UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 934-ii

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

International Development Committee

Violence against women and girls

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Sir john holmes, chitra nagarajan and kerry smith

dr gro harlem brundtland

Evidence heard in Public Questions 69 - 116

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the International Development Committee

on Tuesday 12 March 2013

Members present:

Sir Malcolm Bruce (Chair)

Hugh Bayley

Fiona Bruce

Richard Burden

Fabian Hamilton

Pauline Latham

Jeremy Lefroy

Mr Michael McCann

Fiona O’Donnell

Chris White

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Sir John Holmes, CoChair, International Rescue Committee UK, and Director, Ditchley Foundation, Chitra Nagarajan, Director, Gender Action for Peace and Security, and Kerry Smith, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns, Plan UK, gave evidence.

Q69 Chair: Good morning, and welcome to our Committee. Thank you all very much for agreeing to come in and help us with our inquiry. I think you know we spent a couple of weeks in Ethiopia, coming back last week, looking at aspects of violence against women and girls-not exclusively, but it was a significant part. You will not be surprised to hear Members making some allusions to that. For the record, could you introduce yourselves?

Sir John Holmes: My name is John Holmes. I was for many years a British diplomat, but after that I was the Emergency Relief Co-ordinator for the UN from 2007 to 2010. I am now the CoChair of the International Rescue Committee in the UK and also Director of something called the Ditchley Foundation.

Chair: Which I am familiar with.

Chitra Nagarajan: Good morning. My name is Chitra Nagarajan. I am the Director of Gender Action for Peace and Security.

Kerry Smith: Good morning. My name is Kerry Smith. I am the Head of Advocacy at Plan UK. Prior to that I worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross and also Save the Children, in conflict and humanitarian situations.

Q70 Chair: Obviously we as a Committee have taken the view that the issue of gender across the piece, and violence against women and girls, is absolutely central to the issues of development. We are looking for both the international community and our own Government to take strong initiatives to tackle it. I wondered if you perhaps would give us your views on how you think the Government’s approach is working, given that it is crossdepartmental, and, perhaps more specifically, what you think DFID’s role should be, and indeed whether they are fulfilling it well enough, or could do more, better or do it differently. I do not know who wants to take it first.

Sir John Holmes: We have been working at IRC with DFID for quite some time on this issue, including lots of discussion with them in retreats at Ditchley, as it happens, about this, with a particular focus on violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, rather than a development context. We thought that was something that was not being focussed on enough by DFID, but not only by DFID. We think they have come a long way in recognising the need to recognise the phenomenon of violence against women and girls at the outset of humanitarian emergencies. We need to recognise that it is virtually always there-in fact it is always there in one way or another, even in natural disasters, but obviously particularly in conflicts-and therefore needs to be treated as something that needs to be dealt with right at the beginning of a new disaster or a new conflict. We should do this without necessarily waiting for evidence that it is there, because the evidence we have from previous conflicts is that it will be there. We also need to treat it as something that is lifesaving and therefore fundamental to the humanitarian response, and not something that is an addon later. That is the kind of discussion we have been having with them.

As I say, we think they have come a long way to accept the need to do that. The evidence obviously very recently from the Secretary of State is a speech she gave about a week ago recognising that this was a major issue, promoting an international call to action for prioritising violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, and indeed calling for a summit this autumn about that, which we think is extremely welcome.

Obviously the issue is that it is not a question of one decision or one speech that makes the difference. You have to spread that message throughout the Department, a Department like DFID, which takes time, and you need to integrate it into everything they are doing, so it is prioritised in their funding decisions and in their relationships with the organisations they are funding-UN agencies, NGOs, the Red Cross, whoever it might be. There needs to be some tracking of what they are doing to address this issue of violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, and staff must be properly trained to recognise the symptoms and to deal with it, and have the right kind of guidance about what to do about it and what is needed in these cases.

That takes a long time to work through a system, and we are committed, as others are, to working with DFID to make sure that happens and that it is followed through, and is not just rhetoric but translates into reality on the ground.

Chitra Nagarajan: We are also very pleased to see DFID’s increasing commitment to tackling violence against women and girls overseas, as evidenced by the Secretary of State’s speech that Sir John referred to earlier. However, there are a number of areas where we feel that DFID needs to be stronger and take firmer action, including when it comes to crossgovernmental working. We believe that more of DFID’s funding should be targeted towards tackling the root causes of violence against women and girls, and directly address women’s empowerment.

On the funding point that Sir John made, we also think that there should be a review of the funding mechanisms. For example, the OECD DAC recently did a survey of all its funding to gender equality, and found that only 1.3% of all funding specifically to gender equality goes to women’s rights organisations and women’s ministries. Now the evidence is that it is actually the mobilisation of women’s rights organisations that causes policy change, we feel that funding should reflect that. Also we believe that DFID should use its position more when working with the FCO and the Ministry of Defence when it comes to crossgovernmental working.

Furthermore, finally I would like to make a point that we are a bit worried that there seems to be a collapsing of the violence against women and girls agenda and the women, peace and security agenda. I like to think of these as a Venn diagram, so obviously violence against women and girls happens in conflict but also across the spectrum of countries, and women, peace and security is broader than just violence against women and also includes women’s participation and empowerment, as well as ensuring that there are gender-sensitive relief, recovery and transitional processes. We are a bit worried that whenever we talk to DFID about what they are doing on women, peace and security, they tell us what they are doing on violence against women and girls, so we would like to see, as I said before, more work being done looking specifically at women’s participation and empowerment as well as violence.

Q71 Chair: I will ask Kerry Smith, but I have perhaps an added question on the way. For example, when we did our Report on Afghanistan, we highlighted the issue of women and girls in general, saying that the progress that women had made was, if you like, the best justification for intervention, and that what happened after 2015 to women and girls would be the best measure of continuity. When we asked DFID, they said, "It is all mainstreamed," but we could not find any particular programmes. I suppose what I am looking for is the extent to which they really need to bring out and highlight what they are doing specifically, and ensure that it is built into the process, rather than when they are asked afterwards, saying "Oh, it was all built into the programme," but you cannot find the references. Would that be a valid criticism of, or a valid recommendation to, DFID?

Kerry Smith: I think that is a valid recommendation. Plan is currently conducting a review of girls in disasters: what is happening to support girls and their needs in disasters, and what their needs are. Obviously violence against girls is a key concern for us. One of the things we are most worried about is the invisibility of girls in disasters. DFID has done a lot of work in prioritising violence-against-girls work on the one hand, and also girls’ education on the other, and what we would like to see is the integration of these approaches, which would lead to that kind of practical action.

In part of our research we have also looked at Afghanistan, and if you look at the 103 projects that we analysed, covering food, health, water, sanitation, shelter, NFIs, education and protection, only 10 projects were classified as having a principal purpose of advancing gender equality under the Gender Marker scheme of the Interagency Standing Committee. Given that we all recognise that gender equality and women’s rights is a key issue in Afghanistan, that is quite startling. Indeed seven of those were focussed on nutrition and the health sector, so it would seem that ensuring that mothers could feed their children properly was part of that advancement of gender equality-which it is, but not really. There are different ways of doing that.

What you highlight is true: when it gets down to the monitoring level of what projects are delivering on the ground, and how you influence those, there are some recommendations to be made about taking forward greater investment, but potentially also greater clarity on the part of donors like DFID to say, "These are the standards we require." That would be an interesting recommendation.

Q72 Pauline Latham: As a supplementary to that, you have talked about women in conflict, but what about women postconflict in the peace process, trying to build peace and trying to provide stability in a country? Do you think women are involved enough in that process?

Kerry Smith: I will let my colleague from Gender Action for Peace and Security answer that one.

Chitra Nagarajan: Thank you. The short answer is no, unfortunately. 1325, the Security Council Resolution that first talked about women, peace and security, was passed in 2000, but 13 years after that we still see women marginalised from peace and transition discussions. In the last 20 years, only 16% of peace agreements have mentioned the word "women", and a lot of times when women are mentioned it is to restrict women’s rights. Only one in 40 signatories to peace agreements are women, or 2.5%, which is woefully low. Unfortunately, as we are talking about DFID and the UK, the UK is not doing enough to ensure that women are included in peace and transition discussions. For example, the UK Government hosted a conference on Somalia last year, in February. At that conference there was only one woman from Somalia present. We are hoping that when the UK hosts the conference on Somalia again this year in May, this will be significantly better.

We were talking about Afghanistan earlier, and I think there has been a lot said about how women in Afghanistan are marginalised from the discussions happening there, so even though nine out of 70 members of the High Peace Council are women, the information we are getting is that these women are completely sidelined in discussions.

When we are talking about representation and participation, it is good to have the numbers there, but participation and representation needs to be meaningful. This is what I was talking about earlier when I was saying that DFID needs to do more to look at women’s participation, women’s empowerment and women’s leadership, not just at the international level but also at the national and community levels as well.

Q73 Fiona Bruce: Good morning, everyone. Sir John, you mentioned the Secretary of State’s recent speech, and the call to action internationally on violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies. You have all mentioned some steps that could be taken. Could I ask you all very briefly just to highlight what you think would be perhaps a single action that DFID could take to meet its stated objectives-to up its game assisting women in emergencies? What would be that single action you would like to see?

Sir John Holmes: It is always difficult to identify just one action. I think it is important when you are trying to deal with this that you mainstream it through other parts of the response agenda, so when you are designing shelter responses or food distributions, you factor in this idea of preventing, mitigating or reducing violence against women and girls, and then you need to have very specific responses as well. These are about providing services after women and girls have been subject to violence, in terms of preventing rape and HIV, and psychosocial therapy. You need the mixture of both. It is not a choice; it is very much the spectrum of those things.

If there was one single thing that DFID should do, apart from making sure that all the people who work for DFID are aware of this as a priority, it is to insist, when they are dealing with UN agencies, NGOs and so on in their funding decisions, that they will not fund unless this is a priority in their programmes-if it is appropriate, obviously, for that particular context-and there is reporting on what these organisations have done. On particular situations or annually, there should be reporting on what they have done to address this. That then starts to get the message through to the whole system, and would begin to make the real difference they want to see.

