October 2014 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2014
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Women, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action

In late October the Council will hold its annual open debate on women, peace and security. The head of UN Women will brief, possibly along with the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Refugees and a civil society representative. The emphasis of the debate will be on the effects of displacement on women, focusing on refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). A presidential statement is a possible outcome.

The Council will also consider the Secretary-General’s annual report (S/2014/693) on the implementation of resolution 1325, which in 2000 recognised that conflict has a disproportionate impact on women and urged women’s participation in peace and security processes.

Key Recent Developments

The open debate will focus on the additional challenges displaced women face as a result of unequal citizenship laws, asylum processes and lack of access to identification documents. It will also examine women’s roles as leaders within their temporary communities as well as the conflict that caused the displacement. Participants are also likely to reflect on displaced women’s heightened risk for human trafficking, sexual violence, forced marriage, early marriage and lack of access to basic resources, such as education and health services.

The UN Refugee Agency has said that forced displacement figures for 2013 exceeded 50 million, reaching levels unseen since World War II. The majority of the world’s refugees originate from Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia, with new displacements from intensifying conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq and South Sudan. All of these conflicts are on the Council’s agenda and will likely be the situations on which member states concentrate at the debate.

Of these situations, Somalia is particularly relevant in the consideration of the effects of displacement on women due to persistent allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse of Somali women and girls who live in IDP camps by troops of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali forces.

The Council’s Monitoring Group that assists the 751/1907 Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee has repeatedly reported that allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse continue to be levelled on a regular basis against AMISOM troops, but the mission has not established systems to methodically investigate charges of wrongdoing in a transparent and timely manner. In addition, the Monitoring Group and the Secretary-General’s reporting on conflict-related sexual violence have also laid a great deal of the blame for the preponderance of sexual violence in Somalia at the feet of on the Somali authorities—both as perpetrators and ineffectual bystanders.

In contrast, the reporting to the Council by the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, mandated to provide support to the government, lacks the same analytical robustness on these issues, perhaps likely reflecting the Council’s own primary focus on the threat Al-Shabaab poses to the Somali government. Similarly, despite the substantive women, peace and security references in the AMISOM mandate, in practice AMISOM’s counter-terrorism role in Somalia takes precedence in Council discussions to the detriment of other issues, including the adherence to a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

In September, Human Rights Watch released a report echoing these conclusions and described AMISOM troops using a range of tactics, including humanitarian aid to coerce vulnerable women and girls into sexual activity. The report also documents cases of rape or sexual assaults on women seeking assistance at AMISOM bases.

AU troops operate under UN Security Council authorisation and the mission receives a Council-mandated logistical support package from the UN. All facets of the Council’s work on Somalia, sanctions, security and political aspects, will be on the Council’s October programme of work, including the renewal of AMISOM’s authorisation and its logistical support package (see the Somalia brief in this Monthly Forecast).

In addition, Somalia is a timely case given that Council members undertook a visiting mission to Somalia in August and met with women’s groups, striving to fulfil the promise in resolution 2122 to focus a visiting mission in 2014 on women, peace and security. The UK, penholder on women, peace and security and Somalia, led this leg of the visit. Nevertheless, women’s concerns garnered only cursory attention, as is the case in most Council visits. (The visiting mission also included stops at The Hague and South Sudan.)

Key Issues

An ongoing key issue for the Council is ensuring that the norms of the women, peace and security agenda are integrated into all aspects of its work and subsequently implemented in a meaningful way. In this regard, a related issue is identifying ways the Council could provide better guidance to Council-mandated peacekeeping and political missions to enhance implementation of the agenda on the ground.

How Council members will use this open debate as a platform to build momentum for the independent review of the implementation of resolution 1325 is also a key issue. (The independent review was requested by the Council in resolution 2122 in preparation for the high-level review of this thematic issue in 2015.)

Another issue is to ensure that the expanding focus on sexual violence in conflict does not unduly side-line the broader women, peace and security agenda or ignore that women’s political and economic empowerment is essential in any prevention and protection response.

Options

An option for the Council is to invite a female leader from one of the IDP camps in Mogadishu to brief. Such engagement would take advantage of the Council’s focus in October on Somalia and women, peace and security and could demonstrate that the Council’s commitment to security in Somalia goes beyond counter-terrorism.

The Council could also adopt a presidential statement that encourages UN agencies, humanitarian responders, host states and Council-mandated missions to promote women’s leadership in refugee and IDP settings and to actively pursue accountability for sexual exploitation and abuse to diminish some of the risks women and girls face in displaced communities. Similar language could also be incorporated in the expected renewal of the AMISOM authorisation.

Council Dynamics

Council members are generally supportive, or at least neutral, on this thematic issue, and most view 2014 as a year to consolidate implementation of resolutions 2106 and 2122. Since the Council has not sought new outcomes on women, peace and security recently, the dynamic among members has been relatively quiet.

However, the calm may be disrupted if a draft presidential statement is circulated for negotiation. Several Council members would likely use these negotiations as an opportunity to set forth expectations for the 2015 high-level review of resolution 1325 and anticipate that China and Russia may in turn be interested in curtailing those expectations.

The UK is the penholder on women, peace and security in the Council. The US is the penholder on sexual violence issues.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolutions
18 October 2013 S/RES/2122 This resolution addressed the persistent gaps in the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, as highlighted in the most recent Secretary-General’s report.
24 June 2013 S/RES/2106 This was a resolution focusing on accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict and stressing women’s political and economic empowerment.
31 October 2000 S/RES/1325 This was the resolution on women, peace and security, in particular expressing the Council’s willingness to incorporate a gender perspective into peacekeeping missions, calling on all parties to protect women and girls from gender-based violence and to put an end to impunity for such crimes.
Security Council Meeting Records
25 April 2014 S/PV.7160 This was an open debate on conflict-related sexual violence with participation by more than 60 member states. The Secretary-General and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura briefed on the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2014/181).
18 October 2013 S/PV.7044 The annual open debate on the implementation of resolution 1325, focusing on the theme of women, rule of law and transitional justice in conflict-affected situations.
Secretary-General’s Reports
24 September 2014 S/2014/693 This report was on the implementation of resolution 1325. 
13 March 2014 S/2014/181 This was the third annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.