What's In Blue

Posted Sat 13 Nov 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on Widows in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings

On Monday (15 November), Security Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting via videoconference (VTC) on “Closing the Protection Gap for Widows in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings”. The meeting is being organised by Niger, the AU and the EU as co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel. The meeting will be co-hosted by Estonia, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Viet Nam, together with non-Council member Sierra Leone. Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director at UN Women, is expected to provide opening remarks. The anticipated briefers are Heather Ibrahim-Leathers, founder and president of the Global Fund for Widows, and an Afghan woman civil society representative who works on widowhood issues. Participation in the meeting is open to all UN member states. Civil society organisations are invited to submit written statements for inclusion in the chair’s compilation.

The meeting will be broadcast live on UNTV at 1:30 pm EST.

According to a concept note prepared by Niger, the meeting’s objective is to enhance the Security Council’s understanding of the challenges widows face in conflict and post-conflict settings. Monday’s Arria-formula meeting aims to serve as a platform to discuss ways to better address the root causes of conflict and inequality, including by taking into account widows’ needs. The concept note says that widows are often overlooked in the context of international humanitarian responses and conflict resolution and maintains that a focus on widows in discussions about the women, peace and security agenda may provide an opportunity to better consider their needs and representation. The concept note also highlights that widowhood in conflict situations is associated with several risks and difficulties, including poverty and sexual and gender-based violence. It further notes the risks that widows’ children may face, such as early and forced marriage and increased vulnerability to recruitment by “criminal and extremist” groups.

The concept note for Monday’s meeting says that widowhood in conflict and post-conflict settings has not been expressly discussed by the Security Council and that “greater understanding, awareness and higher visibility on this issue are needed in order to adequately address the unique needs of war widows by the international community”. It further notes that widowhood deserves special attention to “fulfill the promise” of resolutions 1325, 1960, 2122 on women, peace and security, adopted in 2000, 2010 and 2013, respectively, and resolution 2475 on conflict and persons with disabilities, adopted in 2019, among other resolutions.

In this context, the concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at Monday’s meeting, including:

  • What are ways in which the current implementation of the women, peace and security agenda could better address the risks faced by widows?
  • What are the risks widows face and how do they relate to the Council’s current and future work on other thematic agendas, such as the protection of civilians in armed conflict and children and armed conflict?
  • What actions, in policy and practice, may be considered across country and regional issues to better address the situation of all widows during and after conflict?

Bhatia is expected to provide examples of the situation of widows in conflict-affected countries and describe the effects of discriminatory laws and social norms as well as gaps in gender data. Ibrahim-Leathers may focus her remarks on the significance of placing the protection and the empowerment of widows on the international agenda and might discuss the importance of their legal and economic empowerment. According to the concept note, in many contexts, widows experience disproportionate vulnerabilities, discrimination and in some cases violence because of gender stereotypes, discriminatory legislation and structural inequalities. The concept note says that the “scale and unique risks of widowhood” are exacerbated in conflict and post-conflict settings where the rate of widowhood is particularly high. In her remarks, the Afghan civil society briefer may describe her experience of working with widows and bring their testimonies to the attention of the meeting’s participants.

In addition to organising Monday’s Arria-formula meeting, Niger has sought to bring the issue of widowhood and its links to peace and security to the Council’s attention on other occasions. For instance, during the 19 May Council meeting titled “Peace and security in Africa: addressing root causes of conflict while promoting post-pandemic recovery in Africa”, Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) said that: “[c]ultural and legal practices quite often stigmatize widows, and we are particularly concerned about the exclusion of this group, which can have an impact on achieving sustainable peace”. He further emphasised the need to include widows in poverty-reduction efforts to prevent the expansion of inequality— which makes widows’ children and orphans “more susceptible to recruitment by extremists”.