Chitra Nagarajan: I would agree with Sir John completely. It has been well documented that violence against women and girls always happens in emergencies but, despite that, funding is still far from adequate. That is one area in which DFID can contribute. Also I would recommend that they do more to adhere to, and make sure their partners adhere to, the IASC guidelines on addressing GBV in emergencies as well. I would just echo Sir John’s points.

Kerry Smith: I would agree with my colleagues. I think there is real value in DFID taking a leading role. They have already announced they will hold a humanitarian summit, and hopefully that will build on the Foreign Secretary’s work at the G8 on preventing sexual violence in conflict. What we would like to see is a real commitment from them, saying, "Along with those shelter, health and food specialists on that first plane, there will also be genderbased violence specialists and child protection specialists. We value it at that level; we see it as a lifesaving intervention." That message coming from DFID, as such a significant donor in the humanitarian setting, would be very useful.

In terms of looking at the systems, Sir John has already suggested a few in terms of internally looking at training as well as making that kind of funding commitment to tackling violence against women and girls very evident in the way in which it will fund other agencies. However, there are also things like returning to the Inter-agency Standing Committee’s Gender Marker, and particularly from girls’ perspective, incorporating age into that marker. Girls do not always benefit from services that are addressed to women. Girls need different kinds of services and do not necessarily access those sexual and reproductive health services or the genderbased violence services that are aimed purely at women. Incorporating an age component into the Gender Marker would be a very good step.

Q74 Fiona Bruce: Again, briefly, why do you think the lifesaving measures for women and girls in humanitarian settings are currently underprioritised and scarcely funded, and how far do you see UN relief agencies providing those services at present?

Sir John Holmes: There are two main reasons why it does not have the priority we think it should have. Firstly, when there is a new disaster and a new emergency, the automatic response has always been, "Let’s get the basics right first. Let’s make sure there is food, clean water and healthcare, and so on, and then we will think about the other stuff later." It is an understandable response, but we have learned over time that that does not really work, because you make too many mistakes at the beginning in how you design these things. That is why you need, as Kerry said, these experts on the first plane, and these projects and programmes in the first design of the response, rather than as something that comes along later.

Often, when it comes to mainstreaming these concerns into what you do about shelter, where you put the latrines, how you organise food distribution and how you do firewood collection and so on, it is too late; you have already made the decisions. That is one thing we need to overcome: that instinctive response of, "Let’s get the basics right first; let’s get all the usual stuff on the planes, and then we will sort the rest out later."

I think the second reason is, again, a very understandable response: "Before we put money or effort into this, or send the people out, we need to have some evidence that it is really happening. When we have some prevalence data about the number of women reporting rape, and the number of women reporting sexual violence or other harassment, or problems about collecting firewood, or whatever it might be, then we will find a response, and then we will do it." Of course that data either comes in very late, or sometimes does not come in at all in any meaningful way, because of the difficulties women have in reporting it.

It is a vicious circle. If there are no services available for the survivors of sexual violence, why would they go and report it to somebody, when they put themselves at risk by doing that, either with the authorities or with their own families or communities? That is why we say you need to build it in. Assume that it is happening, because we know it will be; build in those responses, and do not wait for the data. There is still an instinct to say, "There is no evidence of this," or, "Other organisations are not reporting this." We need to get over that hurdle and decide that we need to do it, on the basis that we know it is happening.

Q75 Chris White: Good morning. May I ask what you think are the most effective ways in which DFID can influence UN agencies to improve their efforts to address violence against women and girls in humanitarian and conflictaffected settings?

Kerry Smith: Certainly. One of the ways we have touched on before is to look at those funding mechanisms: prioritising violence against women and girls in the funding they grant to agencies, and asking for reporting back on it. The Gender Marker of the Interagency Standing Committee is a useful tool, but it only really monitors the projects on paper, so there is not really any monitoring coming back on what is being delivered on the ground.

It is an interesting system for all of us, isn’t it, when we are managing people. Strategically, however, you can use those board meetings. Convene with other donors like the US and Sweden before you go to the board meetings of Unicef or UNHCR, and agree amongst yourselves that you will focus on humanitarian settings in those board meetings as well as focus on violence against women and girls, and you will deliver that message at the very highest level-that this is a priority for you as members of the board and as key donor agencies. There is a lot of strategic work that can be done at that level.

Sir John Holmes: Can I just add to that? I worked at a UN agency that was obviously funded by donors like DFID, and agencies listen to donors. It is an obvious point, but he who pays the piper calls the tune. If donors come and say to an agency, "This is what we want you to do," and implicitly or explicitly say, "and if you do not do it, you will not get as much money as you did before," that works.

Chitra Nagarajan: I would agree with that. DFID should use its influence more to make sure that violence against women and girls is included as a criterion in annual reporting of partners, and make it clearer that DFID expects to see how, and the extent to which, the UN agencies are prioritising tackling violence against women and girls.

Q76 Chris White: I am glad to hear your level of confidence, Sir John. How do you think DFID could ensure peacekeepers are better trained in regards to gender issues?

Sir John Holmes: The same thing tends to apply. The UK, for example, is a major contributor to the budget of peacekeeping forces-disproportionately, compared with other UN members, because of the way the system works. They need to make sure that in all the discussions that are had, in the Security Council but also in the various Committees of the UN that look at the way peacekeeping works, protection of civilians as a general point, but also protection of the most vulnerable, particularly women and girls, is again included in the basic instructions for the way peacekeeping forces work.

When I was at OCHA, we did a lot of work with the DPKO, the Department in the UN for peacekeeping, to try to make sure that the training the peacekeepers got covered things like protection of civilians. That is not just about physical protection of civilians, but about an attitude and a way that they deal with them. It is a difficult problem, because the contingents that go into peacekeeping forces are ordinary military contingents from countries like Pakistan or wherever they might be. This is completely different and alien work for them. They only stay six months, so you have to keep on repeating it. It is quite a big problem to get that sort of attitude built in. It will not work unless you train the commanders of those forces first of all, and then they spread that attitude downwards.

It is a big task, it is a constant task, it is an uphill task, but that is the only way you can do it-by pushing it through so that they take it seriously. Then again you are looking, when the peacekeeping forces report on what is happening, as they have to do every six months to the Security Council, to see what they are saying about this, what they are doing about this, and whether the situation is improving.

Q77 Chris White: As you know, DFID has its 2011 Multilateral Aid Review this year. Which agencies in particular should be assessed on their commitment to addressing violence against women and girls?

Sir John Holmes: The obvious answer is they all should be.

Chris White: Any in particular?

Sir John Holmes: For humanitarian emergencies, obviously, you need to focus on UNHCR, the World Food Programme and Unicef. They are the three biggest working in that area, but of course there are others, like the UN Population Fund, that have some specialised services in there. It should be something that is pretty much across the board, because even those who are not working in emergencies are working in development settings, UNDP and so on. This is, as Chitra said, a spectrum, so we do not want to totally focus on violence against women and girls in humanitarian emergencies and neglect the wider issues of women’s empowerment and protection.

Q78 Pauline Latham: If I could just go back to the peacekeeping at the UN, you said that he who pays the piper calls the tune. That is not correct in the DRC. We asked the question, "Why don’t the UN peacekeepers hold on to the men they know have raped the women until the police get there?" We were told, "Oh, they cannot do that. That is not in their mandate." These women are being raped and abused regularly, even murdered, and the UN people know who the perpetrators are but they are not allowed to hold on to them until anybody comes to arrest them, because that would be seen as being on one side or another. It is not accurate to say that we pay a lot of money and therefore we should dictate, because nobody listens. We have asked that question.

Sir John Holmes: I was not saying they necessarily do it very well. I was just saying that we could make that effort. It is a big uphill struggle. The question of the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC, and how well they do or do not do in protecting civilians and particularly women, is a huge issue. There is a very technical point to which you are alluding, which is that their mandate is not to act as police forces, and that prevents them from doing certain things. However, even if you accept that point, and maybe it can be challenged, there is a lot they can do by making sure they are in the right places at the right times to try to stop that violence happening in the first place.

The point is always made, and it is correct, that they are a big peacekeeping force but it is a much bigger territory, so they will not be behind every bush and in every village and able to stop every incident. As I say, it is also a question of how they go about their task, how they liaise with local communities, how they understand what is happening there, and how they try to work out where they need to be and what the intelligence they have is. In all those areas, frankly, they are pretty weak, for some of the reasons I was giving-because they are just not naturally the kind of people who will do that very well. That is why we need to not expect too much of them, try to make sure they are trained as well as they can be, and then we have to tackle the problem of sexual violence in the DRC by all sorts of other methods as well. You have said that they could hold them until the police came, but the police force in the Eastern DRC-

Q79 Pauline Latham: They are some of the perpetrators. I accept that.

Sir John Holmes: Effectively, there are no prisons, no judges, and no police. Expecting the justice system to do its work is a very big challenge.

Q80 Chris White: Sorry, did you say we should not expect too much of them?

Sir John Holmes: What I mean by that, and I did spend quite a lot of time in DRC and a lot of time talking to people like those in that peacekeeping force, is that if you expect them to prevent every incident, and if you hold them to that standard, they will always miss it by absolutely miles. Even if there are 20,000 in a country the size of Europe, as it were, there are great limits on what they will do. Adjust your expectations; focus on what they can do, and what they should be doing. I do not mean you should set their aspirations lower than is right, but do not set the expectation so high that you are setting them up to fail before they even start. That is what I mean.

Chitra Nagarajan: I would like to add two further points to the comments made by Sir John. I think what is key here is that peacekeepers consult with women in communities about where the threats against them come from, to then make sure that their work is acting in reaction to the threats against the whole population. The second point is around the accountabilities of peacekeepers themselves who commit sexual violence and are involved in sexual exploitation and abuse. Of course this is a very tricky area, but the US is doing some work around this, and the UK should be supporting the work of its American counterparts in tackling this.

Sir John Holmes: One other point to make is that there was a very successful case-I do not think it was in DRC, but somebody may remember-where there was a female contingent of peacekeepers. I think they were from Bangladesh.

Chitra Nagarajan: Liberia.

