October 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 September 2021
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Women, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action 

In October, the Security Council is scheduled to hold its annual open debate on women, peace and security. It seems that the open debate will be held at ministerial level and may focus on investing in the contribution of local women to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and transitional settings during and following UN peace operations.  

At the time of writing, an outcome is not expected.    

Key Recent Developments 

In her remarks at the 16 September Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network high-level event on the margins of the 76th UN General Assembly, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, said that currently “half a billion of women and girls in 31 countries and territories live in protracted crises but with limited opportunities to influence the decisions being made that directly impact their lives”. The Secretary-General’s annual report on women, peace and security—expected ahead of the open debate—will provide an update on the implementation of the agenda in the past year. 

In recent months, Council members have discussed the situation of women and girls in several crisis contexts, including during meetings on Afghanistan and Tigray. On 30 August, the Council adopted resolution 2593 addressing recent developments in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s seizure of power and the 26 August attack on Kabul airport; in the resolution, the Council encouraged the parties “to seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women”. In the one Council product on Tigray, a press statement issued on 22 April, members expressed their “deep concern about allegations of human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls in the Tigray region and called for investigations to find those responsible and bring them to justice”. 

The Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG) has also met regularly on situations of interest. On 19 August, the IEG held a meeting on the situation of Afghanistan. Mette Knudsen, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, and Alison Davidian, UN Women Deputy Representative in Afghanistan, briefed Council members and called on the participants to “advocate for the participation of women in public life and for female humanitarian workers to be able to carry out their work”. At a press stakeout following the meeting, IEG co-chairs Ireland and Mexico announced that they had written to the President of the Security Council urging the Council “to place the utmost priority on protecting and vindicating the rights of Afghan women and girls in all decisions and action on Afghanistan’s future”. In recent months, the IEG has also met on Somalia (30 June), Lebanon (25 May), Mali (29 April), and Libya (1 April). At the time of writing, a meeting of the IEG on Haiti is planned for 29 September. The meetings on Somalia, Lebanon and Haiti mark the first time these countries have been discussed by the IEG, expanding the range of situations receiving the group’s attention.  

On 31 August, Ireland—the Council president for September—circulated a statement of commitments on women, peace and security jointly undertaken with upcoming Council presidents Kenya (October) and Mexico (November). The following day, during the September programme of work press briefing, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason (Ireland) explained that women, peace and security would run like “a golden thread” through the Irish presidency and the upcoming Kenyan and Mexican presidencies.  

The statement of commitments affirms that the shared goal of the presidency trio is to ensure that women, peace and security concerns are “integrated fully into country-specific and other discussions on the Council’s agenda”. Some of the actions the trio has committed to include: attaining gender balance among briefers and strong representation of women civil society speakers in Council meetings; holding women, peace and security press stakeouts; highlighting the impact of the IEG; and requesting that gender analysis be included in briefings by the UN to the Council. While other Council members have already made some of these commitments, this appears to be the first time that commitments on women, peace and security across a trio of presidencies have been so explicitly stated and undertaken. The 28 September Security Council briefing on Somalia was also held in fulfilment of the trio’s commitment to focus at least one geographic meeting on women, peace and security. (See our 28 September What’s in Blue story on “Somalia: Briefing by the Deputy Secretary-General on Women’s Participation”.) 

Key Issues and Options  

The main issue for the Security Council remains the full implementation of its resolutions on women, peace and security, including through better integrating women, peace and security considerations in its country-specific decisions. Members may be interested in drawing on information from IEG meetings during country-specific meetings and negotiations.  

Because of the current Council dynamics, thematic outcomes advancing women, peace and security continue to appear challenging to negotiate. In this context, members may be interested in pursuing alternatives to formal outcomes. For instance, members scheduled to hold the Council presidency after Mexico may want to consider joining, and therefore extending, the trio’s initiative, undertaking similar or expanded commitments. 

September has seen a very high number of women civil society briefers participating in Council meetings. Members could develop ways to better follow up on the issues put forward by civil society briefers and on the recommendations made by UN Women during IEG meetings. 

Arria-formula meetings are another option that supportive members may be interested in pursuing to further the Council’s thinking on the agenda. A recent example was the 28 July Arria-formula meeting on gender and counter-terrorism organised by Mexico, which centred on a discussion of gender stereotypes and masculinities. 

Council Dynamics  

The presidency trio initiative may be seen as an attempt to start moving away from the difficult political climate that has surrounded the Council’s initiatives on women, peace and security in recent years. Following the October 2020 open debate, a draft resolution commemorating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1325 (the first women, peace and security resolution) put to a vote by Russia failed to garner the nine affirmative votes needed to pass. Abstaining members questioned the added value of a resolution consisting mainly of previously agreed language and perceived the text as being unbalanced between socioeconomic and rights-based aspects. This followed the embattled negotiations of two women, peace and security texts in 2019: resolution 2493, reiterating the need for the “full implementation” of the agenda, and resolution 2467, on conflict-related sexual violence, which was the first resolution of the agenda not to be adopted unanimously.  

The Council’s dynamics on this file have not been tested directly since last year’s failed adoption. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) said during the April 2021 annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence that the US is committed “to providing sexual and reproductive health care and services for women around the world”, marking a shift in the US position on the issue since the Trump administration. During the October 2020 open debate, China and Russia—both of which had previously attended IEG meetings only rarely—committed to attending future meetings and have been present at all subsequent IEG meetings. Nonetheless, language advancing the women, peace and security agenda in country-specific resolutions often remains difficult to agree. The division seems to lie in what Council members are prepared to understand as pertaining to “peace and security”. 

The UK is the penholder on women, peace and security, and the US is the penholder on conflict-related sexual violence. 

UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY

Security Council Resolutions
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).
31 October 2000S/RES/1325 This was the first Security Council resolution on women, peace and security. Reaffirming women’s key role in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, this text calls for the adoption of a gender perspective in peace agreements and for the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence.
Security Council Letter
21 September 2021S/2021/770 This was the summary of the IEG’s 19 August meeting on Afghanistan.