Since their first deployment in 1948, the blue helmets of UN peacekeepers have come to symbolise hope, safety and impartiality. Thousands of courageous men and women from countries all around the world have dedicated themselves to serving the cause of international peace. Over the years they have worked tirelessly to support those countries and communities attempting to reconcile and rebuild after horrific conflicts.
'Happy New Year!'. 'HNY2016!'. 'Kull a'aam wa enta bi-khayr'. It's that time of year when people give each other a boost and wish them well for the year ahead. Syrians remain incredibly generous in wishing me, 'love, peace and happiness' for 2016. I return the favour, usually with an invocation that Syria see peace, or at least a better year than last year. How hard can that be? Well, hope for peace was in short supply in early 2015. Early 2016 looked better
In July I met with women in Bosnia and Herzegovina who, even twenty years after peace, are still living in a war - unable to escape the constant reminders of the conflict and forced to relive trauma on an almost daily basis. Not knowing what happened to their loved ones and unable to come to terms with the abuse they suffered or any hope of justice or redress.
The UK's attempt to justify its refusal to condemn cluster munition use on the basis of article 21 was not founded in legal analysis, but in political desperation. Although the UK argued that the language of the Dubrovnik outcome documents should be changed, states parties to the ban treaty rightly rejected the UK's objection and collectively issued an emphatic condemnation of use.
More recently, and in relation to Syria, it was discovered that between 2004 and 2010, Britain had issued five licences for the export of sodium fluoride which can be used to make sarin, the most potent of nerve agents, used in the chemical weapons attacks in Syria in 2013. Further such licences were granted in 2012.
Sexual violence is a specifically reprehensible form of violence, and includes rape and any other attack of a sexual nature perpetuated against both males and females. Its repercussions can be iniquitous, and may include acute and physical repercussions for survivors and witnesses. Human trafficking can also lead to sexual violence, and I will be discussing the issue of 'modern slavery' in this article. I will also highlight the brutal effects of sexual violence in conflict.
There is precedent for women to play a principle role in paving the way for peace: prominent historical examples can be found in Northern Ireland, Liberia and Argentina. But even more than grassroots movements, there's an international legal basis for women to have greater involvement in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security
As Israeli military operations reignited in Gaza on July 8, the familiar indignant echo of "something must be done" rang out around the liberal and non-interventionist quarters of the Western world in a show of solidarity with the trampled Palestinian people that, while admirable, all too often fails to delineate exactly to whom the appeals for reason should be addressed.
Words cannot describe the hopelessness I felt emanating from these camps, and I am not surprised that so many families decide to take the next step and leave Syria altogether. If we could just get access and reach them, it might not solve the conflict, but it would lessen the burden for families who have lost everything and ease the pressure on neighbouring countries.
Sexual violence has been a central feature of the conflicts that have raged through the region for decades. Thousands of men, women and children are affected each year in activities that constitute war crimes under the Geneva Conventions.
For me the solution seems clear cut, military action must be taken to stop the Assad regime destroying Syria and its citizens, literally. We cannot end up with another situation like Rwanda where in the eyes of then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the world could not bring itself to act. That must not be allowed to happen again.