Sir John Holmes: Liberia? They could do things, and understood things, that male contingents did not understand. That made a big difference, but unfortunately it has not been generalised in the way I think it could be.

Chitra Nagarajan: Yes. I worked in Liberia for a while, and it was very interesting talking with women’s rights organisations in Liberia about their ideas about the allfemale contingent. They could not only do things men could not; women felt more able to come and talk to them about threats to their personal security. Also, they did not view them as a threat, and felt safer walking when there were women peacekeepers there.

Kerry Smith: Could I just build on that point with one little point in terms of this idea of allwomen contingents of peacekeepers, which I think is a very interesting point and one that we need to take forward, but also this element of looking at the wide spectrum of violence? For example, for girls the journey to and from school is a real key concern for them and for their parents. Parents often withdraw them because they are worried about the violence they will be subjected to on that school journey. Even the simple effort of peacekeepers patrolling more often during those times, during those journeys, would provide quite a useful protective environment.

It is those small steps-not changing the whole structure but those small steps. The other point in terms of training, which ties in with the allwomen peacekeeper contingent element, is the idea of having those civilian experts very well embedded in the operational side of the peacekeeping operation. They should not be set aside as a particular civilian expert and go off and do their own thing, but be included in those kind of operational discussions and decisions at that very senior level. We have seen that that can work, for example, with child protection resources in DPKO in Sudan. It is worth exploring that as well.

Chitra Nagarajan: Another effect of having women peacekeepers-who in this case were actually from India not Bangladesh -

Sir John Holmes: Sorry.

Chitra Nagarajan: -is on women living in communities. The women I spoke with in Liberia were saying that for them they saw a lot more women joining the Liberian police force, because they saw this as something that women could do.

Q81 Richard Burden: I would like to ask you a couple of questions, if I may, about trying to combat violence against women and girls in refugee situations, and in particular in organised camps. It is always dangerous to generalise too much from a specific example, but last week we were in Ethiopia and the Sherkole camp, where there are 10,000 refugees. The vast majority come from Sudan, but there are some-and Fiona Bruce and I met a particular family involved here-who have come from the Great Lakes region. They had travelled across Uganda, Kenya and had ended up a long way away in Ethiopia, and their story was typical: of multiple rapes and so on. IRC are clearly doing some really good work in that camp, creating safe space for women and for girls, but also, when we spoke to this family from the Great Lakes, it seemed that they felt fairly separate from that.

That is not a criticism particularly, but generally in those kind of multinational, multiethnic situations, in terms of the refugees, is there any best practice to ensure the services and initiatives that are taken reach both, if you like, the mainstream-in that case, the Sudanese-and also other nationalities that may congregate in those camps?

Sir John Holmes: It is a very good point. Many camps are fairly uniform in the kind of people who are there, but there are plenty that are not, for the kinds of reasons you give. It is obviously crucial to ensure that the same services are available to everybody, and that the services are targeted at the particular needs of the different communities. I think what you are suggesting is that what may have been okay for the Sudanese refugees was not appropriate, perhaps, for this family from the Great Lakes. Is that what you mean? Or did they not feel comfortable with the others?

Q82 Richard Burden: No, it was not so much that. It was more that it was almost a bit irrelevant to them. They did not even mention this project was there, and we were asking them if they were getting any support. I suppose what I am getting at there, and this is my second question, is about how NGOs operating in this field interact with the management of camps, and whether there are any particular examples of good practice or where improvement is needed in particular situations, whether they are operated by UNHCR or particular countries and so on.

To give an example on that, if you look at the Syrian refugee crisis, there are very different models of how camps are run between, say, Turkey, where they have very much kicked UNHCR out and it is the Turkish Government that runs them, and Jordan, where it is a much more handson, UNHCRrun operation. I suppose what I am getting at is whether there is anything about the management of camps, or the approaches to that, that can increase the reach and effectiveness around violence against women and girls.

Sir John Holmes: The management of camps is absolutely crucial in reducing the risk of violence against women and girls when people are in the camps, as well as treating them for whatever may have happened to them before they got to the camps. We have to have both of those things in mind. As I was suggesting at the beginning, the design of a camp is very important for reducing these risks. It is about where the latrines are, whether they have locks, whether there is lighting, whether there are patrols, where they get the firewood from and whether the stoves are fuelefficient so they do not need to collect more firewood, which is often the point of maximum danger. Those design points are absolutely crucial, and part of the camp management.

There is good practice; there is plenty of guidance around about camps. Does it always work well? Obviously it is very variable, and the management is very variable. UNHCR often runs camps; NGOs sometimes run camps, and are given the task of camp management. I think the key is, from my experience visiting lots of these places, working with all the organisations that are working in that camp with a kind of camp committee, and that camp committee, as it were, also incorporating the people in the camp themselves, so it is not just something being done to them, but something they are helping to design for themselves.

That is not so easy to do right at the beginning when people are pouring in and so on, but it is something you can get right over time, because unfortunately many of these camps are there for a very long time. If you design the overall structure right, then the context for women and girls will also be much better, but then you still have to have the specific services we have been talking about: the safe spaces, the dignity kits, the survival care that may be needed to make sure that does not happen. Of course the security in the camp needs to be right as well, and that can be provided in different ways. There are plenty of ways of doing this.

One final point-sorry, I am going on too long-is about, for example, the Syria case. Most of the refugees from Syria are not in camps. They are in urban settings, particularly in Jordan; probably 80% in Jordan, and almost 100% in Lebanon, are not in camps. Most in the Turkish area are. Again, there are very different contexts, but you still need to be providing services in all those contexts that people can know about and access.

Kerry Smith: I would just add two things to emphasise what Sir John has said. There are standards, and I suppose the question is how you really ensure accountability for those standards. As a donor, a UN agency or an NGO, will you say to your staff and those who are delivering on the ground, "You will be measured against these particular standards, and we will want reporting back on them"? That is a key issue. What are we going to say we want the UK Government to put out there, as that key message around accountability?

The second issue to emphasise again is that voice concern. Adolescent girls, especially, are really invisible in emergencies. Their families hide them to protect them, but also because they want them to do the childcare, look for food and potentially do paid work. We need to look at camp management in a way that also provides secure places for girls and women to talk about the issues, the interventions and the services they want. That is as true in a camp situation as it is in a host community situation. In host communities girls are even further buried. There are definitely interventions we can make to engage with communities and their families and ensure that all those affected by emergencies are getting the services they need.

I will just make one more reflection. When you spoke about the family from the Great Lakes, what that sparked in me is that consideration that it is all of our duties. NGOs also have a duty to deliver better on the ground with regard to violence against women and girls, but also on issues like disability. Girls who are disabled are twice as likely to suffer sexual violence as girls who are nondisabled. This is another concern we have not got to the bottom of, and highlighting those problems of multiple discriminations or multiple vulnerabilities is really important.

Chitra Nagarajan: I would just like to add another point on that as well. I believe we need to do more to understand the intersecting sites of oppression, as well, linked to Kerry’s point. We cannot assume that the existing work on violence against women and girls will address the needs of, for example, migrant women, lesbian women, disabled women and trans women. We need to look both in terms of ensuring access to women who are further marginalised by double or triple forms of oppression, and making sure that our existing programming reflects their needs and perspectives as well.

Kerry mentioned that disabled women and girls are twice as likely to experience violence than the general population. One in seven women and girls are disabled, but there is very little research or programming that expressly targets this. We need to be better at making sure that when we talk about violence against women and girls, we are talking about violence against all women and girls.

Q83 Mr McCann: Could I ask each of you what your views are on the Foreign Secretary’s Preventing Sexual Violence initiative, and in particular what you feel it has achieved, and if you have any reflections on how it could be improved?

Sir John Holmes: Firstly, we warmly welcome it. It is a very good initiative. It is early days to talk about what it has achieved, because it is very much something that is, I think, part of the G8 Presidency and hopefully will feed through into what is happening in the G8 and the consciousness of other Governments in the G8 that they should be doing similar things. By the way, it is not only in the G8: I think it should be spread into the G20, which is a much more appropriate group, in some ways, for it to reach. We welcome it. We want to see it making a real difference on the ground and not just being a rhetorical commitment, and as I understand it there is a real commitment in the Foreign Office to making sure that happens by sending out, for example, the team that will go out to DRC and other places.

If there is a concern, it is that we do not focus exclusively on what they are prioritising, which is prevention and the reduction of impunity. Those are extremely important things, and of course if you can prevent the phenomenon in the first place, that is the best way of dealing with it. However, for example, in a place like DRC, as we were saying earlier, preventing it has been our objective for 20 years and we have made very little progress, if we are truthful about it, and probably will not until the overall conflict stops. The impunity point is absolutely crucial, because again it is extremely difficult to tackle in an area where there is very little infrastructure of any kind. Even if you lock people up, they have to let them out because there is no food for them in the prison. It is that sort of basic problem that you are dealing with.

I am not saying that is not a good thing to focus on, but we need to make sure that there is also a focus on the response side of it-the services available for victims of sexual violence afterwards-and all the measures we have been talking about to make sure that whatever we are doing includes the threat to women and girls.

Chitra Nagarajan: We also very much welcome the prioritisation by the Foreign Secretary of the issue of sexual violence in conflict, and although it is too early to tell, I think we can see some indications of the impact it is having already. For example, I do not know if any of you have read the recent case of the woman in Somalia who was imprisoned because she accused the security forces of rape. They imprisoned her for insulting the security forces. I know this was raised with the Somali Prime Minister by the UK Prime Minister and also by the Foreign Secretary, and as a result of international pressure, that woman has now been released from prison, so it is already having some impact. However, although Ministers have stated that DFID has an important role to play in the initiative, we are still yet to see exactly what that role is.

There are areas in which DFID should be supporting the FCO, and three key areas for us are ensuring that all the support it gives to security and justice sector reform is gendersensitive, ensuring that support is given to women’s rights organisations or women’s human rights defenders around this, and also funding for survivor services. We find that although women’s rights organisations and women’s human rights defenders are key agents for change, as I mentioned before, in preventing and responding to violence against women, they are completely sidelined and marginalised. This is not just when it comes to funding, but when it also comes to looking at protection against attacks against them. Women’s human rights defenders are subject to attacks, and the attacks on them are increasing internationally, but yet very little is being done to act proactively and reactively to this.

