Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
On 23 October the Council will hold a debate on women, peace and security. A report from the Secretary-General assessing progress and presenting a new framework for inter-agency activities for the period covering 2008-2010 is expected, as well as a “concept paper” from Ghana as president of the Council. The debate seems likely to concentrate on the way forward for implementing resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, with particular focus on accountability for implementation. A presidential statement is likely.
The possibility of creating a monitoring mechanism for sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence is likely to be a feature of the discussion.
Key Recent Developments
The 2006 Secretary-General’s report, published on 27 September, assessed progress on the system-wide action plan. Noting some progress, the Secretary-General said member states and other actors would need to strengthen their political will and commitment in order to reinforce political momentum for implementing resolution 1325.
The last Council open debate on women, peace and security, on 26 October 2006, focused on the role of women in peacekeeping and post-conflict situations. At that time, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja, said the UN should do more to encourage member states to adopt national action plans to integrate women in peace and security issues, especially in countries recovering from conflict. The Council adopted a presidential statement:
recognising the vital role of women in consolidating peace, and that their protection and empowerment was necessary;
encouraging gender mainstreaming in institutional reforms in post-conflict countries, at local and national levels, and welcoming the role that the Peacebuilding Commission could play; and
strongly condemning sexual misconduct by all personnel in UN peacekeeping missions and urging full implementation of the recommendations of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping.
On 4 December 2006, the UN convened a conference on eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse in field operations, gathering UN staff, member states and NGOs. Then Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported that his “zero-tolerance” policy was still not getting through to civilians and soldiers, and that allegations of sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers continued.
On 18 December 2006, the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations called for measures against sexual exploitation and abuse involving troop-contributing countries (A/60/19). It requested a working group of experts to design a revised model memorandum of understanding between the UN and troop contributors, in addition to drafting a policy statement on support to victims.
On 7 March, under South Africa’s presidency, the Council adopted a presidential statement, which largely reiterated language contained in resolution 1325 and previous statements. It also urged the Secretary-General to continue to appoint more women as special representatives and envoys to pursue good offices on his behalf and in UN field operations.
The issue of impunity for violence against women was a leading theme at the last International Women’s Day on 8 March, in relation to the Secretary-General’s 2006 in-depth study on all forms of violence against women mandated by the General Assembly (A/61/122/Add.1). At an interagency event, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated the proposal of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan of 2006 that the Council develop a monitoring mechanism to improve its contribution to preventing and redressing violence against women in armed conflict.
On 8 March, 12 UN agencies launched a new initiative called UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, with the aim of increasing coordination on prevention and response services, and improving accountability.
following the approach of the March statement by reaffirming previous statements such as the Council’s commitment to implementing resolution 1325 and reiterating its call on the UN and member states to enhance the role of women, take gender issues into consideration in peacekeeping and peacebuilding initiatives, and end impunity for gender-based violence;
taking up the Secretary-General’s proposal and deciding to make sexual violence against women and girls an annual focus in Council’s work, and establishing a monitoring mechanism such as an ad-hoc or permanent working group for gender-based violence (perhaps based on the model of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict);
mandating a reporting mechanism on sexual violence within peacekeeping missions; and
designating a Council member as a focal point or lead actor on this issue.
A key issue is whether the Council is ready, in terms of implementing resolution 1325, to establish mechanisms which will enhance its own accountability. A related issue is whether to approach this on an incremental basis.
Another issue is how to define the scope of any such mechanism so that it is sufficiently related to the Council’s actual responsibilities and its agenda.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by UN staff in peacekeeping missions are likely to remain a continuing issue.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Ghana has been particularly active on this issue during its Council membership in 2006-2007. It has conducted roundtables on gender and peacekeeping and, jointly with Denmark, organised an Arria formula briefing. It seems willing to push for a substantial debate of various options for the way forward.
The UK has played a leading role in the past, as has France. South Africa and Ghana are members of the Friends of 1325, which includes 28 states from various regions under the leadership of Canada.
NGOs are eager for the Council to address accountability issues on all key elements of resolution 1325 (i.e. to “unpack” resolution 1325). Many NGOs believe that the 1325 process has been stalled for the last two years because of a lack of political will and are concerned that in its recent decisions, the Council has done little more than reiterate past pronouncements.
EU Council members seem to support the idea of monitoring mechanisms. Many Council members seem to believe that it may be possible to build political will by limiting the breadth of the issue and focusing at least initially on a specific aspect. Gender-based violence during conflict seems to be the most likely area of focus. On that basis, a monitoring and reporting mechanism similar to that on child soldiers might be more palatable.
China and Russia in the past have had reservations about the creation of a monitoring mechanism with wide scope, in part because of their traditional reluctance to have the Council involved in thematic issues, but also perhaps because of uncertainty as to where a broad focus might lead in terms of geographical situations.
Implementing resolution 1325 by the Council itself has been mixed, in terms of incorporating references to the resolution and gender perspectives into the mandates of peacekeeping operations. Since January 2006, the Council has reaffirmed resolution 1325-either in preambles or in operative paragraphs-in 17 resolutions on Lebanon, Sudan, Haiti, Timor-Leste, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, the DRC and Somalia. It has also provided a mandate for women’s protection, respect for women’s rights and incorporation of gender considerations in peacekeeping tasks-including the prevention, investigation and prosecution of cases of gender-based violence-for MINUSTAH in Haiti, UNMIT in Timor-Leste, UNMIS in Sudan, BINUB in Burundi, UNOCI in Côte d’Ivoire, UNAMA in Afghanistan, and MONUC in the DRC. But practical implementation of 1325 is missing in Liberia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Western Sahara, Georgia, Cyprus, Kosovo, Golan Heights and India/Pakistan.
The Council however routinely requests the Secretary-General to take measures to achieve compliance of the UN “zero-tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation and abuse within field missions, including mechanisms to respond to misconduct and training for UN personnel. Progress in the field remains fairly weak, however, as gender issues are still not automatically addressed by all troop-contributing countries.
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