Women, Peace and Security: Sahel and Lake Chad Basin
Expected Council Action
In July, the Council will hold a briefing on the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin focused on women, peace and security. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop are expected to brief following a joint mission that they are undertaking to the region earlier in the month. A civil society representative is also expected to brief.
Key Recent Developments
The impact of the terrorist group Boko Haram in Lake Chad Basin countries on women and girls has been well-documented. The kidnapping of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria in April 2014 first began to focus international attention on the Boko Haram insurgency that started in 2009, which until then had been under-reported and viewed as an internal matter to Nigeria. The Chibok students represented only a small percentage of the thousands of people, including women and girls, whom Boko Haram has kidnapped. Despite losing most of the territory that it once held, Boko Haram has continued to conduct abductions. On 19 February, Boko Haram took 110 girls from their school in Dapchi, Yobe state, in Nigeria. Most were released a month later, though five had died and one girl who refused to convert to Islam remained in captivity.
The crisis has affected women and girls with particular intensity: women and girls have been used as suicide bombers; they have been subjected to forced marriage; and after being freed or escaping from Boko Haram, returnees often face stigmatisation. Sexual exploitation has been commonplace among the 2.4 million displaced persons, including by the security forces and authorities, often involving transactional sex to access food and non-food items. An August 2017 study by the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point and Yale University found that of the 434 suicide bombings by Boko Haram from 2011 to 2017, a majority (56 percent) were carried out by women and girls, including two-thirds of suicide attacks in 2017. Young women and girls have carried out nearly all recent suicide attacks in the Far North region of Cameroon. Resolution 2349 of March 2017, adopted following the Council’s visit to the Lake Chad Basin, highlighted these different aspects of the Boko Haram crisis.
The Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG) met on 30 January to discuss the Lake Chad Basin crisis with then-UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria Edward Kallon and representatives of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWAS) and the UN Office for Central Africa.
Regarding the wider Sahel, a high-level conference on women, violence and terrorism in West Africa and the Sahel was organised from 10 to 11 April in Dakar by UNOWAS in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States; the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel); the Mano River Union; the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism; UN Women; and the Working Group on Women, Youth, Peace and Security in West Africa and the Sahel. The conference resulted in a Call to Action, which urged West African and Sahel governments to increase women’s participation in all social, political and economic initiatives aimed at preventing violent extremism and combatting terrorism.
Since being appointed to her post in 2017, Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed has led UN efforts to improve implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, including the recent development of a support plan for the strategy to trigger investment in the region. The “recalibration” of the UN’s Sahel strategy focuses on five priority areas for implementation. These priorities include not only empowering women and youth but also cross-border cooperation; conflict prevention and sustaining peace; inclusive economic growth; and climate action and renewable energy.
On 5 June, the IEG met on Mali and the Sahel, organised in order to contribute recommendations ahead of Mohammed and Diop’s upcoming mission. Special Representative and head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, and a representative of the Department of Political Affairs’ Sahel team briefed. Among the issues on the agenda were the under-representation of women in the Malian peace process; the importance of the G5 Sahel joint force recruiting a gender advisor; and the need to complement security responses with actions that address the structural drivers of instability and insecurity in the Sahel, where poverty rates are some of the highest in the world and gender equality is among the lowest.
Key Issues and Options
The Council briefing is being organised in connection with the visit to the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin by Mohammed and Diop. Also expected to participate in the visit are Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund Natalia Kanem, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa Bience Gawanas, and heads of UN regional and country offices. The session follows up on Mohammed and Diop’s visit to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo last July, about which they subsequently briefed the Council in August 2017.
With the forthcoming trip providing the basis for the discussion, key issues for the session will be how the crises in the Sahel and Lake Chad basin have affected women, including livelihoods; the prevention of violent extremism; issues related to the UN Sahel Strategy, as well as other women, peace and security issues such as the importance of women’s participation in political processes.
As part of the concept note that is being prepared for the meeting, an option is to encourage Council members to ask specific questions during their interventions that the briefers can then respond to, as was done last year.
A further option is to incorporate key elements from this meeting into a possible presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel as the Council will also hold its semi-annual meeting on the region and the activities of UNOWAS in July. This may include emphasising the importance of gender-sensitive research, data and responses in the context of counter-terrorism operations.
Women, peace and security issues, particularly around women’s participation and sexual violence, are raised consistently during the Council’s discussions on Mali and the Lake Chad Basin partly due to the work of the IEG. Sweden’s organisation of this briefing as the July Council president and as co-chair with Peru of the IEG is part of an effort to have Council discussions of women, peace and security thematic issues as they relate to specific geographical countries and regions.
The UK is the penholder on Women, Peace and Security. Côte d’Ivoire is penholder on West Africa and the Sahel and worked closely with Sweden in preparing the Council’s January presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel. Peru and Sweden co-chair the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE SAHEL AND THE LAKE CHAD BASIN
|Security Council Resolutions|
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2391||This resolution underlined the need for a gender perspective in implementing the strategic concept of operations of the G5 Sahel joint force.|
|31 March 2017 S/RES/2349||This was on the Lake Chad Basin.|
|Security Council Letter|
|2 April 2018 S/2018/302||This was a letter from the Netherlands summarising the 22 March briefing on the Lake Chad Basin.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|22 March 2018 S/PV.8212||This was a briefing on the root causes of the Lake Chad Basin crisis. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed briefed the Council, as well as Mohammad Bila of the Lake Chad Basin Commission and Chitra Nagarajan, a Senior Conflict Advisor at Adelphi.|
|10 August 2017 S/PV.8022||This was a briefing by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed following her 19-27 July joint visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria with Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten. Ambassador Téte António, Permanent Observer for the African Union, also briefed.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|2 March 2018 SC/13233||This was a press statement condemning the 19 February Boko Haram kidnapping of 110 school girls in Dapchi, Nigeria, and a 1 March attack in Rann, Nigeria that led to the deaths of at least three humanitarian workers, four Nigerian soldiers, and four Nigerian police.|