June 2022 Monthly Forecast

SECURITY COUNCIL AND WIDER UN STRUCTURE

Women, Peace and Security

Expected Council Action

On 15 June, the Security Council will hold an open debate on the role of regional organisations in implementing the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda in contexts of political turmoil and seizures of power by force. One of the signature events of Albania’s presidency, the meeting will be convened at ministerial level and chaired by Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhaçka. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to provide opening remarks. UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous and high-level representatives from the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the League of Arab States (LAS), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are the anticipated briefers.

An outcome is possible.

Background and Key Recent Developments

It appears that Albania intends to use the open debate to highlight challenges to the implementation of the WPS agenda in situations of violent takeovers and political turmoil and to discuss ways in which regional organisations and the Security Council can better safeguard and advance the implementation of the agenda in these contexts. In this respect, the open debate is also aimed at sharing best practices, such as providing support to the work of women peacebuilders and civil society organisations and making gender analysis central to prevention and response strategies.

The latest Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, which was issued on 29 March, says that several recent unconstitutional takeovers—such as in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Sudan—were “followed by widespread insecurity, economic shocks and human rights violations, including the use of sexual violence in the lead-up to, during, and in the wake of these events, to subjugate and humiliate opposition groups and rival communities”. The report also notes that some of the actors that seized power—including in Afghanistan and Myanmar—had been implicated in patterns of conflict-related sexual violence for several years.

Albania’s signature event is consistent with the 1 December 2021 statement of shared commitments on WPS, which Albania has undertaken with Brazil, Norway, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK and former Council member Niger. These countries committed to making WPS a “top priority” during their respective presidencies, including by striving for gender parity among briefers and focusing at least one geographic meeting on WPS or hosting a WPS signature event during each presidency. (The statement was premised on the WPS “presidency trio” initiative undertaken by Ireland, Kenya and Mexico during their consecutive Council presidencies in September, October and November 2021).

Regional organisations are among the key actors tasked with the implementation of the WPS agenda. Specifically, as stated in resolution 2242 (and restated in subsequent resolutions 2467 and 2493), while the primary role of implementing the WPS agenda rests with states, regional organisations and UN entities play an “important complementary role”. Through resolution 1888, adopted in 2009, the Security Council urged the heads of regional organisations—together with the UN Secretary-General and member states—to take measures to increase women’s representation in mediation and decision-making processes in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. Resolution 1889, also adopted in 2009, expanded this language, urging these actors to enhance women’s participation in all stages of peace processes, “including by enhancing their engagement in political and economic decision-making at early stages of recovery processes” such as in aid management and planning and by supporting women’s organisations.

The role of regional organisations is also mentioned in the set of WPS resolutions focused on conflict-related sexual violence. For instance, through resolution 1820, which was adopted in 2008, the Security Council urged regional and sub-regional bodies to consider developing and implementing policies, activities and advocacy for women and girls affected by conflict-related sexual violence. Adopted in 2013, resolution 2106 requested that, where appropriate, regional organisations—as well as the UN Secretary-General and member states—ensure that mediators and envoys “engage on sexual violence issues, including with women, civil society, including women’s organizations and survivors of sexual violence, and ensure that such concerns are reflected in specific provisions of peace agreements”.

With a view to strengthening cooperation with regional organisations, the Council has held annual consultative meetings with the AU Peace and Security Council since 2007, as well as meetings on cooperation with several other bodies, including the EU, the OSCE and the LAS. Several outcome documents from these meetings reaffirm the important role of women in conflict prevention and resolution and welcome the efforts of regional organisations towards the implementation of the WPS agenda. For instance, the March 2022 presidential statement on cooperation with the LAS welcomed implementation efforts by the LAS, including through its regional action plan on WPS, and encouraged “efforts to promote women’s economic empowerment and the elimination of poverty in the Arab region”. Among other issues, the October 2021 presidential statement on cooperation with the AU reaffirmed the key role of women in peacekeeping and welcomed efforts to review “obstacles preventing women’s recruitment and professional advancement in Africa”. Adopted in 2019, resolution 2457 on cooperation with regional organisations stressed the need for joint UN and AU action to end conflict-related sexual violence and the importance of fully implementing measures for prevention and response already contained in relevant Security Council resolutions. A May 2016 presidential statement on cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations notes the need for the UN and the AU “to work to ensure that women and gender perspectives are fully integrated into all peace and security efforts undertaken by the two organizations”.

Since 2016, the Security Council has also held an annual meeting to discuss the Secretary-General’s annual report on strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU on issues of peace and security in Africa. Among other issues, the latest report, published in August 2021, includes an update on UN-AU collaboration on WPS, which focuses on strengthening women’s participation in mediation and conflict prevention, detailing several joint initiatives by the AU and the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU). The Secretary-General also produces a biennial report on cooperation between the UN and regional organisations pursuant to Security Council resolution 1809, which was adopted in April 2008. The most recent report, published in September 2020, highlighted joint efforts by the LAS and UN Women to support LAS member states in developing and implementing national action plans on WPS, as well as the July 2020 launch of the Arab Women Mediators Network by the LAS and UN Women.

Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on WPS Bineta Diop has briefed the Security Council on multiple occasions, including during the 2021 annual WPS open debate. Briefings from representatives of other regional organisations to address WPS issues have been less frequent, but the then Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Michaëlle Jean, briefed during the 2017 annual WPS open debate.

Key Issues and Options

The main issue for the Security Council remains strengthening the substantive implementation of the WPS agenda. Albania, as the Council president for June, could prepare a chair’s summary of the meeting to capture the key themes of the discussion and convene a follow-up meeting in one year’s time. This meeting could focus specifically on how the Security Council and regional organisations can better support diverse women civil society organisations’ conflict prevention and peacebuilding work as well as their meaningful participation in peace negotiations. Another option could be to hold this follow-up meeting within the various regional organisations.

Council Dynamics

The Council’s dynamics on this file have not been directly tested since the failed adoption of a draft resolution on the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325, which was put forward by Russia in October 2020. At that time, several members perceived the text as lacking in balance by focusing on socioeconomic issues over rights-based aspects and questioned the added value of a resolution comprising mainly of previously agreed language. This followed the difficult negotiations of the two most recent WPS texts, both adopted 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 WPS resolution not to be adopted unanimously.

Perhaps because of the uneasy climate which has characterised these initiatives, most Council members—and several civil society actors—have come to emphasise the importance of implementing the existing normative framework on WPS over its further development, in order to avoid language that is redundant or less robust than what is currently agreed in resolutions. Accordingly, it seems that in the lead-up to the October 2021 open debate, when some members informally discussed the possibility of pursuing a Council outcome, such as a presidential statement, the idea did not garner support and was set aside.

Although negotiations on a potential WPS product would, at least to some extent, depend on the substantive content of the proposed product, achieving a strong Council outcome on WPS may continue to prove difficult, especially at a time when Council dynamics are particularly strained as a consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These divisions are likely to widen the distance—never substantively bridged—in Council members’ views on the relevance of women and gender issues to “peace and security”.

The UK is the penholder on WPS, and the US is the penholder on conflict-related sexual violence. Ireland and Mexico are the co-chairs of the Informal Experts Group on WPS.

UN DOCUMENTS ON WOMEN, PEACE AND SECURITY

Security Council Resolution
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.
Secretary-General’s Report
29 March 2022S/2022/272 This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.