April 2024 Monthly Forecast


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 (CRSV). Maltese Deputy Prime Minister Christopher Fearne will chair the meeting, which is expected to focus on preventing CRSV through demilitarisation and gender-responsive arms control. Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten and a civil society representative are the anticipated briefers.

No outcome is expected.

Key Recent Developments

The Secretary-General’s annual reports define CRSV 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”. The reports say that it “also encompasses trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual violence and/or exploitation, when committed in situations of conflict”.

This year’s report on CRSV will cover the period from January to December 2023 and will provide the basis for the April open debate. 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”.

Despite the existence of a comprehensive legal and normative framework on CRSV, awareness campaigns, research and advocacy, CRSV remains prevalent. Several situations on the Security Council’s agenda are likely to be discussed in this year’s Secretary-General’s report on CRSV.

Sexual violence, including rape, continues to be reported in the context of the conflict between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan, with some reported rapes appearing to be “ethnically and racially motivated”, according to UN independent experts. In her October 2023 briefing to the Security Council, Hala Al-Karib—the Regional Director of the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, a network of around 100 women’s organisations from across the region—described several reports of atrocities, including rape, torture and trafficking, perpetrated by the RSF, while noting that both the SAF and the RSF have committed “serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”. In May 2023, Patten urged the conflict parties to “instantly issue strict command orders that prohibit sexual violence” and put in place mechanisms to monitor the conduct of all armed elements they control, a message reiterated in a 29 January joint statement by the members of the Security Council that have signed on to the Shared Commitments on Women, Peace and Security (WPS)—Ecuador, France, Guyana, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US.

In Haiti, sexual violence, including rape, continues to be perpetrated by rival armed gangs in the context of the acute crisis affecting the country, characterised by extreme violence, political deadlock, and dire humanitarian conditions. The Secretary-General’s latest report on Haiti, which was issued on 15 January and covers developments since 16 October 2023, notes that gangs continue to use sexual violence systematically to consolidate control over populations, targeting women and girls, and that “[s]ome are forced into exploitative sexual relations with gang members and face a brutal death if they refuse”. Healthcare and psychosocial services for survivors and their dependents remain largely insufficient.

According to the summary letter of the 6 November 2023 meeting of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on WPS on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), continued violence and armed conflict “have a severe impact on women and girls, especially in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu”, with internally displaced women and girls being at heightened risk of sexual violence, sexual slavery, abduction, forced marriage and exploitation, owing to, among other factors, the presence of armed groups in and around the sites for internally displaced persons. The letter adds that sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent beyond the conflict areas, noting that this is exacerbated by food insecurity and women’s socioeconomic situation, and stresses the urgent need for “integrated multisectoral centres where survivors can receive medical, legal, psychological and socioeconomic support”. In 2022, the DRC recorded the highest number of UN-verified CRSV incidents (701 cases).

CRSV remains a major concern as well in South Sudan. According to data cited in the reports of the Secretary-General on the situation in the country, between 16 February 2023 and 15 February 2024, the UN Mission in South Sudan documented and verified 96 CRSV cases affecting 138 survivors, including 80 women, five men, 50 girls and three boys. From 4 to 8 September 2023, Patten visited South Sudan, holding meetings with government officials and survivors of CRSV. She emphasised the necessity of strengthening accountability mechanisms and the need to focus on preventive and restorative interventions, mental health support and rehabilitation for survivors.

Patten also recently conducted a mission to Israel to gather, analyse, and verify information on CRSV during the 7 October 2023 attacks against Israel led by Hamas. Following a request from Israel after the issuance on 4 March of Patten’s report on her visit, the Security Council held a meeting on CRSV on 11 March under “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” agenda item. According to the report, the objective of Patten’s visit was to inform UN reporting by her office, including the Secretary-General’s annual report on CRSV, “given the absence of relevant United Nations entities operating in Israel” and, consequently, of UN-verified information. The report says that there are reasonable grounds to believe that CRSV, including rape and gang rape, was perpetrated “in at least three locations” during the 7 October attacks. The mission also found “clear and convincing information” that some of the hostages that were taken into Gaza during the attacks have been subjected to various forms of CRSV, “including rape and sexualized torture and sexualized cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and it also has reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing”. The report also notes that “at least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media” were determined to be unfounded.

Patten’s mission included a short visit to Ramallah in the West Bank. Unlike her visit to Israel, this visit was not intended to verify information because of the presence of UN agencies in the occupied Palestinian Territory that will provide UN-verified data for the purposes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on CRSV. Nevertheless, the report notes that “[s]takeholders raised concerns about cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Palestinians in detention, including the increased use of various forms of sexual violence, namely invasive body searches; threats of rape; and prolonged forced nudity”. A 19 February statement by UN independent experts expressing alarm at allegations of human rights violations against Palestinian women and girls says that “[a]t least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence” while in detention. According to a recent update on the war in Gaza by the NGO Working Group on WPS, “[t]he constant bombardment of hospitals, combined with the Israeli government’s restrictions on fuel, water and aid, has led to the collapse of the healthcare system, putting mothers and their newborns at risk of significant physical and mental harm and violating women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights”.

