Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council is scheduled to hold its annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence at ministerial level, focusing on accountability and the implementation of a survivor-centred approach. The Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, is expected to brief. Representatives of civil society are also likely to participate. No formal outcome is anticipated at this point. If the measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are still in place, the open debate is likely to be held as an open videoconference and statements by non-Council members would be submitted in writing.
Key Recent Developments
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 sterilisation, 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”. The position of Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict was established in resolution 1888 of 30 September 2009.
As in previous years, the Secretary-General’s annual report focuses on countries where verifiable information was obtained. It provides analysis and recommendations on sexual violence in countries affected by conflict (Afghanistan, the Central African Republic [CAR], Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC], Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan [Darfur], Syria, and Yemen), in post-conflict situations (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Côte d’Ivoire, Nepal, and Sri Lanka), and “other situations of concern”, including Burundi and Nigeria.
As has been the case since 2012, the annual report also contains an annex listing “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”. It names parties in the CAR (six non-state actors), the DRC (21 non-state actors and two state actors), Iraq (one non-state actor), Mali (five non-state actors), Myanmar (one state actor), Somalia (one non-state actor and three state actors), South Sudan (four non-state actors and two state actors), Sudan (two non-state actors and two state actors), and Syria (five non-state actors and two state actors) as well as Boko Haram under “other parties of concern on the agenda of the Security Council”. States listed in the annex are prohibited from contributing to UN peace operations. If an actor “has made formal commitments to adopt measures to address conflict-related sexual violence”, it is marked in the annex as such. In order to be removed from the annex, an actor has to cease violations and implement its formal commitments. Only one party, the Forces Républicaines de Côte d’Ivoire, has been delisted so far.
Resolution 2467 of 23 April 2019 on conflict-related sexual violence contained a request to the Secretary-General to include in his next annual report “a gap assessment and recommendations […] on how the Security Council can strengthen and monitor implementation of relevant commitments by parties to conflict as well as on how the UN can better support local, national, and regional efforts to address the needs of survivors of sexual violence in conflict”. The annual report concludes that compliance by conflict parties with the Council’s normative framework “remains low after a decade of concerted focus”.
In resolution 1820 of 19 June 2008, the Council expressed its intention to consider the use of targeted sanctions against perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence. Of the 14 Security Council sanctions regimes, seven include explicit designation criteria for these crimes: CAR, DRC, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In total, 13 individuals (under the CAR, DRC, Mali, and South Sudan sanctions regimes) and four entities (under the CAR and DRC sanctions regimes) have been listed under these criteria so far.
During the negotiations leading up to the 15 November 2019 adoption of resolution 2498 on the Somalia sanctions regime—which already included “planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender based violence” among its listing criteria—Germany proposed adding a request for the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to “share relevant information” with the 751 Somalia Sanctions Committee, which was included.
On 25 February, the Council adopted resolution 2511, renewing the Yemen sanctions regime with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia). The Council reaffirmed that conflict-related sexual violence falls under an existing sanctions designation criterion that encompasses violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. During the negotiations, Belgium had proposed adding a separate designation criterion for the commission of conflict-related sexual violence, but this was not agreeable to China and Russia.
On 22 May, the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict published a policy brief on “Implications of COVID-19 for the prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual violence”. The office emphasised that measures taken to combat the pandemic had already begun to disrupt the work of the UN, including the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence established by resolution 1960 of 16 December 2010.
According to estimates by OCHA, less than 1 percent of contributions to the UN’s humanitarian plans are directed towards the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence. A reprioritisation of resources by donors, countries and the UN due to the pandemic may result in even greater funding shortfalls, according to the policy brief.
Arguing that the fight against impunity is essential in deterring and preventing such crimes as well as in providing redress for survivors, the policy brief also addresses the expected detrimental effects the pandemic will have on accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. Those include the judicial systems’ current lack of capacity to respond to crimes.
The Council held its previous annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence on 23 April 2019. Resolution 2467, drafted by Germany, was adopted during the debate, with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia) following difficult negotiations, including veto threats by China, Russia and the US. Contentious issues included language on sexual and reproductive health rights and the establishment of a formal Council mechanism on conflict-related sexual violence, both of which were not acceptable to some members and were ultimately not included in the resolution.
Key Issues and Options
An ongoing issue for the Council is how to consolidate progress in the implementation of successive resolutions on conflict-related sexual violence. One option is to increase the direct interactions between Council members and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. That could include briefings to the Council in open or closed formats and to its subsidiary bodies, including sanctions committees.
Other issues include strengthening prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual violence; addressing the issue in the context of terrorism, human trafficking, and as a tactic of war; the accountability of perpetrators; access to services and judicial proceedings for survivors; and children born of war.
The Council could call upon state and non-state actors to make “formal commitments to adopt measures to address conflict-related sexual violence”, as required for delisting from the annex of the annual report, and request the Secretary-General to inform the Council on compliance with these commitments in his reporting.
Another option for the Council is to expand the designation criteria in all relevant sanctions regimes for conflict situations where sexual violence is persistently perpetrated. Where such criteria exist, the Council could strengthen efforts to sanction perpetrators. In renewing the mandates of panels of experts assisting sanctions committees, the Council could make sure that, where relevant, the experts are requested to have gender expertise.
When negotiating mandate renewals of peace operations, Council members could ensure that, where pertinent, language supporting the deployment of gender advisers and women’s protection advisers is included.
The adoption of resolution 2467 showed the current divisions among Council members on the issue of conflict-related sexual violence. Council members interested in advancing the agenda might therefore avoid aiming for a Council product at this stage and focus on the implementation of the existing normative framework. However, the negotiations and vote on the resolution demonstrated that elected members are prepared to invest political capital to advance their agenda.
The US is the penholder on conflict-related sexual violence. The Dominican Republic and Germany are the co-chairs of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security.
UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY
|Security Council Resolutions|
|25 February 2020S/RES/2511||This resolution renewed the Yemen sanctions regime for one year.|
|15 November 2019S/RES/2498||This extended various elements of the Somalia sanctions regime until 15 November 2020.|
|23 April 2019S/RES/2467||This was a resolution on sexual violence in conflict, passed with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|16 December 2010S/RES/1960||This resolution established a monitoring, analysis and reporting mechanism on conflict-related sexual violence in situations on the Council’s agenda, and also called upon parties to armed conflict to make specific, time-bound commitments to prohibit and punish sexual violence and asked the Secretary-General to monitor those commitments.|
|30 September 2009S/RES/1888||This resolution strengthened efforts to end sexual violence against women and children in armed conflict.|
|19 June 2008S/RES/1820||This addressed sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations and asked the Secretary-General for a report by 30 June 2009 with information on the systematic use of sexual violence in conflict areas and proposals for strategies to minimize the prevalence of such acts with benchmarks for measuring progress.|
|3 June 2020S/2020/487||This was the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.|
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|23 April 2019S/PV.8514||This was a high-level open debate on sexual violence in conflict chaired by Germany, Council president for the month of April.|