Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict and Sanctions
This is Security Council Report’s third Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security. The entire report can be downloaded in PDF.
Security Council Report’s third Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security analyses statistical information on women, peace and security in country-specific decisions of the Security Council and developments in 2012, with a particular focus in the case study on the nexus between sexual violence in conflict and sanctions imposed by the Security Council. The report also examines the Council’s inconsistency in including language on the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse for UN personnel in resolutions establishing or renewing mandates for peace missions. The report will also briefly touch on key developments on the women, peace and security agenda in early 2013.
Since our first Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security in 2010, there has been significant growth in the UN system’s focus on this thematic issue. The first Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict was appointed in February 2010, and in January 2011 a system-wide entity on women’s equality and empowerment, UN Women, was established. Both the head of UN Women and the Special Representative have briefed the Security Council regularly since taking up their respective positions.
Three years since the start of these institutional processes, it seems appropriate to examine how the establishment of these offices at UN headquarters, the continued deployment of gender expertise in the field as well as gender expertise supplementing the work of various sanctions committees’ experts groups have complemented the Security Council’s own approach to the women, peace and security agenda. This report will assess whether a more robust women, peace and security infrastructure has improved the flow of information to the Security Council and, if so, whether such improvement, in turn, has translated into an enhanced focus on these matters in Council decision-making, and in particular, in the work of its sanctions committees.
Specifically, this report examines the Council’s follow-through on its own intention expressed in resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1960 (2010) to consider including designation criteria for the imposition of sanctions pertaining to acts of rape and other forms of sexual violence. To examine the nexus between sexual violence and activity by the Security Council and its sanctions committees, this report reviews the mandates of relevant sanctions regimes, the application of sanctions and relevant listing and designation criteria and reporting by associated expert groups on sexual and gender-based violence.
The report will consider the sanctions regimes imposed on Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Somalia and Sudan as examples of the Security Council’s approach to women, peace and security issues—in particular whether such tools have been used to enhance accountability for sexual violence in armed conflict. In addressing the issue of accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence, the case study will also briefly touch on parallel international justice mechanisms where they exist.
The past two years have been a time of particular division in the Council, with significant push-back by several permanent and elected Council members on the key thematic issues including on women, peace and security, children and armed conflict and protection of civilians. There has been repeated criticism by some Council members that the reporting on women, peace and security, particularly on sexual violence, has gone beyond its mandate by including countries that are not on the Security Council’s agenda. However, the overarching observation of this study is that this push-back has largely played itself out in difficult and protracted negotiations at the thematic level but has not negatively impacted the integrity of the Council’s women, peace and security normative framework.
Interestingly, despite this controversy at the thematic level, the women, peace and security agenda continued to be substantively applied in the Council’s country-specific resolutions, the Council expanded its work at the committee-level when considering sexual violence or rape as designation criteria in various sanctions regimes and there has been regular interaction between the Council and UN Women and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Council’s interaction with the Special Representative has been especially notable at both the Council level—insofar as she has briefed not only on her broader mandate but also on several country-specific situations—and her office’s interactions with several expert groups of the Council’s sanctions committees.
However, the study did reveal one area of concern regarding the Council’s inclusion of the UN’s zero-tolerance policy in its relevant resolutions. In a review of the resolutions in effect in 2012 for 12 peacekeeping operations and seven political and peacebuilding missions, only eight had mandates that included a reference to the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse for UN personnel. In practice, the Council has not been involved in the matter and the issue has been left to the discretion of the Secretariat and troop-contributing countries.
Observations and Possible Future Options
The overarching observation of this study has found that the pushback trend of the last two years has largely played itself out in difficult and protracted negotiations at the thematic level but has not negatively impacted the integrity of the women, peace and security normative framework.
Interestingly, despite the controversy among Council members at the thematic level, the women, peace and security agenda has continued to be substantively applied in country-specific resolutions. For example, in 2012 there seemed to be a trend for the Council to incorporate women, peace and security language at the outset when it became seized of a new situation, such as in its resolutions on Mali, or in response to a changing dynamic, such as the emergence of the M23 in the DRC. The outliers from this overall positive trend were Guinea-Bissau and Syria.
