Women, Peace and Security
Expected Council Action
In October, the Security Council is expected to hold its annual open debate on women, peace and security. The Secretary-General’s annual report will be released ahead of the meeting. Russia, as president of the Council in October, is expected to circulate a concept note ahead of the debate. The debate may also be held at a high level. Secretary-General António Guterres, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a female peacekeeper, and a civil society representative may brief. If the measures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are still in place late in the month, the meeting is likely to be held as an open videoconference (VTC). A resolution is a possible outcome.
Key Recent Developments
This year marks the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325, the Council’s first resolution on women, peace and security, adopted on 31 October 2000. Resolution 1325 acknowledged that armed conflict has a differential and disproportionate impact on women. The aspect of protection against sexual violence was further strengthened with resolution 1888 of 30 September 2009, which established the position of Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Resolution 2242, adopted on 13 October 2015, among other issues addressed the Council’s working methods in relation to women, peace and security. The Council expressed its intention to convene an Informal Experts Group (IEG) on women, peace and security and also to invite civil society briefers representing women’s organisations to country-specific and thematic meetings.
This year’s co-chairs of the IEG, the Dominican Republic and Germany, are working towards a greater recognition that issues affecting women are peace and security issues. They argue that women, peace and security should not be isolated on the Council’s agenda as a thematic issue but rather, as recognised in resolution 2242, should be an integral part of the entirety of the Council’s work. This is reflected in the IEG’s 2016 guidelines, which suggest that not only member states’ women, peace and security experts attend IEG meetings but also the respective country experts, as well. In the past year, the IEG has held meetings on Colombia, Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and on responding to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Because of the IEG’s status as an experts’ group, those meetings are not reflected on the Council’s subsidiary bodies programme of work, and there is no obligation for Council members to attend. China and Russia rarely attend. UN Women acts as the secretariat of the IEG. A summary of every IEG meeting is sent as an annex to a letter from the co-chairs and the penholder to the Secretary-General and published as a document of the Council.
On 29 October 2019, the Council held its annual open debate on women, peace and security. South Africa, as president of the Council that month, proposed that the focus of the debate be “Towards the successful implementation of the women, peace and security agenda: moving from commitments to accomplishments in preparation for the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000)”. Briefers included UN Secretary-General António Guterres; UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop; Lina Ekomo of FEMWISE (the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation); and Alaa Salah, a civil society activist and community leader from Sudan. Resolution 2493 on the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda was unanimously adopted following difficult negotiations. Controversial issues during the negotiations were the protection of women human rights defenders, the strengthening of the role of the IEG co-chairs and sexual and reproductive health rights.
On 4 November 2019, the Council was briefed by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN Fatima Kyari Mohammed on a 21-26 October joint UN-AU solidarity mission to the Horn of Africa. This was the fourth Council meeting of its kind. In August 2017 the Council was briefed after a joint UN-AU trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, as they were in July 2018 after a joint UN-AU visit to the Sahel region and in July 2019 following a solidarity mission to Afghanistan.
On 16 July, Council members held the annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence in open VTC format at ministerial level. It was organised by Germany as president of the Council in collaboration with the Dominican Republic. Briefers included the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten; Angelina Jolie, in her capacity as a Special Envoy of the UNHCR; and Nadia Carine Therese Fornel-Poutou, Executive President of the Association des Femmes Juristes de Centrafrique. Considering the difficult negotiations of the Council’s last two resolutions on women, peace and security, the president did not seek a formal outcome of the meeting. The year before, resolution 2467 of 23 April 2019 on conflict-related sexual violence was adopted with China and Russia abstaining. During the negotiations, China, Russia and the US all threatened to use their veto.
Resolution 2242 called on the Secretary-General “to initiate, in collaboration with Member States, a revised strategy, within existing resources, to double the numbers of women in military and police contingents of UN peacekeeping operations over the next five years”. The Secretary-General’s “Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2018-2028” was presented to the UN membership in January 2019. On 28 August, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2538 on women in peacekeeping operations. Initiated by Indonesia, it outlined several ways member states can promote the increased participation of women in peacekeeping and encouraged greater cooperation among states, the UN, and regional and sub-regional organisations as well as networking opportunities among female peacekeepers.
Key Issues and Options
An ongoing issue for the Council is how to further the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. Areas of implementation could include better integration of relevant language in country-specific and thematic Council outcomes, inviting the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to brief the Council, and continuing to invite female civil society representatives to brief the Council.
Including language from the women, peace and security agenda as a cross-cutting issue in country-specific and thematic resolutions remains challenging.
The majority of Council members consider the normative framework of the agenda to be strong enough, arguing that the focus should be on the implementation of the agenda rather than attempts to adopt more Council decisions.
The UK is the penholder on women, peace and security issues in general, and the US is the penholder on conflict-related sexual violence. Germany and the Dominican Republic are the co-chairs of the IEG. Those two elected members will leave the Council on 31 December; the IEG will therefore be chaired by two new non-permanent members starting 1 January 2021.
UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY
|Security Council Resolutions|
|28 August 2020S/RES/2538||This was on the role of women in peacekeeping operations.|
|29 October 2019S/RES/2493||This was a unanimous resolution, which requested further information on the progress and setbacks in the WPS agenda as well as recommendations to address new and emerging challenges.|
|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).|
|13 October 2015S/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.|
|30 September 2009S/RES/1888||This resolution strengthened efforts to end sexual violence against women and children in armed conflict.|
|31 October 2000S/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.|
|3 June 2020S/2020/487||This was the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.|
|9 October 2019S/2019/800||This was the latest annual report on women, peace and security.|
|Security Council Letters|
|14 September 2020S/2020/899||This was the summary of the IEG’s 29 July meeting on Colombia.|
|31 August 2020S/2020/856||This was a letter from the president of the Security Council containing the draft resolution in blue about women in peacekeeping operations, the votes submitted by all Council members, and explanations of vote by Indonesia and Russia.|
|21 July 2020S/2020/727||This was a letter from the president of the Security Council containing the briefings provided and statements given by states during the 17 July open VTC on conflict-related sexual violence.|
|23 June 2020S/2020/574||This was the summary of the IEG’s 27 May meeting on Mali.|
|28 May 2020S/2020/439||This was the summary of the IEG’s 29 April meeting on responding to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.|
|7 April 2020S/2020/283||This was the summary of the IEG’s 26 February meeting on Syria.|
|8 April 2020S/2020/282||This was the summary of the IEG’s 5 March meeting on Iraq.|
|22 December 2016S/2016/1106||This were the guidelines for the IEG.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|4 November 2019S/PV.8657||This was a briefing on a UN-AU joint solidarity mission with a focus on women, peace and security.|
|29 October 2019S/PV.8649||This was the Security Council’s annual open debate on women, peace and security where resolution 2493 was unanimously adopted.|
|29 October 2019S/PV.8649 (Resumption 1)||This was the second part of the annual open debate on women, peace and security.|
|4 November 2019S/PV.8649 (Resumption 2)||The Council resumed and concluded its annual open debate on women, peace and security. The debate, which started on 29 October, had had to be suspended due to UN austerity measures.|