Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In mid-April, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura will brief the Council on the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence. A civil society representative was also expected to speak. At press time, no outcome was planned and it remained unclear whether the format would be a briefing or an open debate. This issue has been considered in the open debate format since 2009.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s report describes 2014 as a year marked by harrowing accounts of sexual violence in the context of violent extremism, with particular focus on Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). It details how terrorist groups use sexual violence to achieve tactical objectives, dispelling the notion that sexual violence is just an incidental by-product of conflict. Sexual violence by extremist groups terrorizes communities into compliance, displaces populations from strategic areas and generates revenue through trafficking, slave trade and ransoms. The report also highlights the vulnerability of displaced or refugee women and girls to sexual exploitation, such as human trafficking, early marriage and forced marriage.
The report includes analysis that conflict-related sexual violence occurs in situations where there is also systemic gender-based discrimination, such as the exclusion of women from political life, economic marginalisation and discriminatory systems of both formal and informal law. Furthermore, survivors of sexual violence often face double victimisation through accusations of “honour” or “morality” crimes, through reporting to unresponsive or predatory security officials or through forced marriage to the perpetrator as a form of traditional settlement.
Violent extremism and the vulnerability of displaced women were central themes in the 28 October 2014 open debate on women, peace and security and the 30 January open debate on protection of civilians. The presidential statement adopted after the October debate similarly emphasised needs of displaced women and highlighted the impact of violent extremism on women. More recently, the 25 March open debate on children and armed conflict focused on child victims of non-state armed groups, with the deleterious impact of groups like Boko Haram and ISIS prominently discussed.
The Secretary-General’s Report
The 2015 report added Iraq while removing Angola, Cambodia and Sierra Leone. It provides information in three categories:
- Sexual violence in conflict-affected settings: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan/Darfur, Syria and Yemen;
- Sexual violence in post-conflict situations: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nepal and Sri Lanka; and
- Other situations of concern: Nigeria.
Since 2012, these reports have also included an annex listing parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the Council’s agenda. Additions to the 2015 annex include state and non-state actors in Somalia. Several terrorist groups were also added: ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, Al-Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram. In relation to Boko Haram, Nigeria is mentioned in the body of the report but not in the annex. This is likely due to sensitivities that Nigeria—also a current elected Security Council member—should not be construed as an issue on the Council’s agenda.
The annex also includes other changes. Five specific non-state armed groups in Syria, other than ISIS, were added to the existing entry, which already included Syrian government forces, intelligence forces and regime-allied militias. The Justice and Equality Movement, a Darfur-based rebel group, was added to the existing South Sudan entry, reflecting the fact that the group has taken refuge there and fought on the side of President Salva Kiir. For CAR, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC and Mali, the respective militias, armed groups and government forces remained largely unchanged.
A key issue for the open debate will be how to deal with extremist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS, which do not operate in just one country, are difficult to approach and are unlikely to respond to the usual forms of pressure. Related issues include:
- ensuring the women, peace and security agenda is integrated into the Council’s thematic work on counterterrorism and country-specific situations where these groups operate;
- ensuring that counterinsurgency efforts against extremist groups do not exacerbate the vulnerabilities that women and girls face, such as in Somalia; and
- not losing sight of the fact that in many situations where sexual violence occurs governments are a primary driver of conflict in their own territory, such as in Syria and Darfur.
A continuing issue is the reluctance of Council members to use sanctions to pressure many of the groups listed on the Secretary-General’s annex.
Another issue is how the Council can encourage the UN system and member states to develop and implement a gender-sensitive humanitarian response to the needs of displaced women and girls.
Finally, an issue is how to take forward any concrete recommendations from this debate to the high-level review of resolution 1325 in October.
Options for the Council regarding perpetrators include taking up recommendations from the 2015 report to:
- refer those who commit, command or condone sexual violence to the ICC; and
- direct relevant sanctions committees—including the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, which has already listed both Boko Haram and ISIS—to engage with the Special Representative and consider whether parties in the annex should be subject to existing sanctions or whether designation criteria should be expanded to include sexual violence.
Options for the Council to integrate sexual violence concerns into its country-specific work—especially when renewing or establishing peace operations—include:
- ensuring that a gender lens is applied in processes devoted to disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, security sector reform and justice reform;
- ensuring the deployment of gender expertise in missions, both gender advisers and women’s protection advisers;
- expanding the call for the implementation of the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence in all relevant mission mandates; and
- calling for the inclusion of sexual violence concerns in mediation and peace processes, particularly in the context of security arrangements and transitional justice mechanisms.
Since the Council has not sought a new resolution on women, peace and security since 2013, the dynamic among members has been relatively quiet, with most being supportive, or at least neutral, on this thematic issue. Currently there is considerable momentum building toward the global study and high-level review of resolution 1325—expected to be finalised in October.
However, there may be resistance by some Council members to any ambitious expectations around the high-level review. Last October, China and Russia made agreement difficult on language in the presidential statement referencing accountability issues and the global study. This indicates difficulties may arise later this year when the Secretary-General submits the results of the study for the Council’s consideration.
The UK is the penholder on women, peace and security in the Council. The US is the penholder on sexual violence issues.
|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.|
|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 Presidential Statements|
|28 October 2014 S/PRST/2014/21||This was a presidential statement that addressed the particular needs of displaced women, highlighted the impact of violent extremism on women and welcomed the Secretary-General’s commissioning of a global study.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|25 March 2015 S/PV.7414||This was the open debate on children and armed conflict.|
|30 January 2015 S/PV.7374||This was the open debate on the protection of civilians with a particular focus on the protection challenges of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.|
|28 October 2014 S/PV.7289||This was the annual open debate on women, peace and security.|
|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).|