We are very happy to see that this is something that the FCO and Foreign Secretary will be pushing at the G8 in April at the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, but we strongly believe that this needs to be accompanied by DFID support as well. Although DFID is scaling up its programming dealing with violence against women and girls, there needs to be more consideration of how to mitigate the backlash that will inevitably occur against women’s rights organisations and women activists, and build that into all stages of DFID programming work.

Kerry Smith: Can I just add two quick points? What it has achieved is a real UK Government vision. We are the champions globally of violence against women and girls, and that is not to be sniffed at. That is something quite powerful. We hope that will see some results in the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in April and lead into some significant commitments by donor colleagues in the humanitarian summit in the autumn. Also, the Foreign Office, alongside DFID, have done quite a lot of consultation of civil society experts on this initiative, and they have opened up their vision. They have opened it up to include the important issue of sexual violence against girls and boys, and also to look at that conundrum of services.

The Foreign Office is there to look at the human rights angle and the diplomatic angle. They are not there necessarily to provide the services on the ground, but they realise that you will not get the prosecutions or address impunity if you do not have services that women can go to get their health looked after or to be accompanied along that very long road to justice. Those are all good things. Where it could always do with improvement is in the strengthening of the understanding of how services relate to justice, and also how they are of value in and of themselves. Obviously we have not yet seen what the humanitarian summit will bring, or what its agenda is, but that is really the future of this particular initiative.

Q84 Mr McCann: My next question was going to be: do you think there is a risk in isolating sexual violence in conflict from all the other problems? I think you have all partially answered that, but in terms of the particular point you have just made, Kerry, do you not think there is a huge danger? You have just said it yourself in your own words: "The Foreign Office only do this, and it is not connecting up with all the different parts of the problem we have to deal with." Therefore, it goes back to the heart of the problem: is it wise to set up a separate initiative dealing with only one part of the problem, rather than taking a holistic approach?

Kerry Smith: Is it wise, or is it practical? You come away from principle into practicality, and I feel that sometimes you just have to take specific problems, really highlight them, and ensure that you are making those links into that delivery on the ground.

Q85 Mr McCann: You have just said they do not deliver on the ground.

Kerry Smith: No, they do not deliver on the ground, but they need to make the links into the agencies that do, so if they are putting experts into DRC, which they are doing, they need to make those links with those organisations, national and international, who are delivering on the ground the health responses, improving-justice responses and capacity building. They are aware that they need to link into what is already there.

I suppose it is whether we take the opportunity of saying, "This is at least being highlighted at the G8." I agree it needs to go to the G20. Is that something we can take it to, and can we get that donor and funding commitment from a humanitarian summit of the G8, including the G20, to make sure that there is actual impact on the ground in terms of delivering services for women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence, but also in terms of going along that road to preventing it as well?

Chitra Nagarajan: I would also hope that what this initiative does is raise the profile of women, peace and security across the board as well, so that we are not looking at just one part of the agenda, which is tackling violence against women and girls-actually only a very small part of that agenda, which is specifically sexual violence in conflict-but also looking at the women’s participation, empowerment and leadership that I mentioned earlier. This year is a very important year, in that not only do we have the G8 in April, we have CSW-the Commission on the Status of Women-going on now, but also the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is being evaluated this year, with an idea of developing a new National Action Plan to run from 2014 to 2016.

The UK was one of the first countries to develop a National Action Plan, and has really been leading the agenda when it comes to women, peace and security, but the NAP still remains siloed and not integrated into wider conflict prevention and response strategy. For example, I would like to see more work being done on the Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which looks at conflict prevention and response, integrates gender analysis and sees violence against women and girls as a key cause and consequence of violent conflict. That is the kind of work that needs to be done, and that is the kind of work I am hoping the resources currently being given to the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative will then go on to do in the months and years ahead.

Chair: We were coming on to that. I should point out that we are not halfway through the topics we wish to cover, and we are threequarters of the way through the time we had allocated, so I ask everybody to move it along a bit, because we would like to cover them all.

Q86 Fabian Hamilton: Sir John, nice to see you again. I think we last met in Washington at the UN, when you were there. I want to continue what Michael McCann has been discussing, the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and its crossdepartmental working. We have had witnesses say to us that DFID’s participation in the PSVI remains "unclear". Saferworld, for example, said, "It will be important for the Government to articulate [DFID’s] role in order to ensure that this initiative takes advantage of DFID’s expertise on tackling VAWG in a longer-term, holistic way," as Michael mentioned. Could you tell us what you think should be the way that DFID can see a complementary working between PSVI and its growing portfolio of initiatives on violence against women and girls?

Sir John Holmes: The important thing from our point of view is that there is a joinedup approach here. Whatever the origins of the initiative may be, and whatever feelings of "not invented here" syndrome and all that sort of thing may have been there at the beginning, it is important the two Departments, and Departments more widely, including MOD and so on, do get involved in this in an integrated way. My colleagues are closer to this and may see it slightly differently, but my perception is that that is happening-not as fast as we would like, perhaps, but it is beginning to happen. It is being tackled in an integrated way. The Foreign Office has realised that DFID needs to be centrally engaged in this, and DFID has realised they need to be centrally engaged in this.

That sort of joinedup working is starting to happen. The main point that needs to be there is that the Foreign Office can highlight or spearhead this kind of initiative, but the services on the ground are not their job, and will not be their job. They can give it a real profile that we would not have had otherwise, and get it into places that DFID could not have got it into, but then DFID will have to run with the consequence of it, and run with the practical projects, programming and funding on the ground over the long term. As I say, this struggle is not a single decision or a single speech. It really is a marathon, not a sprint.

Q87 Fabian Hamilton: But it is not clear, is it, how far into the future this will go, or what funding there is for the next few years. Do you have any different view? Do you have any different information about whether this will continue for the next five or 10 years, or whether it is just a shortterm initiative?

Sir John Holmes: My guess is that the PSVI may be relatively short term, but what then lies behind it, and what DFID do to pick it up and run with it, for example the international call to action by Justine Greening and the summit next autumn, lays the foundation for something much more long term, which is of course what it needs to be.

Chitra Nagarajan: I would also recommend that the FCO does not pass this over to DFID at the end of this year and continues to see this as a key diplomatic priority for them as well.

Q88 Fabian Hamilton: You all mentioned the UK’s leading role in this particular field and this particular initiative, but isn’t this something where good working and good practice could be spread to other countries, to the UN itself, and as you mentioned, Sir John, to peacekeeping forces on the ground?

Chitra Nagarajan: I understand that quite a few of the other G8 members have taken this on, and are pursuing this anyway. I agree that it needs to be spread more broadly, and it needs to be spread more broadly than the G8, and there needs to be more ownership and leadership from fragile and conflictaffected states themselves in the international sphere, but also in terms of exchanging lessons and best practices between them. That is something I would like to see the UK Government supporting more.

Sir John Holmes: I think one particular target should also be ECHO and the European Commission, to make sure they fully adopt this and run with it. There is no reason why they should not, but it has not happened fully yet.

Kerry Smith: I do not have much to add, just a little reflection, which is that people are worried about the integration with DFID and what DFID’s role is. On a practical implementation level, it is the conflict and humanitarian team who are training and recruiting the team of experts who will be going out to do this work. There is investment by DFID in the initiative and the implementation of it. It is the linking up of the investment on the implementation side with the strategic vision. I believe that the call for a humanitarian summit is part of linking the strategic vision from this initiative to a longer term, more embedded pool of work, which is to be welcomed.

Q89 Jeremy Lefroy: Good morning. I would just like to go back to the National Action Plan, which you were mentioning, Chitra, just a few minutes ago. You said there was a concern that it was siloed and not integrated, I think, if I am quoting you correctly. How effective do you think the UK’s implementation of the NAP has been, and how could it be more effective? Perhaps you could go into some more detail on that.

Chitra Nagarajan: Yes, of course. The UK is doing an evaluation of the National Action Plan this year, so the full answer to your question will come out in a few months’ time. In terms of the National Action Plan, the UK’s work on this has been increasingly effective. The National Action Plan that we have currently is better than the one we had previously, and I am very much hoping that the new National Action Plan that will be developed this year will be better still.

However, I think there are key issues around resources allocated to the National Action Plan. For example, only within the last few months do we have one fulltime person within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office devoted to the National Action Plan. Before that, it was one of, I think, four priorities she had. We have only recently had somebody within DFID, who now spends 20% of her time on the National Action Plan. I believe there need to be greater staffing resources allocated to the NAP. There needs to be more funding allocated to the National Action Plan as well. The National Action Plan has no budget allocated to it, and this really limits the effectiveness of its work.

Where I think the National Action Plan has been most effective is in ensuring that commitments in it act as a way to leverage the machinery of Government to ensure that women, peace and security are integrated when it comes to other policies and practice. For example, there is a commitment in the National Action Plan to ensure that gender analysis is mainstreamed within the Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which then has given officials within Government leverage to make sure that that is being done. That is a very incomplete story, in that I believe that gender analysis is not adequately mainstreamed within the BSOS, which is the main conflict prevention and response strategy that the UK Government has.

For example, the guidelines that I have seen around how to develop conflict analysis do not require gender analysis to be taken into account here. The country strategies that have come as a result of this are classified, so I have not had a chance to see them, but my sense is, going by the JACS guidelines, that gender is not being adequately looked at in other crossgovernmental policies. The answer is that it is getting better, but there is still a long way for the UK Government to go when it comes to the National Action Plan and ensuring that the principles of the National Action Plan are integrated into all policies and strategies.

The real gap is between policy and practice. We have the National Action Plan, but we need to make sure that, when the UK Government hosts a conference on Somalia, looks at what it is doing in Afghanistan, or looks at what it is doing in DRC and in other fragile and conflictaffected states, it does not remain in a nice document in London but is integrated into the job descriptions of members of staff, performance indicators, and also into the work that is being done incountry to make sure that we have real, meaningful, genuine and longlasting change for women living in fragile and conflictaffected states.

