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Matthew Levitt

Eric raises excellent points. I'll just add that on top of the question of whether the existing treaties do in fact cover the full waterfront on possible terrorist offenses, the lack of a common definition of terrorism has several other implications. Among them: First, much of the debate over terrorism still focuses on the groups themselves and their underlying grievances or political objectives, not the actual acts of terrorism - the criminal terrorist offenses - they carry out. As such, the "terrorism v resistance" argument is given weight it does not deserve since the legal issue at hand is not why one carries out a criminal act of terrorism like a suicide bombing but the fact that such an act was carried out at all.
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Eric Rosand

Since one of the questions in the prompt asked whether "our laws - or international law" [emphasis added] are capable of addressing the threat, I thought I would weigh in the international law side of the question.
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Building a space for women’s rights in the African Great Lakes

There's a huge UN conference happening today in the Congolese capital Kinshasa on women's rights:
Women's rights ministers from 11 countries across Africa's Great Lakes region are gathering today in Kinshasa for a United Nations-organized conference to take steps to set up a regional research and documentation centre on women's rights. The two-day meeting in the Congolese capital, jointly organized by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Ministry of Women's Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), will also be attended by representatives of the African Union, the African Bank of Development and the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, as well as several UN agencies.
Check out UNESCO's site for more details, but the goal seems to be that the Great Lakes research center will be based on a similar UNESCO-initiated women's rights center created in 2006 in Ramallah in the occupied Palestinian territory. Sounds like a great and necessary initiative for the Great Lakes.
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Women and Climate Change

There's a great piece on RH Reality Check today on the fact that while global climate change is, at long last, getting the attention it deserves, there needs to be more focus on how women are being disproportionately affected - particularly in low-income countries. While studies have shown that natural disasters shorten women's life expectancy significantly more than men's as well as contribute to reproductive and maternal health problems, there are also inequalities in everyday life experiences resulting from climate change:
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that women produce 60-80 percent of food grown in the developing world -- often small scale crops critical to their family's sustenance. Women and girls are responsible for collecting and carrying water -- a time consuming and physically demanding task in places where wells are not easily accessible. In some places, this work takes hours each day, and as communities cope with the effects of changes in climate, demands on women's time and workloads are likely to increase.
The piece raises up a lot of questions to be answered, and a few potential ways to improve women's status during global climate change, like giving them more decision-making power in disaster prevention and preparedness programs and disaster recovery operations and increasing female participation in national talks about climate change. The author says it best:
The world needs more women-centered research and strategies for climate change adaptation, and the world's large emitters must shoulder the responsibility for their impacts on the world's poorest populations in order to see a world that is more equitable, healthy, able to prevent catastrophic climate change, and to adapt to its impacts.
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UN Security Council Does Right, More Nations Join the Cause

There's been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere over the meeting hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week that resulted in the UN Security Council's resolution declaring rape as a weapon of war. Now that the word is out, there's much to be done, including a push for international law of rape as a war crime. In the meantime, serious kudos goes to the UN Security Council for creating this resolution. As I said last week, while rape as a weapon of war has existed for a long, long, time, it's only begun to be documented and its recognition is a huge step. And now it seems the resolution has already begun to mobilize the international community; UNIFEM's "Say No to Violence Against Women" campaign has signed on ten more supporting countries this week. One of UNIFEM's goals is to have 1 million names signed before November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, when the signatures will be handed over to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. So get to it and sign your name. Photo was taken by Hazel Thompson used in NY Times article, of Honorata Barinjibanwa, rape victim of war crimes in the Congo.
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Rice Heads UN Talk on Violence Against Women, Zimbabwe

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is hosting a talk with the UN today on the state of Zimbabwe, the importance of transparent election, and the urgency to address how rape is used as a weapon of war, and what measures need to be taken. Via AP:
condi.jpgU.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the council's discussion on women would send an important signal to the world just by discussing the systematic use of rape and mutilation as a weapon of war in conflict or post-conflict situations. 'We believe it is very important that a message is sent that there is no impunity for such crimes,' he said.
The simple acknowledgment of rape as a weapon of war is a great accomplishment, as its very existence has only really begun to be documented recently - but I'm also looking forward to seeing what strategic plans might come out of the meeting to really do something about violence against women in conflict and post-conflict situations.
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Women’s Struggle in Myanmar

Yesterday, the U.N. Population Fund's William A. Ryan called for more efforts to be made to assist pregnant women living in Myanmar. Cyclone Nargis has resulted in a significant loss of health centers and midwives. "It is clear that many pregnant women do not have anywhere to go to deliver with skilled assistance," says Ryan. Before the cyclone even hit, the maternal mortality rate in Myanmar was 380 per 100,000 births -- almost four times the rate in Thailand and 60 times the rate in Japan. And while the UN Population Fund has been providing supplies to Myanmar's Health Ministry, new government guidelines is making it difficult to bring relief to survivors. All women are severely affected by natural disasters. Via Echidne of the Snakes:
When a disaster occurs, don't forget the gendered aspects. During the chaos, women can be more vulnerable to rape and violence by intimate partners. They may trade their bodies for aid. Because women often care for the young, the old and the sick, they may have greater needs or different needs than men. In many cultures, women have to protect their honor or dignity in different ways that may hinder their ability to get help.
Research has also found that more women die than men as a direct and indirect result of natural disasters.
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Prioritizing Gender-Based Violence

Ending gender-based violence should be and is a top UN priority, stated Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro yesterday. Via UN News Center:
'Together we can end this terrible human rights abuse,' Ms. Migiro told an event in New York on violence against women, organized by San Marino and the Council of Europe. Stopping gender-based violence is at the top of the UN's agenda, Ms. Migiro noted, recalling that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched in March a multi-year global campaign bringing together the UN, governments and civil society to try to end the horrific crime. 'That call energized many advocates who have long been working to stop violence against women. Now our challenge is to build on this momentum so that we can translate passionate commitment into concrete progress,' she stated.
She says that while the UN's efforts are "gaining speed," mentioning that the Trust Fund to End Violence against Women has tripled in donor funding, the organization's goal is to get a minimum of $100 million in annual contributions to the Trust Fund by 2015. Let's hope they hit their mark - the world's women certainly need it.