April 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2021
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Women, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action

In April, the Security Council is scheduled to hold its annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence. 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.

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 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”. 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 is expected to focus on countries where verifiable information was obtained. Last year’s annual report provided analysis and recommendations on sexual violence in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan (Darfur), Syria, and Yemen.

The humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia continues to raise concerns, in the light of reports of “rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence”, according to a 22 March statement by UN entities (including the heads of the International Organization for Migration, OCHA, the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, UNHCR, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization) and non-governmental organisations. The statement calls for an “independent investigation into conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray”, involving the OHCHR. In a 21 January statement, Patten expressed great concern about “serious allegations of sexual violence” in the region. She shared “disturbing reports” of individuals who were forced to rape their family members and women who were forced to have sex with military elements in exchange for basic commodities. She called on the parties to the hostilities to respect their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence. According to media reports, rape is being used as a weapon of war in Tigray by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.

As has been the case since 2012, the annual report is also expected to contain 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”. Last year’s annual report named parties in 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 indicated in the annex. 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.

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 Council sanctions regimes, seven include explicit designation criteria for these crimes: CAR, DRC, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. In total, 14 individuals (under the CAR, DRC, Mali, South Sudan, and Yemen sanctions regimes) and four entities (under the CAR and DRC sanctions regimes) have been listed under these criteria so far.

On 25 February, the Council adopted resolution 2564, renewing the Yemen financial and travel ban sanctions and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee. With the resolution, the Council added Houthi official Sultan Saleh Aida Aida Zabin to the sanctions list for “[playing] a prominent role in a policy of intimidation and use of systematic arrest, detention, torture, sexual violence and rape against politically active women”, as reported by the Panel of Experts. This marked the first time that the Council has listed an individual in the Middle East region for such crimes.

On 8 March, Council members convened virtually for an Arria-formula meeting titled “Call to Lead by Example: Ensuring the Full, Equal and Meaningful Participation of Women in UN-led Peace Processes”. The meeting was co-hosted by 12 Council members (Ireland, Mexico, Estonia, France, Kenya, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the UK, the US, and Viet Nam). Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo; Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen; Bronagh Hinds, an advocate for women’s rights from Northern Ireland; and Rasha Jarhum, a peacebuilder from Yemen, briefed. In her statement, Jarhum said that “sexual violence is used against women and girls by all parties to the conflict” in Yemen. She emphasised, however, that it was particularly the Houthis who have “arbitrarily detained, tortured and repeatedly raped women and girls who oppose them”. She therefore thanked the Council for its 25 February listing of Zabin.

Since Ireland and Mexico took over as co-chairs of the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on women, peace and security on 1 January, the IEG has met on South Sudan on 3 February and Yemen on 2 March. Both times, the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict participated.

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.

The Council could call upon state and non-state actors to make “formal commitments to adopt measures to address conflict-related sexual violence”, as a first step towards 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.

Where a designation criterion for sexual violence exists, 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 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.

Council Dynamics

Formal outcomes on women, peace and security continue to be difficult to negotiate. Following last year’s annual open debate on women, peace and security, Russia put to the vote a draft resolution commemorating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Council’s first resolution on women, peace and security, resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000. The negotiations were contentious, and the resolution failed to garner nine affirmative votes (China, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, and Viet Nam voted in favour; Belgium, Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Niger, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the UK, and the US abstained). The perception by the abstaining members was that the text was not balanced between different aspects of the agenda, placing more emphasis on the socioeconomic aspects than the rights-based aspects, including language on human rights.

The US is the penholder on conflict-related sexual violence. Ireland and Mexico are the co-chairs of the IEG on women, peace and security.


Security Council Resolutions
25 February 2021S/RES/2564 This resolution renewed the Yemen sanctions regime for one year, condemned the ongoing escalation in Marib and stressed the Houthis’ responsibility for the situation of the FSO Safer.
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.
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.
Security Council Letters
17 March 2021S/2021/264 This was the summary of the IEG’s 2 March 2021 meeting on Yemen.
22 February 2021S/2021/166 This was the summary of the IEG’s 2 February 2021 meeting on South Sudan.
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.
30 October 2020S/2020/1054 This was a draft resolution initiated by Russia, which failed to garner the needed amount of votes to pass.