Q90 Jeremy Lefroy: I just want to pick up on something we spoke about briefly earlier, which is also a major part of the NAP: the role that women should play in conflict and peace processes. A question I wanted to follow up on that-perhaps addressed to Sir John-was whether there is much more that we could do in the way of strategic training, particularly at a high level, for the involvement of women in peace processes: whether that is going on now, whether it is something the UN has looked at and, if not, whether it is something it should do and an area that DFID could perhaps support you in.

Sir John Holmes: The UN has certainly looked at this, and is very conscious of this absence of women from peace processes and conflict resolution efforts. By the way, I would say it is not just an absence of women, but also an absence of civil society in general. One of the sad things about conflicts is that when it comes to settling them, you only have the men with guns there. You do not have the civil society there in any meaningful way. We saw that happen in Darfur, DRC and other places. It is a wider point than just the women, but women are a very specific and obvious example of it.

The UN has understood this is a problem. Solving it is, of course, more difficult. It is easy to say, but quite hard to do, because very often the people involved in the conflicts are not willing to have women on their delegations, and do not know who they would be. That is where there is a possibility of the UN, but also DFID and the UK Government, trying to help identify people, train them and make them capable of participating in these things in a way that will then be accepted by the other members of these delegations, whoever they may be. It is a vicious circle-because there is not anybody there, there is not anybody there-so we have to break that. Maybe identifying civil society, helping them, giving them a bit of funding if necessary, is one way of putting at least the thin end of the wedge into it and hopefully increasing it.

Chitra Nagarajan: If I could just add a point on there, there is yet to be a woman who has been appointed by the UN as a chief mediator in a peace process. One of the things we are recommending is that the UK take a lead on developing a roster of women who could do this kind of work, and giving them training, because we need to look at the international peace and security structures, as well as looking at participants to a peace process. We know that women in countries all around the world are the ones who are building the peace. The role of women in building peace and stability has been very well documented, but it is quite ignored. The way to have an effective process-it is a matter of rights, but it is also a matter of what works-is to have more women involved.

Q91 Jeremy Lefroy: I have one final question, if I may, Chairman. Very specifically, the UK has a peace and stabilisation unit in Nairobi, which does a lot of work with East African armed forces. I wondered if anybody on the panel is aware of whether this particular role of specialists in preventing violence against women and children in conflict is one that the UK is introducing into that particular programme, given its importance in that part of the world in training peacekeepers for missions across East and Central Africa.

Chitra Nagarajan: I do not know I am afraid.

Sir John Holmes: There is a very important general point there, which is that when you are trying to prevent violence against women, what we need is fewer speeches at the UN and more people who go and talk to the military contingent, including the militias, who are responsible for most of this stuff in a place like DRC. We need people who will go and talk to leaders and say, "You have to stop this happening, not just because you will be arrested and put on trial if you do not, but because this is a very bad thing for your organisation to be doing and you are responsible for it." That is much harder to do than to make a nice speech in the General Assembly, but that is what needs to happen.

Jeremy Lefroy: Thank you. I think, Chairman, that is one thing we can take up with the Secretary of State.

Q92 Chair: Yes. I just wondered if you could comment briefly on the role of the Ministerial Champion. Lynne Featherstone was appointed to that role, in fact, when she was in the Home Office, but she has come into DFID with that. How effective do you think the role has been and how much more effective do you think it could be, if you do not feel it has reached its full potential?

Kerry Smith: It is part of building the Government’s position and commitment to tackling violence against women and girls. The fact that the Minister had experience in the Home Office, looking at equality and looking at some crosscutting issues like early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation, meant that she was very well placed to take this position and move it forward internationally.

There is a question of resourcing-there always is-and if she and her team were resourced more strongly, her work in terms of working with other Ministers from international development ministries would be strengthened, especially because, from Plan’s perspective, she is in a very key role, because of her linking of education and violence against women and girls. Schoolrelated genderbased violence is a key issue for girls across the world. We need girls to continue their education if we want to change patterns and norms of accepting violence. We need to engage boys at schools to do this too. She has a key role, but it is about whether she is resourced to be able to push that through on the international stage as well as in terms of the departmental work she does.

Chitra Nagarajan: I would also like to raise the point here that, as far as I am aware, her terms of reference have yet to be published and disseminated, and this is something that it would be very good for civil society to see. I would also like to raise the point here around the DFID Operational Plans. At the moment, each country has an Operational Plan that runs until 2015, and DFID country officers are starting to think through what the next set of Operational Plans should be. We very strongly believe that violence against women and girls specifically, and women’s rights more generally, need to be reflected in each country’s Operational Plan.

I would very much like to see Operational Plans for fragile and conflictaffected countries talk about the National Action Plan and outline how the UK is meeting its women, peace and security commitments. That is something potentially the Ministerial Champion could take up.

Kerry Smith: I would echo that. Operational Plans are obviously strategic visions for a country, but this is a strategic aim-to end violence against women and girls. It is a key place we would like to see that reflected.

Chair: You think her role should be more clearly defined, and more focussed, and also resourced? She is giving evidence to us, so we can obviously draw that out.

Q93 Pauline Latham: I am conscious of the time, so very briefly, what do you think the priorities for DFID should be in expanding its programme on violence against women and girls at country level?

Sir John Holmes: At country level the same applies as at international level, which is that when it is looking at what it wants to fund, whether it be in emergencies or longer term development work, it needs to make sure that the organisations it is working with, the organisations it is funding, whether they are international agencies or local NGOs and civil society organisations, have this built into their programme and any proposals they make to DFID for funding, and then have to report on it afterwards. That same sort of insistence on it being there and being accountable for what has happened at national level will work just as well on an international level.

That also means that the DFID staff on the ground have to have that kind of training and guidance built into what they do right from the beginning, which means they all need to have had that training, and that is something that has not happened yet and needs to happen, so that it becomes automatic. It needs to be a real priority, not a boxticking priority, for them to make sure it happens on the ground. That would be my response.

Chitra Nagarajan: I have four points, if I may. The first is that my sense is that work on violence against women and girls is not institutionalised at the country level. It happens rather at an ad hoc level, depending on the commitment and interest of staff there, and there seems to be as a result a disjuncture between rhetoric and reality. What is needed, as Sir John mentioned, is training for all DFID staff on women’s rights, which includes training on violence against women and girls. It needs to be pushed out by DFID here as a priority. Obviously the Secretary of State is very committed to this, but that political commitment needs to translate to the country level.

Secondly, there needs to be more focus on the root causes of violence, supporting women’s empowerment and leadership, and looking at the role of women’s rights organisations and women’s human rights defenders. There needs to be specific funding and support given to women’s human rights defenders, given the attacks they face but also their critical role in enabling change.

Finally, I want to talk very quickly, if I may, about Afghanistan. The Secretary of State has committed that addressing violence against women and girls should be a priority goal in the DFID Operational Plan for Afghanistan. That is something we have been recommending to DFID and we are very happy to see this, but we very strongly believe that this should be developed in consultation with women’s rights organisations and women running shelters and providing other services in the country. I was hoping to get information from the Afghan Women’s Network in time for today, to present to you, and unfortunately they are still gathering their thoughts, but I will send that to you so that you can reflect it in your thinking and report. Consultation with the women who are doing the work is really key to ensuring that intervention is targeted and effective.

Kerry Smith: I have one key point to add to that: build on the work they are doing on education. There are lots of things they can build on if they integrate their strategies around violence against women and girls in their education programming, making sure in that dialogue with national governments that violence against women and girls is introduced into ensuring safer schools, into the curriculum, and in scaling up the programmes they have already seen success on, which include having spaces for discussion for girls and having reporting mechanisms distinguished around where you can go if you are suffering from violence.

They should also look at the issues of slowonset emergencies, ensuring that as they prioritise education and violence against women and girls within that category, they also look at issues of flexibility for funding and ensuring that, from their development programme into their humanitarian programme, there is an ability to address the needs as they arise, so that education does not just stop, because that really is where you will tackle the root causes. It is also where you will be able to prevent a lot of the violence that girls suffer from.

Q94 Fiona O’Donnell: Good morning. I apologise that I was not here at the start. I am trying to be in two Committees at the same time this morning. I think you have answered my first question; you have talked about training and what needs to change in terms of having the right resources there, and no one seems to be arguing that we have the appropriate staff at the appropriate levels just now in DFID. I wanted to ask about the decision to move the Violence Against Women and Girls team from Policy to the Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department. Given that we all agree we cannot tackle violence without addressing gender inequalities and the Gender Team is located in the Policy division, do you think that was the right decision? Do you think that will have an impact on joinedup working?

Chitra Nagarajan: My sense is, and this is going back to what I said earlier about the collapsing of the women, peace and security agenda and the violence against women and girls agenda, I understand the reasons for the shift; they are trying to have Gender people across the whole range of DFID departments. However, I think that having the Violence Against Women and Girls team situated within CHASE adds to the collapsing of the two agendas, and the conflation of those two agendas.

I want to say that the Violence Against Women and Girls team have been doing a very good job in terms of pushing the agenda within DFID, but they do seem rather overworked in my opinion, and if we are talking about the team itself, I would like to see them getting additional staffing resources, especially given that this has become such a priority for the Secretary of State. I am not quite sure how they will deal with all the work that is being created as a result. It is an indication of their success, but we need to reward that.

Sir John Holmes: Chitra is probably right about the resources, but I do not really agree about where they should be. I think it is good to have a unit like that attached to the people who are taking the funding decisions and doing the operational stuff on the ground. The difficulty about being in a policy unit is it can seem to be a separate unit, thinking great thoughts in an ivory tower, and not really linked to what is happening on the ground. By putting them in CHASE, you are creating that link. There are other risks with it too, I accept that, but I rather welcome it. Having had organisations where people have been in those boxes, I think this is a way of unsiloing them, and making sure that their concerns are fed through straight onto the ground.

Kerry Smith: I would say we should not be complacent. Just because you have the Violence Against Women and Girls team situated within CHASE does not mean that the rest of CHASE responds to that agenda. We need to look and make sure that they are adequately resourced, and adequately resourced to have that engagement in that operational decisionmaking, which is exactly the use or benefit of them being placed in that unit.