The Council expanded its work at the sanctions committee-level when considering sexual violence or rape as designation criteria in various sanctions regimes as a tool to enhance accountability. To further strengthen its work in this regard the Council could, however:
- Expand the designation criteria in other relevant sanctions regimes where sexual violence in conflict is persistently perpetrated. Perhaps specifically taking up the Secretary-General’s call in his 2013 report on sexual violence for the Sanctions Committees on Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia, Sudan and Al-Qaida in the context of Mali to focus on such issues.
- Request sanctions committees, when updating their consolidated lists, to harmonise designation criteria for listed individuals by including any relevant charges from international justice mechanisms (for example, in the case of the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee, Bosco Ntaganda has been on the sanctions list since 2005, but the justification for his designation has not been updated to include sexual violence despite an ICC arrest warrant that included charges for such violations).
- Formally call for information-sharing between the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the sanctions committees and associated expert groups, as is the case with the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee.
- Welcome the submission of perpetrators’ names by the Special Representative to the relevant sanctions committees and ensure follow-up at committee-level to determine whether to adopt targeted or graduated measures against such individuals or entities.
- Formally require expert groups assisting sanctions committees to include, where relevant, reporting on sexual and gender-based violence and to include gender experts as part of the composition of such expert groups.
The interaction by the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict with the Council has been especially notable. The Special Representative has briefed not only on her broader mandate but also on several country-specific situations. The Council could consolidate into practice briefings by the Special Representative prior to mandate renewals or on unfolding situations of conflict where sexual violence is a concern. Similarly, the Council could extend such a practice to the Executive Director of UN Women, particularly when the Council is considering a mandate to support post-conflict structures in a country-specific situation, which should ensure broad participation and decision-making by women.
Implementation of the monitoring and reporting arrangements, or MARA, has begun but is proceeding slowly. MARA tasks are linked to women’s protection advisers, but in 2012 the first and only advisers were only deployed to UNMISS in South Sudan. Facing a difficult fiscal situation and low political will, the Secretariat will be hard-pressed to deploy more advisers without a clear mandate from the Council. To bolster the capacity of MARA reporting, the Council could include in relevant country-specific resolutions an unambiguous request for the deployment of women’s protection advisers—as it did in March 2013 when it renewed the MONUSCO mandate in resolution 2098.
Regarding Security Council visiting missions, whenever the women, peace and security agenda was incorporated into the terms of reference, the Council engaged with relevant stakeholders on the ground, albeit to varying degrees. However, when such issues were not included in the terms of reference, then the issue was subsequently overlooked by Council members when they were in a country. The Council could make a concerted effort to consistently incorporate a gender perspective into its terms of references for visiting missions. It is clear that such interactions and stakeholder feedback will not occur spontaneously.
While the study revealed a continued positive trend in reporting by the Secretary-General on women, peace and security issues in his country-specific reports, there remains room for improvement. In particular, the Council could request more robust reporting on gender issues and the inclusion of a separate section covering women, peace and security. Several country-specific reports in 2012 did not use such a separate heading or section, such as those on Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq, Kosovo and Libya. This should be achievable as the UN missions in these countries had personnel with gender expertise in 2012. This could also be an objective for any reporting coming out of a possible UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
Another area of concern revealed by this study was the inconsistency of the Council in including language in resolutions on the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by its own personnel. An immediate measure the Council could take is ensuring consistent inclusion of this policy in all resolutions renewing or establishing peace mission mandates and specifically reiterating its call from the May 2005 presidential statement for follow-up reporting on such allegations in relevant Secretary-General’s reports.
The Council has created several tools with considerable potential of having an impact on women, peace and security issues on the ground. It has not, however, applied these tools consistently or, in some cases, at all. This is true regarding the lack of uniform inclusion of the UN’s zero-tolerance policy in Council resolutions establishing or authorising missions. Regarding sexual violence in conflict, the Council has been regularly engaged with the issue—even if the expansion of designation criteria, the application of sanctions for such atrocities or calls for accountability is less than consistent. In contrast, there are worrying indications that the Council’s focus is less sharp when it comes to the women’s participation aspect of this thematic agenda. While some of this is certainly related to the overall political climate and pushback described earlier, it also appears that in some cases it may be simply due to lapses in oversight of the broad spectrum of issues presented by the women, peace and security agenda.