Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In early June, the Secretary-General and Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zainab Bangura will brief the Council on the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence. At press time, no outcome was planned.
In addition, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, will address the Council. Fatima Ahmed, who heads the organisation Zenab Women in Development in Sudan, will be the civil society briefer on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.
Key Recent Developments
The Secretary-General’s 2015 report emphasises that conflict resolution and counter-terrorism strategies cannot be separated from efforts to protect and empower women and girls. 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 intimidation against reporting, including accusations of “adultery”, “honour”, or “morality” crimes, as a result of reporting to unresponsive or predatory security officials, faced with reporting to the national forces that perpetrated the sexual violence or through forced marriage to the perpetrator as a form of traditional settlement. The report also underlines the Council’s recognition of sexual violence as a tactic of war in resolution 1820 and as a tactic of terrorism in resolution 2242.
The report focuses on sexual violence in the contexts of: violent extremism and terrorism; state forces or government-aligned militias participating in targeted sexual assaults based on actual or perceived political affiliation; and lax command and control with impunity for the perpetrators compounded by victims’ lack of confidence in the justice sector.
The report details how sexual violence is used to achieve tactical objectives, such as terrorising communities into compliance, mass displacement of populations from strategic areas and, in the case of Boko Haram and ISIL, generating 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 focus on trafficking and the slave trade is deepened in this year’s report with analysis of how the commodification of women and girls has become part of the political economy of war, in both the recruitment of fighters and financing of ongoing conflict. This phenomenon was initially addressed by the Council in a December 2015 briefing and adoption of a presidential statement.
This is the first year that the conflict-related sexual violence report is inclusive of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers. In the past, it has been argued that this was a conduct and discipline issue and therefore outside the mandate of the Office of the Special Representative. However, the inclusion of this issue in the 2015 report is a result of what is now considered an essential response to the serious allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic (CAR) by MINUSCA personnel and French parallel forces, as well as an overall environment in the CAR that has resulted in women and girls being extremely vulnerable to ever-increasing incidents of human trafficking, sexual violence and transactional sex. While this issue has received public attention because of the prevalence of sexual exploitation and abuse in the CAR, it is a pervasive issue in many peace operations involving both civilian and military staff.
In other developments, the 2242 Informal Experts Group on women, peace and security discussed many of the issues raised by the 2015 conflict-related sexual violence report in its February meeting on Mali and its April meeting on Iraq, and is likely to do so in its forthcoming June meeting on the CAR.
The Secretary-General’s Report
The report provides information in three categories:
- Sexual violence in conflict-affected settings: Afghanistan, the CAR, Colombia, the 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, Nepal and Sri Lanka; and
- Other situations of concern: Burundi and Nigeria.
In 2015, Burundi was added to the report as a new situation while Liberia was removed.
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. Other than the addition of Sudan to the 2015 annex, the mix of parties remained relatively unchanged with Boko Haram and other state and non-state actors listed in the CAR, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.
A key issue for the open debate will be how to deal with extremist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIL, which do not operate in just one country, are difficult to approach and are unlikely to respond to the usual forms of pressure. Another issue will be how to deal with state actors who have also not responded to the usual forms of pressure, such as Burundi, Sudan and Syria.
Related issues include:
- ensuring the women, peace and security agenda is integrated into the Council’s thematic work on counter-terrorism 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 Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria; 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 Sudan.
A continuing issue is the reluctance of Council members to use sanctions to pressure many of the groups listed in the Secretary-General’s annex, in particular to address trafficking in relation to sexual violence.
A further issue is the reluctance of the Council to give due consideration to UN-identified risk factors of sexual violence as an early warning indicator that could enable the Council to better fulfil its conflict prevention role, as in the case with Burundi.
Other issues are how the Council can encourage the UN system and member states:
- to better implement the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peace operations; and
- to develop and implement a gender-sensitive humanitarian response to the needs of displaced women and girls.
An option for the Council regarding perpetrators includes directing relevant sanctions committees—including the 1267/1989/2253 Al-Qaida and ISIL Sanctions Committee—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 and human trafficking. Another option is ensuring the inclusion of gender expertise in expert groups that report to relevant Security Council sanctions committees.
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; 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.
Options for the Council on sexual exploitation and abuse include:
- adopting a statement or resolution that endorses the Secretary-General’s recommendation to not allow national forces listed in the annex of the conflict-related sexual violence report to be police or troop contributors to UN peace operations; and
- continuing to publicly support the Secretary-General if there is a decision to repatriate a particular military unit or formed police unit of a contingent when there is credible evidence of widespread or systemic sexual exploitation and abuse by that unit, as endorsed in resolution 2272.
Between 2013 and 2015, the Council did not adopt a resolution on women, peace and security, leaving dynamics on this issue largely untested for two years. However, familiar divisions quickly re-emerged during negotiations of resolution 2242 in October 2015, particularly around operational language related to the convening of an informal expert group of Council members on women, peace and security; improving how this thematic agenda is incorporated into the Council’s sanctions regimes; language describing an improved gender architecture in the UN system; and how the women, peace and security agenda should be integrated into strategies to counter violent extremism and terrorism.
In subsequent negotiations on Council outcomes on human trafficking and sexual exploitation and abuse, similar issues emerged with China and Russia, and in some instances Egypt. They resisted many elements that they interpreted as an expansion of the women, peace and security agenda or perceived as infringing on state sovereignty or the competencies of other parts of the UN system.
At press time, Council members were negotiating a presidential statement on women’s role in conflict prevention in Africa, largely based on previously agreed language. Nevertheless, negotiations were difficult, in particular in relation to early warning indicators that could enhance the Council’s conflict prevention role, strengthening linkages between the women, peace and security and counter-terrorism agendas, and language regarding gender perspectives in mediation and peace operations.
The UK is the penholder on women, peace and security in the Council. The US is the penholder on sexual violence issues. Spain and the UK co-chair the 2242 Informal Experts Group on women, peace and security.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|13 October 2015 S/RES/2242||The was a resolution that addressed women’s roles in countering violent extremism and terrorism, improving the Council’s own working methods in relation to women, peace and security and taking up gender recommendations made by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and the Global Study.|
|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|
|16 December 2015 S/PRST/2015/25||This was a presidential statement on trafficking in persons in situations of conflict, with a particular focus on ISIS and the impact on women and children.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|16 December 2015 S/PV.7585||This was a briefing on the trafficking of persons in situations of conflict, with a particular focus on ISIS.|
|13 October 2015 S/PV.7533||This was the annual open debate on women, peace and security.|
|14 October 2015 S/PV.7533 (Resumption 1)||This was the annual open debate on women and peace and security.|
|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.|
|20 April 2016 S/2016/361||This was the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence for 2015.|
|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.|