Mechanisms, Resolutions and Legal Instruments


Security Council Resolution 1325, 2000
Unanimously passed on 31 October 2000, this was the first Security Council resolution to recognize that women are not only victims of war, but also active agents in peacebuilding. Resolution 1325 is now officially international law, meaning that it is legally binding on all UN member states. It calls on the UN, member states and other parties to include women and women's organizations when they negotiate and implement peace agreements and reconstruction efforts, as well as to protect the safety of women in conflict and post-conflict situations. 

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 2000
In the face of increasing levels of global poverty, disease, hunger and inequality, and with the arrival of the new millennium, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration in September 2000 to fight world poverty and ensure a better life for all by the year 2015. UN member states developed the eight MDGs, in which they confirmed a commitment to:

- reducing extreme poverty by half;
- ensuring every child has access to primary education;
- ending gender discrimination;
- reducing child mortality due to childbirth;
- reducing the maternal mortality rate;
- controlling the spread of deadly diseases such as malaria and HIV/Aids;
- protecting the environment;
- developing a global partnership for development

Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998
The Rome Statute established the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 1998 and sets out the Court's jurisdiction, structure and functions. It provides for the ICC to have jurisdiction over the following classes of offences: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It was also the first time the term "gender" was used and defined in an international criminal law treaty. The Statute expressly recognizes rape, sexual slavery, trafficking, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as some of the gravest crimes under international law. Perpetrators of these crimes can be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, or for war crimes if they occur during international or internal armed conflict.

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995
Formalized on 15 September 1995, the Beijing Declaration embodies the commitment of the international community to the advancement of women and to the implementation of the Platform for Action. The Platform for Action aimed to ensure that a gender perspective was reflected in all policies and programmes at the national, regional and international levels. The principal themes of the Beijing Declaration were the advancement and empowerment of women in relation to women's human rights, women and poverty, women and decision-making, violence against women and other areas of concern.

Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 1993
Signed on 25 June 1993, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action marked the culmination of a long process of review and debate over the status of human rights machinery in the world. It also marked the beginning of a renewed effort to strengthen and further implement the body of human rights instruments that had been constructed on the foundation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since 1948. Similarly, the Vienna conference took historic new steps to promote and protect the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW ), 1979
Adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, the CEDAW is often described as an international bill of rights for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women, and because it is a treaty, countries that ratified it are formally bound to put its provisions into practice. Among its provisions are that women be allowed equal access to, and equal opportunity in, politics and public life, as well as education, health and employment.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), 1948
This Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on 10 December 1948 by the UN General Assembly. It consists of 30 articles which outline the view of the UN on the human rights guaranteed to all people. As it was conceived as a statement of objectives to be followed by governments, it is not legally binding and does not form part of international law, and there were therefore no signatories. It includes the right to life, liberty and security of person; the right to equality before the law; the right to education; and the right to freedom of expression.


Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, 2004
In July 2004, the AU met for its Third Ordinary Session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the summit, the heads of state adopted the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, which affirmed the commitment of member states to the task of mainstreaming gender into the AU's approach to health, human rights, education, economic development, governance, and peace and security. This was the first time a continental organization took ownership of gender mainstreaming at the highest level, prioritizing issues such HIV/Aids and the recruitment of child soldiers.
In ratifying the Solemn Declaration, the AU agreed to:
- expand and promote the gender parity principle to all the AU organs, and not merely the Commission;
- ensure the participation and representation of women in peace processes, including the prevention and resolution of conflicts and post-conflict reconstruction;
- accelerate the implementation of gender-specific economic, social and legal policies in order to combat the HIV/Aids epidemic;
- launch a campaign to end the recruitment of child soldiers and the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women and girls;
- ensure the active promotion and protection of the human rights of women and girls;
- protect the property and inheritance rights of women;
- expand the education of women and girls, particularly in rural areas.

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, 2003
At the regional level, African NGOs have successfully lobbied and advocated for greater recognition of women's rights at the AU. As a result of their efforts, the Protocol was adopted at the Second Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in Maputo, Mozambique, in 2003 and contains 32 articles relating to the protection of women's human rights in Africa. Included in this Protocol are specific protections for women in armed conflicts and for women's rights to peace and sustainable development, among others. The Protocol entered into force in 2005 after being ratified by 16 member states.

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (also known as the Banjul Charter), 1981
Adopted on 27 June 1981 and entered into force on 21 October 1986 ("African Human Rights Day"), this charter is unique because it covers economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights, thus differentiating it from the European and American Conventions on Human Rights, which follow a more traditional line. Not only does the African Charter articulate the rights afforded to individuals and peoples, but it also elaborates on measures to safeguard these rights. Some of the rights stipulated in the charter include: the rights of women; the right to national and international security; the right to development; the right to equality (before the law); and the right to non-discrimination.


Note: Resolutions and Conventions are legally binding on those states that have ratified them, Declarations and recommendations merely call on governments to commit themselves to implementing them.