Q95 Fiona O’Donnell: An important component of preventing violence against women and girls is making sure that those who are guilty of violent crimes are prosecuted. I wondered, given the situation in Bosnia, where we have had fewer than 40 prosecutions, do you see any chance of that happening, and that threat really being there for the kind of people you were talking about in the militia? Is there any chance that they would be prosecuted if they were to commit acts of violence?

Sir John Holmes: There have been some prosecutions. I think it was Mr Lubanga who was indicted and convicted by the International Criminal Court. It was their first conviction, and his basic convictions were for sexual crimes. That was a very good signal. Unfortunately that has not been followed up by a lot of other signals. There is a really difficult problem in a place like DRC, as we were discussing earlier. The justice infrastructure in Eastern DRC is more or less nonexistent. I am slightly exaggerating, but only slightly.

Replacing it with some international form of justice, however, is fraught with problems as well. It is extremely expensive, not necessarily well received locally, and so on and so forth. Everybody can agree that ending impunity is absolutely crucial; providing justice for the people who are perpetrating these appalling crimes is essential, but we are not quite sure how we will achieve that in practice. That is one of the big challenges for the Foreign Secretary’s initiative. The other thing is that not all women believe that justice is what they need most. They often do want to see justice, but that is not necessarily why they go to someone to talk about it. They may need other help, and that is the other help we can provide. That is why we need to have the range of responses available, and not just focus on the justice side.

Q96 Chair: One final question. The Department set up a £25 million research fund to look at primary prevention, violence and conflict in humanitarian situations, and the economic and social costs of violence, which are all good issues. Are those the right ones? Are there any others that you think such a research project should address?

Sir John Holmes: We very much welcome that fund. We believe that sort of data collection and analysis very much needs to be done, and it needs to be commissioned by DFID but not done by DFID, necessarily. We are trying to be part of that bidding process with other people, so we think it is very welcome.

Q97 Chair: Presumably the point of it is to help influence other players to recognise how important it is, and that putting money into it is beneficial for development. It is not just a conscience thing. It is practically beneficial.

Kerry Smith: Yes. They have covered the broad bases in terms of what they want to focus on. I think it will provide, first of all, that kind of practical research and innovation that could lead to the scaling up of successful programmes, or new programmes that really work on the ground, but it could also provide that evidence that will persuade other actors-both national Governments as well as other international actors. We would hope, and we are also engaged in this with other civil society organisations, that adolescent girls get a look in, and that the specific needs of adolescent girls are focussed on in some of this, and also that there is a willingness to bring together the violence against women and girls and education agendas, to really have a look at how you address, prevent and respond to schoolrelated gender-based violence.

Chitra Nagarajan: Very briefly, it is difficult to comment fully on the fund because we have not had further information since it was announced. I would hope that at least some of it would go to funding the innovative work that is being done by women’s rights organisations incountry, who have been doing this work for years, and also that it looks at change over the long term as well, given we know how long it takes to ensure changes in norms, behaviours, attitudes and practices.

Finally, there is a commitment in the National Action Plan to commission research on gender, conflict and peace. We are not quite sure where this money is coming from, and when we talk to civil servants they talk about this fund. Now, of course, as I keep on saying, women, peace and security is wider than violence against women and girls, and violence against women and girls is wider than women, peace and security, so it is a bit of a concern that they are thinking of using this fund to fund research on women, peace and security. We worry that then we are focusing only on violence against women and girls that happens in fragile and conflictaffected states, and both agendas are much wider than that.

Chair: Thank you all very much indeed. It has been a very helpful and interesting session. You all have different points to bring to bear. We thank you very much indeed for coming in and doing those. I apologise slightly to Mrs Brundtland: she has been here listening patiently, but we are looking forward to hearing what she has to say as well. Thank you very much.

Examination of Witness

Witness: Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, exPrime Minister of Norway, The Elders, gave evidence.

Q98 Chair: Good morning, Dr Brundtland.

Dr Brundtland: Good morning.

Chair: Thank you very much for coming in. I appreciate that we are slightly later than you anticipated.

Dr Brundtland: That is fine.

Chair: I guess you were able to see how the session was going beforehand. Welcome, and thank you very much indeed. You are here as a very distinguished Elder to give us your views and your experience, and I do not think an introduction on your own is required. Welcome and thank you very much.

I wondered if we could set the scene. You have, as I say, a distinguished career. You have been a doctor, a Prime Minister, a former Director of the World Health Organisation. In your experience, what is your take on the extent to which violence against women and girls impacts on development and indeed on social progress? What is your own take on how significant an issue it is, and how big an impact it has?

Dr Brundtland: It is nice to be here with you, and I am glad that you have this issue on the agenda. That is important in itself. Of course, the UK Government has been playing an important role on issues of this kind-together, may I say, with Norway and others-so I am happy to be here. When you look at the issue of violence against women, of course it is linked to the fact that across the world, in so many countries, discrimination against women is continuously happening. Violence is part of a pattern that is linked to discrimination. As you focus on violence, it has to focus on inequalities, on discrimination, and on the cultural and traditional aspects of many countries across the world that are still in a kind of historic picture of looking at women as a second sex and as an inferior sex compared with men. I just came from the celebration of 100 years of women voting in Norway. We had that last Friday.

Chair: You are way ahead of us in celebrating 100 years.

Dr Brundtland: I know, also on this one, yes. Generally on these kinds of issues, we collaborate well with the United Kingdom, but we did have a kind of pioneer role in this sense. Now I say that because as we look at what has happened in those 100 years, I had to express two main things in the brief policy statement that I made on direct broadcasting from Kristiansand in the south of Norway. One is that we have to be vigilant in our own country. Although we have come far in reaching equality, it is easy to get backlashes, and we have to be vigilant, even in countries like Norway.

Secondly, the biggest concern when you look at celebrating 100 years is looking across the world and looking at young girls being forced into marriage at 10, 12, 14 years of age, and the fact that girls are not being fed the same way as boys, because boys get the food first, and the fathers before the mothers-the boys before the girls. In addition, girls are kept out of school because they are supposed to be carrying water and firewood, and basically helping the family have the boys go to school. This sounds like some kind of extreme situation, in maybe only a few places. It sounds like that to many people, but it is not.

It is across continents in so many countries, which is why, as Elders, from the beginning, when Nelson Mandela called us together and we discussed the priority concerns as we looked at the world today, in trying to overcome conflict in areas where conflict has been intractable, we tried to see if an independent group like ours could be helpful. When you look at other main thematic issues, discrimination against women we identified immediately. We spoke out on tradition and religion as creating the basis and being misused to keep traditions and cultures that discriminate against women. As Elders, we have spoken out on that, because it is a major concern. Then we looked at what, of all the issues linked with discrimination against women, we could try to make a difference on: specifically, things that have been forgotten or are concealed by other issues.

Having analysed it for a year, and having had several debates, we ended up putting child marriage in front. Child marriage is a symbol of and a symptom of inequality in cultures and traditions that undermine the futures of girls. When it undermines the futures of girls, it undermines the future of their offspring. You keep girls and women in a subdued, subverted situation of not being able to choose for themselves, not being able to continue in school, and in those ways we gradually built an alliance called Girls Not Brides, with 200 different NGOs linked up to help overcome child marriage by 2030. The extent of discrimination illustrates how much there is to be done, and that means violence is linked to it, culturally and traditionally.

Q99 Chair: Thank you for that. We visited an example of that project in Amhara Province in Ethiopia in the last week. I think it is worth pointing out, on the basis of what you said, that what inspired us was first of all a priest speaking out against child marriage, a mother who had sent her daughter to a child marriage essentially saying she had got it wrong, and a young girl who had been through the experience. I will give you a little commercial: we have a small video on our website of those particular things, which highlights those interviews with those people, and perhaps demonstrates progress. It relates to the next question, and you may be a Norwegian, but feel free to reply about what you think our Government can do: DFID and other countries are putting this up the agenda now. What do you think the UK Government, and DFID in particular, can do to add value to that prioritisation of the issue?

Dr Brundtland: To the whole wider violence issue? Yes. Certainly it is crucial that some countries, and as many as possible that carry some weight internationally, keep this high on the agenda. If that does not happen, we will see backlashes. I was thinking about the Cairo 1994 meeting. In front of me as I was speaking was President Mubarak and his wife. I specifically remember how President Mubarak smiled and was nodding as I was making a quite radical statement in that summit of the United Nations on women and family planning and population. Still, we succeeded: if you look at the text there, the role of women, the link to the rights of women in reproductive health and sexual rights were all taken care of, and so although you can say a lot about Egypt and Mubarak, when they were hosting that conference I believe that Egypt helped avoid extremism weakening the text.

However, in the last nearly 20 years, and certainly in the last 10 years, I have seen backpush, systematically trying to undermine and get away from part of the Cairo language, and other important international documents. What is happening now in New York, in the Committee meeting that is still going on this week, ending on Friday, is the same issue: trying to put cultural and sovereignty issues above and beyond general human rights concerns and obligations. That is what some countries are really trying to do: to push for a real setback and to get agreement that countries on a sovereign basis can define their own cultural needs, above and beyond human rights. This is absolutely unacceptable.

I met this in Davos, during the time that I was DirectorGeneral, so some time around 2000. The Foreign Minister of Iran was at a luncheon table with me and with seven or eight mostly European leaders, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers. He was speaking about cultural rights-intelligently, enthusiastically-and people around the table were nodding, listening to the man talking about this. I kept silent, looking in fascination at him and at my former colleagues, and my first statement was: "Everything I have heard is good and well, as soon as you confirm that, of course, the Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 still stands," because what he was basically saying was that he was trying to supersede human rights with something called cultural rights, which of course were defined by religious or other political leaders in different countries, one by one.

That was an early sense that I got of how bad the backpush towards the UN Declarations was going to be, and now, 13 years later, it is still going on in New York at this specific time. Unless you have countries like the United Kingdom working hard to avoid this and to fight against this, together with others, it is really dangerous.

