• Irene, a rape victim, tells her story in the Cyangugu District of Rwanda. Irene was raped in her home by a French peacekeeping soldier during the Rwandan Genocide who entered her home by force, broke her hand and raped her. (Bryan Anselm/Redux)

    Stop the violence

    End Sexual Violence In War Zones

    With the support of stars such as Angelina Jolie, the U.N. has launched a powerful new campaign to end rape in war.

    Half a million women were raped during the Rwandan genocide. As many as 64,000 suffered sexual violence during Sierra Leone's brutal blood diamond fueled civil war. And 40,000 were raped in Bosnia. The sheer magnitude of women raped and the frequency of the crime tells us something. These attackers aim to do more than rape. They seek to shame and demoralize, break down the fabric of victim communities, and stigmatize survivors for life.

    With the vocal support of Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron, the United Nations has partnered with the UK to launch a powerful new political campaign to end rape in war. Already, 128 countries have publicly committed themselves to a new Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which Jolie has described as the "clearest statement we have heard, ever, that the international community must and will confront these crimes." More countries are joining every day.

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  • From left: Mamphela Ramphele, Leymah Gbowee and Fawzia Koofi. (Getty (3))

    The Dissident Matrix

    As the U.N. General Assembly kicks off, the world’s leading diplomats and dignitaries will converge in New York to debate high-level geopolitics and press their political agendas.

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  • ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images

    BREAKING BARRIERS

    U.N. Women Chief Fights ‘Backlash’

    “Women’s voices need to be heard.”

    South Africa’s Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the new head of United Nations Women, recently shared her take on women’s rights—and her plans to further them. Mlambo-Ngcuka cited economic and social barriers—including increased violence against women, trafficking, and cyberbullying—as part of a “definite backlash” against women’s equality.  She also called for support from men, boys, and both the private and public sector.  "Women's voices need to be heard in the household, on corporate boards, in peace talks, and in public institutions," she said.  Mlambo-Ngcuka, formerly South Africa’s first female deputy president, is the U.N. women’s rights agency’s second director in its three-year history. Among her top priorities are granting small loans to impoverished women and growing the agency’s donor base.

    Read it at ABC News/AP
  • Cliff Owen/AP

    POWER IN POWER

    Samantha Power Confirmed as U.N. Ambassador

    The Senate confirmed the Pulitzer Prize winner and Obama foreign-policy adviser Thursday.

    Foreign policy adviser to President Obama and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Samantha Power was confirmed Thursday as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The former journalist is known for being outspoken and a human-rights advocate. She was confirmed by an 87–10 vote, a larger margin than many critics expected. The president said, “I’m grateful that Samantha will continue to be a vital member of my national-security team.” Power makes up the last member of the administration’s foreign-policy team for Obama’s second term. Her book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” depicted the successes and failures of the U.S. in response to mass atrocities.

    Read it at LA Times
  • Leo Ramirez/AFP/Getty

    LBGT AFFAIRS

    U.N. Launches Gay Rights Campaign

    Amid an uprising of anti-gay violence and repression.

    The United Nations released a new global outreach campaign Friday called Free & Equal. The campaign aims to “promote tolerance and great equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals,” according to Fox News. The U.N. chose to announce the campaign in Cape Town, South Africa, because Africa is the leading continent for violence and discrimination against LGBT people. Even though South Africa allows same-sex marriage, it experriences large amounts of anti-gay violence, including frequent rapes of lesbians. With videos and public service announcements—distributed through social media, fact sheets, a new website, and celebrities—the campaign aims to better life for members of the gay community through different regions of the world. Celebrities such as Ricky Martin, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, and Celina Jaitly are on board to help.

    Read it at Fox News
  • AP

    United Nations

    UN Women Appoints New Head

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa is taking over from Chile's Michelle Bachelet.

    UN Women received a new head Wednesday—Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former deputy president of South Africa. She is taking over as the organization's chief from Michelle Bachelet, who resigned in March to run for another term as Chilean president. A spokesman said Mlambo-Ngcuka will bring "a wealth of experience," "consensus building," and "hands-on management experience." Before entering the political sphere, she was the first president of the Natal Organisation of Women and later served in political positions in the South African government. 

    Read it at The Guardian
  • Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty

    Middle East

    Syria’s Looming Hunger Crisis

    Chicago-born Ertharin Cousin is the woman responsible for getting food aid to Syria as head of the U.N.’s World Food Program. She talks to Jamie Dettmer about her increasingly daunting task.

    The civil war in Syria—now dragging into its third year—has created a humanitarian crisis of nightmarish proportions. Yet the woman in charge of getting food rations inside the beleaguered country remains, improbably, optimistic. It’s one of Ertharin Cousin’s most winning qualities, and the one cited by Hillary Clinton when the former U.S. secretary of State pressed the United Nations to appoint Cousin to lead its World Food Program (WFP) last year.

    While Cousin says her initiation as head of the world’s largest hunger-aid organization wasn’t exactly baptism by fire, she admits that confronting the largest refugee crisis in the history of the Middle East certainly tested her skills. Now, she’s facing a new challenge: Persuading cash-strapped Western donors to keep giving money to feed the burgeoning number of Syrians displaced by the violence.

