In Hindsight: Women, Peace and Security—Closing the Security Council’s Implementation Gap
The Council has created several tools with considerable potential to enable its members to increase their own access to and understanding of gender-related conflict analysis in the various country settings on its agenda. Council members have adopted new practices as well as continued using existing ones to respond to some of the recommendations of the three UN peace and security reviews conducted in 2014-2015 on peace operations, peacebuilding and implementation of resolution 1325 to this same end. Our research report, Women, Peace and Security: Closing the Security Council’s Implementation Gap, examines significant recent developments in the Council, most notably the establishment of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security and, for the first time, inviting women’s civil society representatives to brief the Council at country-specific meetings.
The Council’s implementation of its women, peace and security (WPS) agenda has improved after some new practical elements were incorporated into resolution 2242, adopted in October 2015. One such innovation was the decision to establish the Informal Experts Group on WPS. The guiding principle of the 2242 Group, which held its first meeting in February 2016 (on Mali), is that better information and analysis, combined with direct interaction with field missions, leads to better oversight and stronger implementation of women, peace and security norms in specific country situations. So far the group has met on Mali, Iraq, the Central African Republic (CAR), Afghanistan, the Lake Chad Basin, and Yemen.
While it may be too early to assess fully the impact of the information exchanged at meetings of the 2242 Group on activity in the Council itself, various Council members have pointed out that the Group’s meetings have provided in-depth information from the UN system on gender conflict analysis, additional to that included in the Secretary-General’s country-specific reports or briefings to the Council; thus it has helped them identify ways in which WPS implementation deficiencies could be addressed. The format of the group also provides Council members with an opportunity to get away from discussions in a “WPS silo” by placing these issues within the broader political, security and humanitarian context, and providing Council members with the information necessary to incorporate focused gender concerns into their own interventions in the Council. Through participating in the meetings of the 2242 Group, some delegations have found that their own internal coordination in advocating for gender references to be included in Council decisions can be enhanced: the information conveyed at meetings of the Group has led to a better understanding by their country experts of how WPS norms could be implemented to benefit mission performance, and as such has lowered resistance to including gender references in Council outcomes.
However, there are numerous areas for potentially enhancing the effectiveness of the Group in the coming years. Some ways in which Council members could increase the impact of the Group’s work on Council deliberations and outcomes could include raising more regularly issues identified in Group discussions during interventions, consultations and negotiations in the Council, including by addressing specific questions to field leadership during consultations. Exploring issues identified in the 2242 Group when they are relevant to issues being discussed by Council members during the Secretariat’s informal situational awareness briefings (for example, on Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali and northern Nigeria as part of the Lake Chad Basin) would also enrich these discussions with a necessary gender dimension.
The regular engagement of all Council members in the 2242 Group meetings would enhance its effectiveness (so far, China has not attended and Russia attends only rarely). Better engagement of all Council members’ relevant country experts in the 2242 Group meetings would prevent a situation when gender experts talk only to other gender experts and thus help to avoid isolating gender issues from the broader context of the conflict. Furthermore, the Group’s meetings provide a useful forum for exchanges between Council members and mission leaders to explore how the Council can support each mission’s response to WPS issues. In particular, heads of mission could communicate ways in which gender expertise can be embedded within all functional components of mandates. Finally, improving forward planning of the 2242 Group’s meetings with field and headquarters interlocutors could help enhance the quality of information being conveyed to Council members.
Another recommendation of the 1325 Global Study to improve the flow of gender information to Council members was for women’s civil society representatives to brief at country-specific meetings, an innovation also encouraged by the report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO). The 1325 Global Study also recommended that the Council hear more regularly on country-specific issues from the head of UN Women and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. These recommendations were also taken up in resolution 2242. The inclusion of these recommendations was controversial during the negotiation of resolution 2242, and it took more than a year for the Council to implement the practice. Since December 2016, however, the practice has been used in briefings on Liberia, the Lake Chad Basin, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and South Sudan. Countries supportive of the WPS agenda hope to hold at least one such briefing per month.
These new practices have enhanced the dissemination of information and analysis to Council members on gender issues, but as our 9 February 2017 report on conflict prevention noted, even “the best and most timely analysis and information is useless if it is not acted upon.” Better information can lead to better outcomes, but it is not always enough to generate political will. That dynamic is not specific to the Council’s consideration of WPS, but this thematic agenda has the additional obstacle of overcoming a culture among Council members and within the UN system that views gender issues as an “add-on”, rather than being one of the central components that support conflict prevention and underpin long-term stability. As such, implementation gaps remain. However, through continued innovation and by working to enhance the usefulness of existing tools the Council may be able to further consolidate gains made in its approach to the women, peace and security agenda.