Q100 Mr McCann: Good morning, Dr Brundtland. We are just back from Ethiopia, and you have visited Ethiopia as well, and we met girls. I think people in your country and in our country would be horrified to learn what is happening on the ground. We were told in briefing sessions that boys and girls were promised as early as six years old, and they were then married when the girl had matured enough to menstruate, so you could be talking about 12, 13 or 14. These events are been televised across the UK, and probably across the world, but I think it is important for people to realise that we took testimony from a 22yearold woman who had been married at six to an older man, and had been forced to have sexual intercourse at that age. I think people would be horrified.

Dr Brundtland: At the age of nine?

Mr McCann: Six.

Dr Brundtland: That is unusual, but yes.

Mr McCann: She had been internally destroyed, and she was married again and she was fearful that her husband would divorce her because she was no longer able to have children. That is the reality on the ground in terms of those cultural problems that you spoke about so vividly a few moments ago. In terms of UK development assistance, where should our efforts be focussed in terms of the monies that we are putting into ending this terrible infliction of child marriage? Where would you advise us to place more money? Is it in more research, or is it in the type of programmes we have seen in the Amhara region of Ethiopia?

Dr Brundtland: Research is always important. Unless we have an evidence base to spread, it does not work. However, it is more important, in my mind now, to use the research we already have, because there is a lack of action in promoting the necessary changes. In countries like Ethiopia and others with very high levels of child marriage, which illustrate the discrimination against women and the culture and traditions linked to that, we need to help people work directly with communities, with men, with priests-with all the groups directly at the local level. That is what really works. This is what we saw in Ethiopia too: some of the programmes that were also functioning there-partly also with United Nations Foundation funding, by the way, to which I also belong-with people collaborating to have a debate or a dialogue going on in the local communities.

It helped. After a few years there was a change of opinions. Of course it is a longterm thing, but change happens even within a few years. I remember a young girl of maybe 15. She was sitting there with her husband. They had been married off; he was maybe two or three years older than her, and they brought the boys, the men, the mothers, all age groups, into village discussions, with people asking questions and commenting, and thinking for themselves whether this was a good practice or not. This young couple were sitting there holding hands, and they told their story. The girl said, "When I married three years ago I was just pulled out of my home, and I did not know my husband, etc."

The most impressive thing was that she said, "In the first two years, my husband never used my name. It was ‘It’, ‘That’. ‘You are supposed to fetch the wood. You are supposed to fetch the water. You are supposed to cook my meal.’" He never used her name. However, after having these discussions, he realised that this was not a good idea. He had started talking to her by name, asking her, and helping her in the home. That was only a twoyear process, which had led couples to change their ways. That means the children coming out of that marriage will not be given away in child marriage.

Q101 Chris White: Can I interrupt briefly? You talk about working with priests on a local level. I wondered if you could be a bit more specific about which religions you were talking about, and whether you have talked to more senior members of those religions?

Dr Brundtland: What we as Elders have been doing is talking with religious leaders at the top level.

Chris White: Of which religions?

Dr Brundtland: All the major religions. When we visited Egypt, we went into speaking with the-it is basically Muslim, but there are also some Christians. I do not remember the name of it, but it is a highlevel religious leaders’ group. We have done it at that level, but by speaking with them, and also speaking with Government people, Prime Ministers and regional politicians, we have also inspired them to bring in the religious leaders in their own efforts to try to implement their own laws. As you know, laws are in many places, but they are not being implemented. They are not even taken seriously. You need to involve all parts of society, and certainly religious leaders at all different levels.

We met with priests in Ethiopia too-I mean religious figures. I do not know whether it was a priest, but it was a religious person in that village context, and he was supportive of the debates that were going on, and helping.

Q102 Fabian Hamilton: Very briefly, on the very touching example you gave of the young couple who now have a much broader view, thanks to the intervention and the village discussion amongst everybody, you said that you did not think the children coming out of that marriage would have to suffer the same fate of child marriage in the future. How can you be sure that the peer pressure of the village and the culture does not override the light that has been seen after that discussion, and the enlightened view that perhaps you saw?

Dr Brundtland: What I feel is that increasing numbers of examples of young people who have understood that they are not destined to do exactly what their parents did will increase the deliberation and awareness in many different families in such a local community. They were supporting each other, saying, "We do not accept anymore that we should be forced into marriage, and that we are marrying so young." There was a deliberate approach. This is just an example, this couple: there were others, and the village was there, in the different generations, listening to these young people. Obviously it is not easy, 15 years from now, to be exactly the same as they were five years ago. This will definitely give change.

There is an important example. I happened to be on the jury of the Hilton Foundation, the humanitarian prize. It is the biggest prize after the Nobel Prizes. We gave it to the leader of Tostan, which worked in Senegal on female genital cutting. She was an American who came to Senegal in her twenties to do a Master’s study and never left Senegal; instead she created an NGO, and recruited midwives and others who had been doing female cutting and who realised that this was wrong, who started working with her, going into the villages in Senegal. Now this is 20 years ago, and the scene is changed in Senegal. However it has taken 15 or 20 years. There has been a consistent approach, sitting down, speaking with people, answering their questions, and asking them questions about why certain practices are done and whether they are aware that they pose dangers to the future reproduction in their girls. Some die from this female cutting. Others are ruined by it.

That debate has been going on for years, and it has changed attitudes. Female cutting is down in Senegal. It illustrates that when you speak with people, and when you have this kind of dialogue, and you dare to speak and tell about the dangers, then people start opening their minds, and they start asking questions of their own peers: "Why are we doing this? Should we continue? Maybe we should change." People can change attitudes. They have before, and they need to do so on these kinds of issues. We have to help them do it, so helping to create the room for these dialogues in the worst affected areas is an important priority.

Q103 Mr McCann: I have a number of prepared questions that I am going to dump, because you have made a couple of interesting points. The first is that my colleague, Chris White, mentioned how you influenced church leaders and so on and so forth. You explained that you talked to them. When we were in Ethiopia, we met imams and priests who had changed their minds on polygamy, FGC and child marriage, which was fantastic. However, the problem was-and Chris asked this question when we were there-there is no hierarchical structure that allows someone at the very top of the church, like a-

Dr Brundtland: Caliph or whatever?

Mr McCann: Papal edict or whatever happens in other churches, and it flows down. That did not exist. The first question would be, how does it help speaking to church groups who do not have hierarchical structures, which do not allow the message to flood down? My second point would be this: in terms of the point you make about culture overriding human rights, how do we overcome that and shine a light on these issues? Do we need an international summit on child marriage? Do we need a Security Council resolution on child marriage? In your opinion, with your wealth of experience, what would be the best way forward?

Dr Brundtland: The weaknesses or lack of good institutions is one problem we face in many areas. If in many religions, countries or regions there is no top leadership above the priests, it is a challenge. However, if there is not, we have to try to reach the grassroots levels and the villages in which the priests are active, and work upwards. In most religions there is some influence by the top people on the rest. Of course we have Archbishop Tutu as our Chair, so he has been, in a long life, speaking with religious leaders across religions as part of his activity, whether on apartheid or other issues. He has a long tradition of reaching out, both at that level and at the more grassroots level.

What can we do to overcome it? The thing is, I am sure social media, spreading the realities of what is happening, and how these things are linked, is one way that all of us have to try to do it, so that people are aware that human rights is not something selfevident. It is now twothirds of a century since the Declaration on Human Rights, and we are still struggling with quite basic discriminatory issues in so many countries, affecting millions and millions. It is quite a tragedy. As we are sitting here, in New York they are having this discussion about the committee on discrimination against women, on violence, and making their report. They are struggling, and maybe they will not succeed, as they did not last year, because of the disagreements.

It means instructions from the capitals of different countries to these delegations are such that there could be stalemate. We do not know. How do you influence global opinion to best effect change in the minds of different countries? There are so many entry points for that, but I am more and more convinced that social media and requesting transparency are some of the things that work most quickly. It pictures some of the village approaches I spoke about. When young people are reading on the internet and through social media what is happening, and they become aware, it helps. Certainly the main policy of not giving up on protecting the focus against discrimination against women, and violence against women which is linked to it, for the UK and for other countries who have understood these issues and want to campaign on them is a very important part of it.

When David Cameron speaks about making forced marriage a criminal offence, when Prime Ministers speak out on these issues, it is intensely important. It is not enough, even if several Ministers engage, from Justice to Development Ministers to others who are working. In my country we have an Equality Minister, but in any case, you need these attitudes across Government. Unless the Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers of countries speak out on these issues, they will not be given the most effective treatment with regard to change and potential for change. I congratulate you on the fact that the British Government has made this a priority and that they will be focusing on it in the G8 meeting.

Chair: Chris White is about to go and meet the Prime Minister, so he can pass on those messages.

Q104 Chris White: I will make that very comment to him. I wonder if you agree that an awful lot of discussion has taken place over the years, but an awful lot more action needs to take place. I think you would agree that the link between poverty and child marriage is very complex. How do you feel that donors such as DFID can best understand and address these linkages through the programmes currently in operation? What measures do you think have been proven to work-for example, in helping to compensate those who have lost or have had reduced dowries for poor families?

Dr Brundtland: We were in Ethiopia, but then a group of us Elders went to India and discussed these issues at a high political level. I came back thinking, "My goodness, here you have a constitution and laws that are very restrictive on child marriage, and they have been so since the British." It is an illustration that in the colonial time, the Brits left India and they helped the Indians make a constitution that looked reasonable, but the reality on the ground in a continent like India is so far from their principles that are placed in that constitution that people say, "Oh, I am sorry, but it takes time; it is poverty." The respect for that constitution in so many areas is just not there. The gap between the socalled legal status and the reality on the ground is large.

I do not see any other way of bridging that gap than getting the pressure from the middle class and from across India. We went to Bihar, and spoke with the leader of Bihar, and we spoke with young people having been organised to say, "We do not want to marry before we are old enough, and before we choose our own spouse". Boys and girls in some communities in Bihar were raising up and got our support, and we presented their attitudes to the leader of Bihar-I think his name is Kumar. It is very much linked to poverty, because of course these young people we met were not the poorest. This is typical of change. On average, they had a little more education, a little less submission to their parents, were allowed to talk with other people outside the family, but they became models in their society, and given support, they spread the messages in the villages of Bihar. We have to go to the grassroots level in these countries.

