April 2022 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 March 2022
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THEMATIC ISSUES

Women, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action

In April, the Security Council will hold its annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence, which this year is entitled “Accountability as Prevention: Ending Cycles of Sexual Violence in Conflict”. The UK Minister of State for South Asia, North Africa, the UN and the Commonwealth and Special Representative of the UK Prime Minister on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, is expected to chair the meeting. Secretary-General António Guterres, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, and one or more civil society representatives are the anticipated briefers.

No outcome is expected.

Key Recent Developments

On 16 November 2021, the UK government—through an initiative of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss—launched a global campaign to stop sexual violence in conflict. In the context of this campaign, the government’s website said that “[a]ll options are on the table, including an international convention, to end such heinous acts once and for all”. The UK has also announced that it will host a global conference this year in support of this campaign.

It appears that the UK has recently joined the statement of shared commitments on Women, Peace and Security jointly undertaken by Albania, Brazil, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, and former Council member Niger. In the statement, these countries pledged to make Women, Peace and Security a “top priority” during their respective presidencies. (This builds on the “presidency trio” initiative on Women, Peace and Security pursued by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico during their consecutive Council presidencies in September, October and November 2021.) The UK is the first permanent member to join this initiative.

The Secretary-General’s annual reports define conflict-related sexual violence as “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”. This year’s Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence will cover the period from January to December 2021 and will provide the basis for the April open debate.

It appears that this year’s annual report will include a dedicated section on Ethiopia. On 3 November 2021, OHCHR issued a joint report containing the findings of an investigation it had conducted with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the national human rights institution of Ethiopia. According to the report, which covers the period from 3 November 2020 to 28 June 2021, the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defence Force and the Tigray Special Forces were all “implicated in multiple reports of gang rape”. Among other violations, the report documented cases of violence against women and girls associated with fighters of opposing conflict parties, and cases of rape in detention. The report said that men and boys were also subjected to sexual and gender-based violence and highlighted cases of women’s complicity in the perpetration of gender-based violence. The use of rape and other forms of conflict-related sexual violence in the conflict in northern Ethiopia has also been detailed by international NGOs, including Amnesty International, which has issued reports documenting how both the ENDF and allied forces and the Tigrayan forces perpetrated rape and other forms of sexual violence.

As highlighted in the latest report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, issued on 8 February, reports of sexual and gender-based violence in detention have continued. On 13 January, a German court sentenced a former Syrian intelligence official to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual assault. In a statement released the following day, Patten welcomed the verdict, saying that it brought a measure of justice for Syrian survivors. Regarding the fact that the case was heard under universal jurisdiction, Patten said that “[w]hen national governments are unwilling or unable to prosecute conflict-related sexual violence domestically, universal jurisdiction becomes one of the critical tools so that perpetrators of these crimes do not go unpunished”.

According to a 16 March Care International Rapid Gender Analysis on Ukrainian refugees in Poland, there are emerging reports of “sexual violence by Russian soldiers against Ukrainian women and girls in and fleeing the country”. On 28 February, Patten expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine and called for the protection of civilians, “especially women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by armed conflict and displacement”. She also urged all parties to comply with international human rights and humanitarian law, “including the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence”. In a 16 March joint statement with Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children Siobhán Mullally and Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences Reem Alsalem, Patten expressed concern about the increased risks of “sexual violence, especially trafficking in persons, impacting significantly women and children fleeing the conflict in Ukraine and forcibly displaced”.

On 25 March, during the final day of the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) delivered a joint statement “on the Situation of Women and Girls as a Result of Russian Aggression Against Ukraine” on behalf of a group of states (including Council members Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, UK and US) and the EU. Among other issues, the statement expresses concern about “the increased risks of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse, and discrimination that Ukrainian women and girls are facing, especially in the areas of Ukraine controlled by the Russian Federation as a result of Russia’s aggression”.

As mandated by resolution 1960 adopted in 2010, this year’s report will again include 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”. The 2021 annual report noted that over 70 percent of the parties listed in the annex were persistent perpetrators, meaning they had been listed in the annex for five or more years without taking corrective or remedial action.

