood that peace requires building a broad consensus that is rooted in respect for diversity.

Today, their hard-earned gains are under siege as the world faces the threat of a military strike by the United States against Iraq. Such a war will jeopardize the well being, health and economic security of most people of the Middle East and will have especially harmful and lasting repercussions for women and children. It will be costly, in terms of lives, most of which will be civilian casualties, and in resources. By ignoring the mandate and role of the United Nations, the US mirrors Iraq’s own refusal to heed UN resolutions. Finally, by contravening international law, it provides a dangerous precedent for other countries which may similarly use military force at their own discretion.

Opposition to a military strike against Iraq is far-reaching, both within and outside the United States. The voices of women activists have been strengthened by a diverse chorus that includes international relations lawyers, academics, arms control experts, and even military personnel, who are urging the US to refrain from its proposed course. As a democracy, based on fundamental principles of liberty, justice and equality, and as the most powerful nation in the world, the United States bears a special responsibility to act in accordance with its stated values.

As leaders of an international women’s fund that supports women and children in over 160 countries, we make the following demands:

1) We urge the government of the United States to exercise its leadership by working within the framework of international law, upholding international treaties and agreements to which it is a party, and avoiding unilateral military action.

2) We urge all leaders, governments and the United Nations to heed the wide range of voices opposing the war around the world.

3) We urge the United Nations to stand firm against unilateralism and promote the long term human security of all people.

4) We call for all governments to affirm their commitment to peace by strengthening civil society and human rights with investments in the education, health, and well-being of their people.

November 2002


On the Current World Situation

The Global Fund for Women is an international grant making foundation dedicated to the promotion and advancement of women's human rights in every part of the world. The current world situation demands concerted responses that go beyond unilateral and simplistic positions. As an international human rights organization with a vision of a world of peace, justice and equality for all, we call attention to the following issues:

Inequalities between, among, and within nations

The prevailing situation of social and economic apartheid within countries and among Northern and Southern countries is unsustainable. Current levels of inequality in the distribution of wealth and access to resources and services have no precedent in human history. In every society, women and children remain the poorest of the poor.

• Globalization — accelerated by the communications technology revolution — does not recognize any borders for the flow of financial capital and information. Yet, the world’s decision making power on these matters remains concentrated in an unacceptably small number of wealthy, developed countries.

•Most global structures, whether public (e.g. the United Nations, International Monetary Fund) or private (e.g. multi-national corporations, banks), are, for the most part, dominated by men in powerful positions and exclude women.

The Global Fund calls attention to the current imbalance and inequities within the world community and challenges it to take steps toward addressing these issues.

Terrorism, Religious Extremism, and Women's Rights

• We condemn and deplore the use of terror in all manifestations: whether practiced by groups, individuals, exercised in the context of ethnic, racial or political conflicts, or used by nations to promote their own narrow political or economic interests.

• We reject unilateral definitions of terrorism, particularly those that associate terrorism solely with any one religion or culture or with a particular set of countries. Unfortunately, at various times in history, Catholics and Protestants, Hindus, Jews and Muslims have all developed extremist and/or fundamentalist strains, and many different nations and groups have also used terrorist tactics.

• Women have always been the first targets of abuse for religious extremists and have suffered the worst indignities: systematic violations of their civil rights, the denial of the right to security and bodily integrity, and prohibitions against their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Within the Taliban regime, these violations reached a degree of coercion rarely seen anywhere else in the world. Until very recently, only a few voices, mostly from international women's and human rights organizations, dared to speak out against this situation, while various governments continued to support a regime that essentially condemned women to civil death.

The Global Fund for Women rejects all forms of religious extremism that fail to respect the dignity of life, protect a diversity of choices, and prevent the exercise of democratic liberties.

Concern about Militarization and Specific Conflict Areas

We strongly oppose the growing militarism of societies at the national and international level—we draw attention to the fact that women and children suffer disproportionately both during and after periods of war and conflict. Increased expenditures by developing and developed nations alike on arms and weapons come at the cost of critical social and economic investment, particularly in areas such as education and healthcare, which are vital to the long term sustainability of societies. In Africa alone, over 35 million people will lose their lives to HIV/AIDS in the coming year, while billions are spent to finance the war against terrorism.

Industrialized nations must take immediate and sincere steps to reduce their production and sale of weapons of mass destruction — the United States is the largest supplier of arms to the poor nations of the developing world. We are deeply concerned by the intensification of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and extend our continued support to the peacemaking and human rights groups on both sides, particularly to the Palestinian and Israeli women’s coalitions that hold the "key" to creating a climate of peace and dialogue.

The Global Fund for Women rejects militarism and violence as solutions to problems that have deep seated economic, social and political causes. We urge dialogue and diplomacy as practical alternatives for conflict resolution.


The Global Fund for Women reaffirms its strong commitment to the international human rights paradigm and its respect for diversity, social justice, gender equity and peace. We call on the UN to fully realize its power among nations and to take action as the primary global governance mechanism capable of addressing the current world situation. We urge the world community to pay heed to the courageous examples offered by women's Organizations around the world offering practical and peaceful alternatives to conflict resolution.


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