The situation in Colombia is also likely to be discussed in the Secretary-General’s report. In September 2023, Patten commended the opening by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace of a dedicated case on sexual and gender-based violence, reproductive violence and other gender-based crimes on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity during the armed conflict. The case will encompass three sub-cases focusing on violence perpetrated against civilians by members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP); violence committed by members of the state security forces against civilians; and violence committed within the ranks of both the FARC-EP and the state forces. At the same time, “violence in the communities has not stopped”, noted civil society briefer Yolanda Perea during her 11 January briefing at the Security Council, adding that “[t]hose who have been reintegrated, in particular the boys and girls who were forced to take up arms, and who suffered sexual violence, remain at risk”.

Other situations of concern that might be detailed in the Secretary-General’s report include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen.

Peacebuilding Commission Developments

On 31 January, the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) convened an Ambassadorial-level meeting to discuss the needs and gaps in investing in women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation throughout the peace continuum and how the Commission could help to address the challenges. During the meeting, some speakers spoke about the need to strengthen the protection of the human rights of women and to prevent all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including by strengthening legal frameworks and improving access to justice, and of the importance of strengthening the protection of women peacebuilders to secure a safe and enabling environment for their participation.

Then-PBC Chair Ambassador Ivan Šimonović (Croatia) recommended in his summary of the meeting that the PBC strengthen the implementation of its Gender Strategy and Action Plan, including monitoring and measuring the impact of its engagements. The Commission should also continue to provide a platform for women peacebuilders to share the priorities and needs of women in peacebuilding and to integrate their recommendations into the PBC’s advice to relevant UN bodies.

Key Issues and Options

The holistic and substantive implementation of the Security Council’s resolutions on WPS is the overarching issue. Regarding the topic of the open debate, the persistence of CRSV across conflict situations continues to be a key issue of concern.

Adopted in 2019, resolution 2467 recognised that CRSV occurs on a continuum of interrelated and recurring forms of violence against women and girls. To address CRSV from a structural perspective, including its political aspects and consequences, one option is to include in Council discussions of CRSV 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 in peacetime, as well as a focus on the nexus of protection and participation.

Members could 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 this regard, members may also support the maintenance of existing women’s protection adviser positions in the context of the Fifth Committee and request the inclusion of enhanced capacity in contexts in which it is inadequate. A further option is to strengthen the gender and CRSV expertise informing the work of sanctions committees and invite Patten to share information with these committees.

Politicisation and instrumentalisation of UN findings regarding CRSV is a further issue. In a 7 March interview with France 24, Patten said that her 4 March report “should not in any way be misused to justify the denial of a humanitarian ceasefire”, nor should it be “instrumentalised in any way to continue with this bloodshed”. An option is for members to clearly express in their remarks at the Security Council that they oppose any attempt to instrumentalise CRSV to legitimate further violence. For instance, at the 11 March Council meeting on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”, Malta said that advancing the WPS agenda “means ensuring that the conflict-related sexual violence agenda is not instrumentalized”, noting that this includes “respecting and safeguarding the identity and dignity of survivors”.

Council Dynamics

While notable implementation gaps persist, Council members are generally supportive of the WPS agenda, and their views converge on the need to eradicate CRSV. Nevertheless, Council dynamics on WPS remain difficult. For instance, during the recent negotiations of resolution 2725, which renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee until March 2025, Switzerland proposed new language requesting the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to share relevant information with the committee, and inviting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to do the same. However, owing to opposition from other Council members—including China, Russia, and the “A3 plus one” (Algeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Guyana)—the proposed language was not included in the resolution. Nevertheless, at the request of the “A3 plus one” members, resolution 2725 includes an operative paragraph requesting the panel to assess in its reports, among other things, progress towards the promotion of peace and stability in Darfur and violations of IHL or violations or abuses of human rights, including those related to sexual and gender-based violence.

Russia continues to oppose the term “CRSV” arguing that it leads to an improper blurring of crimes of a sexual nature that occur in peacetime and during armed conflict, therefore unduly expanding the purview of the Council’s mandate; an argument that most other Council members and civil society groups working on women’s rights reject. Russia has also objected to Patten briefing in sanctions committee meetings and opposed her participation in Council meetings.

The UK is the penholder on WPS, and the US is the penholder on CRSV. Sierra Leone and Switzerland are the co-chairs of the IEG on WPS.

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Security Council Resolutions
23 April 2019S/RES/2467 This resolution recognised the need for a survivor-centred approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. This resolution passed with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).
16 December 2010S/RES/1960 This resolution requested the Secretary-General to add an annex to the annual report on conflict-related sexual violence listing conflict parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict.
Secretary-General’s Report
22 June 2023S/2023/413 This was the Secretary-General’s annual report on conflict-related sexual violence.

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