Sanctions-Related Developments

Adopted on 28 February, resolution 2624 renewed the Yemen sanctions regime for one year and added the Houthis as an entity to the Yemen sanctions list. The annex to the resolution says that the Houthis have, among other violations, “implemented a policy of sexual violence and repression against politically active and professional women”. Resolution 2564, adopted on 25 February 2021, had sanctioned Houthi official Sultan Saleh Aida Aida Zabin 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”.

On 21 December 2021, the 2127 Central African Republic Sanctions Committee added Ali Darassa—the founder of the armed group Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC)—to its sanctions list. According to the Committee’s narrative summary explaining the reasons for the listing, the UPC is accused of killing, torturing, raping and displacing civilians, among other violations.

On 25 October 2021, the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee added Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim—the de facto manager of the Al-Nasr detention centre in Zawiyah—to its sanctions list. According to the Committee’s narrative summary, the Al-Nasr detention centre “has been singled out in public and in confidential reports describing the plight of migrants and asylum seekers in Libya, including torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking”.

Key Issues and Options

The holistic and substantive implementation of the Council’s resolutions on Women, Peace and Security is the overarching issue. Regarding the theme of the open debate, the main issue remains the persistence of conflict-related sexual violence across conflict situations. Adopted in 2019, resolution 2467 recognised that sexual violence in conflict occurs on a continuum of interrelated and recurring forms of violence against women and girls. One option is to continue to include in Council discussions of conflict-related sexual violence a focus on the theme of the continuum of violence and other intersecting forms of inequality that women and girls face both during conflict and peacetime. Council members may also continue to address the nexus of protection and participation (as the Council did during the January open debate on “Protecting participation”) and address conflict-related sexual violence from a structural perspective, including through its political aspects and consequences.

Members could further support the deployment of women’s protection advisers in peace operations, as well as in transition processes from peacekeeping operations to special political missions and country teams, in line with the recommendations presented at the 16 November 2021 meeting with women’s protection advisers of the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security. A further option is to strengthen the gender and conflict-related sexual violence expertise informing the work of sanctions committees and invite Patten to share information with these committees.

Council Dynamics

The UK, as the Council president for April, intends to focus this year’s annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence on how strengthening accountability and addressing impunity for conflict-related sexual violence can deliver justice for survivors; hold implicated individuals, states, and non-state actors to account; and prevent future violence. It appears that the UK intends to promote a discussion of gaps in the delivery of justice and assistance to survivors, as well as ways to strengthen the international architecture on conflict-related sexual violence.

While notable implementation gaps persist, Council members are generally supportive of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and their views converge on the need to eradicate conflict-related sexual violence. At the same time, Council members have emphasised different priorities. During last year’s annual open debate on conflict-related sexual violence, several members noted the importance of addressing the deeper causes of conflict-related sexual violence. Ireland stressed that sexual and gender-based violence in times of conflict and crisis is “the transfer of violence from the private to the public sphere” and that in order to eliminate it, the “fundamental task is to achieve gender equality at every level”. Among other issues, Mexico emphasised the importance of addressing the correlation between the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and gender-based violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. Some members focused on conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by terrorist groups, with Kenya calling for “stronger integration of the women and peace and security, counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism agendas”. China called for promoting gender equality and for supporting a greater role for women in economic and social development as well as in peace and security. India said that, in order to avoid duplication, the Security Council should focus on conflict-related sexual violence “in situations of armed conflicts that threaten international peace and security”, as violence against women is already discussed by other UN bodies, such as the Human Rights Council.

Divisions among Council members were clearly visible during the fraught negotiations of resolution 2467 in April 2019. This resolution, which is the most recent Council outcome on conflict-related sexual violence, encourages UN member states to adopt a survivor-centred approach. Among other issues, the US strongly resisted references to sexual and reproductive health, while members, including China and Russia, opposed the creation of a proposed Security Council working group on sexual violence in conflict. During the April 2021 open debate on conflict-related sexual violence, the US said that it was committed “to providing sexual and reproductive health care and services for women around the world, especially women who have been impacted by conflict-related sexual violence”, marking a shift from the US position on the issue during the Trump administration. Council members, including France, Norway and Tunisia, called for access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The UK is the penholder on women, peace and security, and 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.

UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY

Security Council Resolutions
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).
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.
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.
Secretary-General’s Report
30 March 2021S/2021/312 This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.

 

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