April 2019 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 March 2019
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Women, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council will hold an open debate on the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, focusing particularly on accountability and survivor-centred approaches. Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, is expected to chair. Secretary-General António Guterres and Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten are expected to participate, as are the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad. International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney is also expected to participate as well as a civil society representative. Germany plans to circulate a concept note ahead of the debate. An outcome is possible.

Key Recent Developments

At press time the Secretary-General was expected to submit his most recent report on conflict-related sexual violence, covering January to December 2018, which will provide the basis for the April open debate. Conflict-related sexual violence, as defined in the Secretary-General’s annual reports, “refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict.”

As in previous years, the report is likely to provide an overview of current and emerging concerns, focus on countries for which verifiable information is available, and provide country-specific strategic recommendations as well as overarching policy recommendations. Also, as in recent years, the report is expected to include an annex of a list of parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the agenda of the Security Council, the majority being non-state actors. Last year’s report detailed the removal of Côte d’Ivoire from the annex after no new cases of sexual violence by members of the Ivorian security forces were recorded in 2017. The report is also expected to cover country visits by Patten during 2018, including to Sudan from 18 to 25 February; Iraq from 26 February to 5 March; Guinea from 26 to 28 March; Bangladesh in May; and South Sudan from 3 to 7 July.

On 8 February, there was an open Arria-formula meeting on the preventive impact of criminal accountability for conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence. The meeting was organised by Germany in partnership with Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kuwait, Peru, Poland, South Africa and the UK. The concept note identified the objective as exploring how to more effectively integrate criminal accountability for sexual violence in conflict into the prevention agenda, including into conflict resolution, transitional justice and peacebuilding. The results of the discussion were intended to feed into the open debate and possible outcome. (See our What’s in Blue story of 7 February for more details.)

Key Issues and Options

A key issue is the role of the Council in enhancing prevention, early warning and accountability regarding sexual violence in conflict. Another issue is what the Council can do to ensure full implementation of the relevant resolutions as well as compliance by state and non-state parties.

The invited civil society speakers, Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad, may want to call the Council’s attention to the issues of their respective focus and expertise, sexual violence related to conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Iraq (the latter during the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant occupation).

An option is for the Council to closely monitor the implementation of key resolutions and integrate the issue into relevant country-specific and cross-cutting thematic resolutions. Another option is to support engagement with state and non-state parties towards specific commitments on conflict-related sexual violence and to monitor their compliance, including through the Informal Expert Group on Women and Peace and Security.

A related issue is expanding designation criteria in all relevant sanctions regimes for situations where sexual violence is persistently perpetrated. The Council may also consider how to go beyond receiving briefings by the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the submission of names of perpetrators of sexual violence to the relevant sanctions committees. This may include adopting targeted measures against individuals. Further options are to strengthen the dedicated gender and conflict-related sexual violence expertise informing the work of sanctions committees and to invite the Special Representative to share information with sanctions committees, as appropriate.

In the context of the Secretary-General’s focus on prevention, a further issue is how to give due consideration to the identified risk factors of sexual violence as early-warning indicators that could enable the Council better to fulfil its conflict prevention role.

Additional options are to use more consistently Council visiting missions to conflict situations to further highlight, where relevant, the issue of sexual violence, including the views of survivors, and to support the deployment of women’s protection advisers in peacekeeping missions.

Council Dynamics

Discussion of the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence has been a regular feature on the Council’s agenda since 2009, but Council members continue to have divergent views on aspects of this thematic agenda, including how to incorporate it into the Council’s sanctions regimes and how to advance and deepen efforts to integrate the women, peace and security agenda across all areas of the Council’s work. China and Russia have typically resisted many elements that they interpret as an expansion of the women, peace and security agenda or perceive as infringing on state sovereignty or the responsibilities of other parts of the UN system. In this context, some Council members may be wary of a new outcome, given the continued need for implementation of resolution 2106 and other relevant resolutions on the issue, and whether proceeding with an outcome could potentially lead to acrimonious negotiations.

Some members have highlighted the importance of working closely with relevant sanctions committees to list perpetrators, and they may raise this issue in the open debate. Others have shown interest in focusing on how 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 in both formal and traditional justice systems.

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UN Documents on Women, Peace and Security

Security Council Resolutions
24 June 2013S/RES/2106 This was a resolution focusing on accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict and stressing women’s political and economic empowerment.
Secretary-General’s Reports
23 March 2018S/2018/250 This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.
Security Council Meeting Records
16 April 2018S/PV.8234 This was an open debate on the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, which focused on “preventing sexual violence in conflict through empowerment, gender equality and access to justice”.

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