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Due Diligence Principle-Framework - Important Continuing Reference on State/Country Accountability for Violence Against Women Perpetrated by State AND Non-State Actors

Second Printing 2016

Due Diligence Principle

Traditionally, States have only been responsible for their own actions or those of their agents. Gradually, public international law developed to mandate States to exercise due diligence to promote, protect and fulfil human rights. This obligates States to take before they occur, such as adopting relevant laws and policies, and effectively prosecute and punish perpetrators if abuses occur. The ‘due diligence principle’, as it is commonly termed, holds States accountable for human rights abuses committed not only by the State or State actors, but also by non-State actors. Violence against women (VAW) is most often perpetrated by non-State actors — for example, a close male relative or an intimate partner.

The due diligence principle is a critical tool in the formulation of accountability. By making the State accountable for violence perpetrated by non-State actors, public international law recognizes that VAW, regardless of who commits it, constitutes human rights violations. Due diligence has also ruptured the artificial ‘public/private sphere’ divide and the dichotomy between State and non-State actors,2 as States are now not only permitted but obliged to enter the so-called ‘private sphere’ where most instances of VAW take place and where States have traditionally been barred.

Direct Link to Full 109-Page Publication: http://www.duediligenceproject.org/ewExternalFiles/Due%20Diligence%20Framework%20Report%20final.pdf


The struggle to understand women’s rights as human rights and to bring violence against women out of the private zones of silence and place it firmly in the public sphere of State accountability are among the most important gains of the global women’s movement over the past three decades. For the most part, this was accomplished through hard work and hard fought battles by women/feminist movements at the local, regional and global levels. But it has also involved the bringing together of feminist theory and practice with human rights thinking and experience, building alliances across movements and with government officials locally and nationally, as well as with the United Nations and other international bodies.

Violence against women (VAW) emerged as an issue locally from women’s groups at the grass roots in every region because it is a problem that holds women back everywhere, and from which no country, culture, or religion is immune. Women came together globally in the 1980’s and 90’s to advocate at the international level for an understanding of VAW not only as a global pandemic, but also as the most pervasive abuse of human rights experienced by women. The global campaign for this issue and the demand for recognition that “women’s rights are human rights” gathered momentum at many levels, from the creation of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence locally to the UN world conferences in Vienna (on human rights), Cairo (on population and development), Copenhagen (on social development), and culminating in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

Norms and standards around women’s human rights have been evolving rapidly ever since with considerable attention paid to violence against women (VAW). This report spells out the important advances made globally and regionally through UN declarations, resolutions, general comments from treaty bodies, as well as in several regional conventions, and human rights mechanisms created, such as the UN Special Rapporteur on VAW, its causes and consequences, and the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

However, despite these important gains, violence against women has not significantly diminished globally because it is deeply embedded in all our cultures and the implementation of these norms is still weak; impunity for perpetrators too often reigns. It is widely recognized that greater political will and commitment of resources to ending VAW is needed at every level. But there is also a need for greater conceptual clarity and research on how to combat VAW more effectively as well as on the scope and extent of state accountability and obligations. These obligations need to be broken down into tangible, measurable, comparable, and implementable components.

The Due Diligence Project addresses these gaps through a unique effort to bring together the lessons learned by diverse civil society organizations from all regions, and especially women’s groups, that have been addressing VAW over the past few decades. Through regionally based research and consultations, the project gathered rich information on how various NGOs view the work needed now to end VAW, including both good or promising practice examples, and what has not worked and why. By unpacking the concept of due diligence through the concrete experiences of women’s groups, it provides the kind of information that is essential to ensuring that governments shape the most effective human rights based policies and programmes in their work on the elimination of VAW.

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the Due Diligence Project precisely because it is aimed at addressing many of these issues:

1. It functions at the nexus between women’s rights and human rights, presenting the issue of violence against women within the human rights framework of State accountability; Due Diligence Framework

2. It offers a comprehensive framework for approaching VAW based on the international legal principle of due diligence through its designation of the “5Ps” - prevention, protection, prosecution, punishment, and provision of redress;

3. It provides Guiding Principles, further breaking down each of these 5Ps into tangible, measurable, and implementable elements;

4. It draws on the vast experience of CSOs working on the front lines in creating these Guiding Principles, and in identifying good or promising practice examples;

5. It is a tool to facilitate engagement and cooperation between CSOs and government officials working towards the elimination of VAW.

The Due Diligence Project and its Framework for Accountability does not represent the final stages of the discourse on eliminating VAW – this is a long and winding road from which we still have much to learn. But it does plough the field for further elaboration by ensuring that the voices of those who have been active on this issue at the ground level are heard and their experiences systematized in a concrete and usable way. It utilizes an intersectional approach recognizing the diversity of forms that VAW can take and acknowledges cultural diversity in strategies to combat it, while never abandoning the universality of the principle that all VAW violates fundamental human rights. Its great value added is that it moves us forward in developing guidelines for implementation by shedding much needed light on the role and responsibility of the State in this arena, and on what it means in a very practical way to effectively and comprehensively address ending violence against women. It is an invaluable and welcome contribution to this ever evolving discussion.

Charlotte Bunch

Извор: WUNRN – 31.12.2016



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