Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
On 13 October, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, which has the presidency of the Security Council for the month, will preside over the annual debate on women, peace and security. This is the 15th anniversary of resolution 1325, which acknowledged that conflict had a differential impact on women and decided that addressing the needs, views and participation of half of society would provide a positive peace dividend. The Secretary-General, the Executive Director of UN Women and two civil society representatives are expected to brief. A resolution is a possible outcome.
The Open Debate
It is expected that Spain will circulate a concept note ahead of the debate asking member states to focus their interventions on how the international community can better deliver on women, peace and security commitments that are still unfulfilled 15 years after the adoption of resolution 1325.
The debate will also serve as the Council’s High-Level Review on the implementation of resolution 1325. It will provide a forum for the Council and member states to reflect on the recommendations emanating from the 2015 Global Study on women, peace and security and the Secretary-General’s 17 September report on the issue.
The High-Level Review and Global Study
The Council adopted resolution 2122 in October 2013 to address the persistent gaps in the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. It reiterated the Council’s intent to convene a High-Level Review in 2015 to assess progress in implementing the women, peace and security agenda as well as to identify obstacles and constraints that have emerged in the implementation of resolution 1325. In preparation for this review, resolution 2122 invited the Secretary-General to commission a Global Study.
UN Women led on the Global Study, and the former Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, was appointed the lead author. The Global Study identified five key areas for achieving the implementation of resolution 1325: (1) making women’s participation and leadership part of the core of peace and security efforts; (2) protecting the human rights of girls and women during and after conflict, especially in the context of emerging threats; (3) ensuring gender-responsive planning and accountability; (4) strengthening the UN’s gender architecture and expertise; and (5) financing the women, peace and security agenda. The study will be launched on 14 October, but it is expected that an advance copy will be informally circulated prior to the open debate.
The Secretary-General’s Report on Women, Peace and Security
The Secretary-General’s report noted that the Global Study—like the two other independent reviews carried out in 2015 on peace operations and on the peacebuilding architecture—found that the nature of warfare is changing. It is characterised by blatant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, involvement by a growing number of armed non-state actors, the spread of violent extremism and a brutal wave of organised violence that has led to record-setting levels of displacement. The findings of all three reviews have underlined that women and girls face challenges in having their voices heard and having their needs addressed in both conflict and post-conflict situations at the global, regional and national levels.
The report reflected on the role of key actors in the UN system to address the obstacles to full implementation of resolution 1325. Regarding peacekeeping, where the Security Council has a direct oversight role, the Secretary-General’s report called for mainstreaming gender perspectives into mission mandates, addressing sexual exploitation and abuse, integrating gender expertise within mission staffing structures and improving the gender balance in UN military and police contingents. It welcomed the recommendation to specify performance indicators related to gender in the compacts between the Secretary-General and heads of missions. The Secretary-General also encouraged strengthened partnerships between UN Women and peace operations.
Regarding the Security Council, the report highlights the Council’s important role in establishing the normative framework over the past 15 years. However, both the Peace Operations Panel and the Global Study found deficits in implementation. The report recommends strengthening the quality of gender analysis related to conflict flowing into the Council, more frequent country-specific briefings by the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the head of UN Women, increased attention to gender during Council visiting missions and appointing gender experts to the monitoring groups that assist relevant Security Council sanctions committees. The Secretary-General recalls that political will and consistent oversight by the Council are central to improving implementation. The report puts forward the Global Study’s recommendation for a mechanism that will allow the Council to better integrate gender into its outcomes and connect itself, through increased interaction with the UN system, to the security challenges and participation barriers women face in country-specific situations.
Countering violent extremism is another focus of the report. The past two years have been 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. Terrorist groups use sexual violence to achieve tactical objectives, terrorize communities into compliance and generate revenue through trafficking, slave trade and ransoms. Terrorist groups also displace populations from strategic areas, with a knock-on effect that displaced or refugee women and girls are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, such as human trafficking, early marriage and forced marriage. Violent extremism has a gender dimension in that women’s rights are attacked, in particular their rights to education, public life and decision-making over their own bodies. The Secretary-General’s report notes that even though extremist groups have placed the subordination of women at the forefront of their agenda, the promotion of gender equality has remained an afterthought in national and international responses.
Developments in the Counter-Terrorism Committee
On 9 September, representatives of UN Women and the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate briefed member states at an open meeting of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee about how gender has started to be integrated into the UN’s policy and programming on counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism.
A key issue for the Council is whether and how it will take forward actionable recommendations from the Global Study to achieve fuller implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in its own work, in particular how gender is incorporated into mandates of peace operations, how gender is reported to the Council and how the Council’s subsequent oversight role is enhanced if conflict gender analysis is presented.
Related to the Council’s oversight role, an issue is how the Council can demand greater transparency from the UN system as well as troop- and police-contributing countries regarding allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel.
A central issue for the open debate will be countering violent extremism, and at the same time ensuring that counterinsurgency efforts against extremist groups do not exacerbate the vulnerabilities that women and girls already face, such as in Somalia.
A related issue is not losing sight of the fact that in many situations where violent extremism and terrorism are hallmarks of active conflict, governments can also be a primary driver of conflict and displacement, such as in Syria. Also related to massive internal displacement and refugee flows 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.
The Council could adopt a resolution taking up recommendations from the Secretary-General’s report and the Global Study to:
- encourage the UN system to deliver improved gender analysis for the situations on the Council’s agenda; and
- commit to a mechanism that will support consistent implementation of the women, peace and security agenda by the Council.
Regarding subsidiary bodies, the Council could request that gender experts be included in the groups that assist relevant Security Council committees. In the context of countering violent extremism, this is particularly relevant to the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee, the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee and the 751/1907 Somalia-Eritrea Sanctions Committee.
Regarding sexual exploitation and abuse, the Council could reiterate its request in the 31 May 2005 presidential statement for specific reporting on accountability measures once accused peacekeepers are repatriated, to enhance the transparency efforts of troop- and police-contributing countries.
The Council has not adopted a resolution on women, peace and security since 2013, leaving dynamics largely untested for two years on this issue. It seems Council members who are supportive of this thematic agenda agree that it is time for a new resolution if it can substantively address two issues: countering violent extremism and improving the Council’s own implementation through concrete commitments.
However, there may be resistance by some Council members to any ambitious expectations. China and Russia made agreement difficult on language in the presidential statement following last October’s debate that referenced accountability issues and the Global Study. Venezuela, which came onto the Council in 2015, may be similarly cautious.
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.|
|31 May 2005 S/PRST/2005/21||This presidential statement condemned, in the strongest terms, all acts of sexual abuse and exploitation committed by peacekeepers and welcomed the comprehensive report prepared by Prince Zeid.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|15 April 2015 S/PV.7428||This was a briefing by Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura ahead of the annual open debate on the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.|
|28 October 2014 S/PV.7289||This was the annual open debate on women, peace and security.|
|17 September 2015 S/2015/716||This was the annual report on women, peace and security that included recommendations from the Global Study on implementation of resolution 1325.|
|23 March 2015 S/2015/203||This was the report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence.|