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  • Jordan Pix/Getty

    PLEA

    Angelina Jolie vs. Rapists

    Actress urges United Nations to do more for victims.

    Angelina Jolie, a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, urged the United Nations on Monday to make action against rape in war a top priority. Jolie reminded the Security Council that “hundreds of thousands if not millions of women, children, and men have been raped in conflicts in our lifetimes.” British Foreign Secretary William Hague, presiding over the meeting, also urged the council to act, as “rape is used systematically and ruthlessly.” Hague and Jolie have teamed up in the past to combat sexual violence, especially in war zones. After Jolie’s remarks, the council adopted a resolution that calls for immediate cessation of all acts of sexual violence by parties to armed conflict. It is the broadest resolution adopted by the council related to sexual violence. 

    Read it at The Guardian
  • An Indian girl attends a rally for "One Billion Rising," a global campaign to end violence against women, Ahmadabad, India, Feb. 14, 2013. (Ajit Solanki/AP)

    Shocking

    Another Woman Beaten in India

    U.N. visit to India couldn't come any sooner.

    You know it’s serious when the U.N. gets involved. The organization's Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo will be the first to visit India in an attempt to address the unprecedented—and rising—number of violent attacks on women throughout the country. News of the visit came just a few days before reports surfaced that a Punjab woman in Ludhiana was forced to collect footage of a brutal beating she endured in order for local police to take any steps to bring her attackers to justice. (The original attack was recorded on a cellphone by a bystander.)

    U.N. Special Rapporteur Manjoo will start her trip on April 22 and stay in India for 10 days. While there, she will visit with government officials and special interest groups in regions ranging from Delhi and Rajasthan to Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. During her stay, Manjoo aims to collect information about the causes and consequences of violence, and after her return, she will present her findings and suggestions for improvement at a conference of the U.N. Human Rights Council. 

    Read it at ZeeNews
  • AFP/GETTY IMAGES

    Justice

    Congo Arrests Officers In Mass Rape Case

    Government announces that a dozen senior army members have been detained in connection with reports of raping, looting and killing near Goma last November.

    Twelve senior officers in the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been arrested and charged with responsibility for mass rapes committed in the region last November, according to a report by the Associated Press. The arrests come after weeks of pressure from the United Nations, which threatened to suspend its peacekeepers’ cooperation with the Congolese army units suspected to committing the rapes, which are considered a crime against humanity and a war crime under international law.

    According to the AP, the rapes occurred near the city of Goma, in eastern Congo, where M23 rebels had routed the army and seized control of the provincial capital. As the army retreated, “commanders lost control of their troops, or were unwilling to impose discipline over their men who regrouped some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Goma in Minova.” For several days, the army units rape, killed, and looted, apparently in revenge for their defeat. Human Rights Watch says an estimated 126 women were raped, but the Congolese government says the number is likely to be even higher. The AP notes: “Congo has a track record of letting crimes of sexual violence go unpunished, in particular when committed by the military.”

    Read it at The Washington Post
  • Susan Rice and Andrea Mitchell talk during day two of the Women in the World Conference 2013. (Marc Bryan-Brown)

    DIPLOMAT

    Susan Rice Keeps Cool

    Amid threats from North Korea, Obama’s U.N. ambassador says the administration is staying calm.

    The Obama administration is keeping its cool in the face of apocalyptic-sounding nuclear threats from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, says United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. “Our interest is in reminding him and those around him of the benefits of a peaceful course,” she told attendees of Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Women in the World Summit in New York, “and not getting too jumpy when he wakes up in the morning and issues another provocative statement.”

    Rice, who was interviewed on stage by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, made the point several times that the United States is quite ready, willing, and able to defend itself and its allies in the region.

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  • Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty

    Warrior for Justice

    Joy Ngozi Ezeilo: Slavery’s Scourge

    The U.N.’s special rapporteur on trafficking in persons on stopping the sex slavery of women and girls.

    When she was young, just 2 years old and barely able to walk, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo was on the run. In 1968 a civil war had plunged Nigeria into chaos. She has no memory now of those days, but her parents told her that she knew the sounds of incoming shells and bombs and would scream as soon as she heard them.

    Today Ezeilo is one of her country’s most forceful advocates for the rights of women. At 47, she’s the mother of three children herself, a woman with a big, contagious laugh but no time for nonsense: she looks at problems—and the people who create them—straight on. As the United Nations special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, with a special focus on women and children, she has global reach in the fight against modern-day slavery. She’s also a distinguished academic. But her firsthand experiences with suffering are what give her such striking passion. 

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  • Pro-choice and pro-life activists protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 25, 2013 in Washington. (Manuel Balce /AP)

    Twisted

    Abortion, the Next Human-Rights Violation?

    In one of the more bizarre arguments against abortion, a group of doctors says the procedure is an act of violence against women. Lizzie Crocker reports.

    The annual session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women kicked off this week in New York City, with delegates discussing ways to end violence against women. Among the thousands of presenters were groups working to stop female genital mutilation, feed starving girls in Somalia, prevent HIV infection in rape survivors—and end abortion.

    The pro-life crusaders included self-described “international women medical experts” from the U.S., Chile, and Ireland who believe abortion is an act of violence that constitutes a human-rights abuse, is never medically necessary, and is linked to maternal mortality rates.

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