Q105 Chris White: You make a good point that legislation is not the only way, and probably not the biggest way of changing behaviours. It is through cultural change, and that cultural change will only happen through education. The final part of my question would be to ask you what you feel in terms of which particular measures have been proven to work in engaging the very local communities in changing minds and attitudes.

Dr Brundtland: I have to go back to the experience of Tostan in Senegal, and the experience now being used in several parts of Ethiopia, and also, as we are doing now in the Alliance on Child Marriage, supporting this kind of village and local activity change, which is supported by NGOs and I am sure there must be support from the UK as well. I do not know too much about DFID’s budgets and so on, but I would be surprised if you are not already engaged in supporting some of these areas. That is where change is going to be promoted: working with others at the grassroots levels so change practices and traditions.

As I heard John Holmes say, it is not enough to make a nice statement in the General Assembly, or in some Committee of the UN. But, as I said, if David Cameron or other leaders at that level speak out on the issues in simple terms, it makes a difference. It is heard. It depends on who says it.

Q106 Fiona Bruce: I agree it is important to work with others to change practices and traditions, and in Ethiopia we saw some excellent work on child marriage. What we did not see was much work, if any, on the issue of marriage itself. We heard a lot about how high percentages of men and women there think it is, for example, acceptable to beat your wife. I wondered if you could tell us what work is being done, then, to ensure that once child marriage is considered unacceptable, so is a relationship within a marriage that is not one of equals and one of respect?

Dr Brundtland: In these discussions, one does not only focus on the issue of child marriage. One focuses on the role and the rights of men and women, on violence as unacceptable, and also explains why. The debate is much broader: child marriage is one aspect, but also inside marriage, the way that women and men relate to each other should be and must be part of a broader discussion.

Fiona Bruce: That is very helpful, thank you.

Q107 Pauline Latham: What have been the conclusions of the Elders’ campaign against child marriage, particularly with the role of education in combating it?

Dr Brundtland: Education is crucial to all of the issues that we are discussing, whether it is child marriage or sexual violence relating to conflict and war. Education is maybe the most important method of overcoming these issues, in addition to health, because it makes an impact on parents if they realise that the practices that their community are following are dangerous to the health of the next generation. Although they obviously must have seen it, I believe more people realise when they get the statistics on how much more dangerous it is to bear children when you are 14, 15 or 16 years old, how many more face real, dangerous consequences, and how their children die more often. The maternal mortality rate is higher, and the child mortality rate is higher. When they become conscious of all of these issues, it helps, so health and education are really crucial issues.

Q108 Pauline Latham: Do you have any particular recommendations you would like to make to DFID with the conclusions you have made?

Dr Brundtland: I can talk about these things in principles, but I would have needed to know exactly where DFID is in its different priorities to be sure that I say the right thing. I will be careful, but DFID will understand what I am saying, and they will know how to look at how they are giving priorities to their own work.

Q109 Fiona O'Donnell: Good morning, Dr Brundtland. Conflict and humanitarian crises can lead to an increase in child marriage, so what action do you think donors and NGOs can take to prevent that happening?

Dr Brundtland: This of course has to do with how you try to help in conflict and with refugees. I am sure that what you are thinking about is that you have more examples, because people feel even more devastated and poor, and they are afraid of sexual violence hitting their girls, so they think it is a safer thing. Again, one has to have that broader conversation about the consequences with people, including over the long term. Of course if we do not have any alternative to offer families who feel this way, and if in fact one of their girls become one of the 60 million attacked sexually each year, going back and forth from school-if they have schools, even, in refugee camps.

It illustrates that in all these conflict situations and refugee situations, things just get worse than in the regular. It means even more emphasis on the same issues. I guess this is my only response. We have to be more vigilant about helping those in these critical situations, because life decisions can be taken when they are in a devastated condition, like in a refugee camp.

Q110 Fiona O'Donnell: I suppose it is a choice for parents: is your daughter abused by one man, or by several? As mothers, who knows what choices we would make?

Dr Brundtland: Yes.

Q111 Fiona Bruce: Our Secretary of State Justine Greening has recently said that DFID will set up an Expert Advisory Group on girls and women. I would like to ask you who would be the right people to be represented on that group, which it is obviously hoped will have international impact?

Dr Brundtland: Is it a group that will advise DFID? Or is it more giving international advice?

Q112 Fiona Bruce: I think it is a group that ultimately will have international influence. She said it would include people from different worlds, to include leaders from the human rights community, the private sector and CSOs, feeding into DFID’s work. We are interested to know, in your opinion, who would be the right people to be represented.

Dr Brundtland: Certainly, when one uses the word "expert", it is important to avoid experts being only academicians or people who have research competence. Unless you have in that group people with practical experience from development work, and from situations where you are trying to overcome disparities and difficulties of a developmental nature, then those experts will not be as effective. It needs to be a broader group of people, with people also with practical experience, not only academic experience.

Q113 Chair: Dr Brundtland, you said something very important at the beginning about your table at Davos, and the Iranian Minister trying to promote cultural values over human rights values, as part of the pushback. We also encountered a slightly different problem in Ethiopia. It was a presentation by the Government that they needed to protect the sovereignty of Ethiopia, and they therefore needed to limit the support that international NGOs could give to domestic NGOs to 10%. Because those domestic NGOs were small and obviously could only get an income base from a poor country, the implication was that it would make it very difficult for the programmes we saw, which were so good and which you have described, to extend across a country of 90 million people.

How do you think we can tackle that in ways that do not look like-if I can put it that way-the developed world confronting the developing world with a suggestion of imposing values, as opposed to saying, "We are trying to get you to unlock your own values and enable you to have a proper look at how traditional practices are holding back your development"?

Dr Brundtland: This issue was something we raised with the Health Minister of Ethiopia, the concrete issue you are talking about. He was trying to defend it or explain it, but I felt he was not convinced it was the right policy. He did his duty as a Minister and explained that this was necessary and so on, but I sense that he was not convinced himself. The same kind of thing is happening, of course, in Egypt. Over the last one and a half years there has been pushback against funding of NGOs that have funding from the outside world. That is to stop opposition, and it is the same issue.

When I look at the groups of countries in the "No Group", fighting in New York against reasonable resolution text, among those countries there are Iran and a number of countries that you would identify as Muslim and, let me say, notso-democratic countries. In addition, I always find Russia there. I think maybe one reason why Russia is there is not because in Russia politicians think that discrimination against women out of tradition or religion is good. No; it is a much broader agenda. It is taking care of Russia’s sovereignty and their right to decide for themselves. You have this going on.

I was on the United Nations Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change that Kofi Annan had, back in 2004. We proposed a number of changes in the UN system, and it was tough, because then you had the Iraq War, and people were very split, but the sovereignty issue came across in so many ways. Even in this area we are talking about, violence against women, people sitting at the top level of several countries are deciding, "Do not let the UN and the international community interfere with our sovereignty". It is a picture of how far we are from a fully democratic breakthrough in so many countries in the world.

Q114 Chair: We hear those comments here from UK Government Ministers about the European Court of Human Rights. If developed countries are complaining about interferences in their sovereignty, what chance do we have of persuading developing countries of the merits of it?

Dr Brundtland: You are right. It is a big challenge.

Q115 Jeremy Lefroy: In evidence we had, I think, from World Vision, a couple of the reasons given for girls being married young were to "protect" them from poverty, and to reduce families’ own economic costs. Clearly the whole discussion about this must be based on one of equality, but has your group done any work to counter this image that somehow child marriage is important or necessary for economic reasons for a family, and to say that it does the opposite, and that by depriving girls of education it reduces economic opportunities? Has that work been done at a level where it is convincing to the people who are fearful of economic consequences?

Dr Brundtland: What we have done in building this Girls Not Brides alliance is that we have had a couple of meetings in the establishment of it, and in the followup of the alliance, bringing people together who have worked at the NGO local level in different countries, and listening to their views about all these critical issues that we have been touching on. This was to help work together on formulating the best way of arguing the case. In a way, based on evidence and research, we have then also worked with people who had practical experience of what you need to convey, and how you need to counter these arguments.

There is a body of language and way of addressing these issues, which has been developed by the Alliance itself, and then of course people in different countries will use those parts of these messages that are most effective in each case, because it depends on the history and culture of each country, or even of each part of a country. There is helpful material to be used in finding the right way, or hopefully the best way, to address these issues.

Q116 Chair: On a positive note, we did get clear indication in Ethiopia that the Government of Ethiopia does want to end these practices. Their resistance to outside NGOs was precisely their concern about opposition, and it was not about resisting a drive to end these traditional practices. That is a positive part of the environment that we saw. You are absolutely right that the grassroots stuff, when it works-as we saw it working-is pretty inspirational and transformational.

Dr Brundtland: When Carol Bellamy became the leader of Unicef-I guess it was in 1994 or 1995-I was Prime Minister of Norway. I met with the newly appointed Carol Bellamy, and she was enthusiastically explaining to me how Unicef now would put a lot more emphasis on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to see to it that constitutions across the world incorporated the main concerns in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I was listening to her, and as I was listening to her, I realised, "I have to tell Carol, ‘Be careful,’" because obviously then there was prioritysetting between childhood vaccination, adolescent girls and all the other important issues that Unicef covers.

They had limited funding, so I had to tell her, "Carol, be aware that what counts, really, is what happens in reality. If you can be declaring that 10 more countries have had a nice constitution, unless you can measure that it affects children’s lives, I am not sure whether you should not continue doing the health and development work that we know gets results." I am just leaving it with you, because it just occurred to me as we were speaking. Yes, all of us want good constitutions, we want institutions, we want all states to have an infrastructure of legal rights and so on, but while this is happening, it is not enough, because it becomes theoretical, academic, highlevel and sometimes does not at all affect the grassroots level.

Chair: That is a very good point to finish on. Can I thank you very much indeed? We have very much appreciated it. It is very valuable for us to have somebody of your range of experience and understanding of these issues to engage with us, so we really thank you very much indeed for taking the time and trouble to come and see us.

Dr Brundtland: Thank you so much, and thank you for going to Ethiopia.

Prepared 20th March 2013