Research Report

Posted 16 April 2014
Download Publication: PDF

Women, Peace and Security

This is Security Council Report’s fourth Cross-Cutting Report on Women, Peace and Security. The entire report can be downloaded in PDF.

These reports systematically track the Security Council’s work on women, peace and security, highlighting trends that have developed since the matter first emerged as a distinct thematic issue in 2000. The present report covers the period of January to December 2013 and analyses statistical information on women, peace and security in country-specific decisions of the Security Council. It furthermore examines five sanctions regimes as well as the Council-related work of UN Women and the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. It includes reviews of gender expertise in UN missions and the implementation of the zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. Finally, it also discusses Council dynamics and outlines possible options to improve the Council’s effectiveness in this area. 

The overarching observation of this study is that the pushback trend at the thematic level continues. In 2013 there were difficult and protracted negotiations over whether the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict could engage non-state actors; attempts to narrow the reporting scope on sexual violence to only armed conflict and post-conflict situations; and differences over references to the ICC.  However, these ongoing disagreements did not negatively impact the integrity of the women, peace and security normative framework as demonstrated by the adoption of resolutions 2106 and 2122. These were the first resolutions to be adopted on this agenda since 2010 and substantively codified many practical and concrete ways the women, peace and security agenda can continue to be implemented.  

The past year also saw advancements in including women, peace and security elements in other thematic resolutions such as small arms (S/RES/2117), counter-terrorism (S/RES/2129) and peacekeeping (S/RES/2086).  In all three cases, there were extensive negotiations over how specific the linkages should be and while some language could not be agreed, several important references were retained.

What is perhaps even more significant is that despite the ongoing 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 was 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 which prompted the 1533 DRC Sanctions Committee to list new entities and individuals, including for sexual violence. This trend was replicated in 2013 as the Council responded to the dramatically deteriorating situation in the CAR.

Furthermore, several mandates in 2013 were strengthened on the protection aspects of the women, peace and security agenda.  The AMISOM renewal, discussed in this report, is the most concrete example of a mandate with such significantly strengthened language.  The language in the AMISOM renewal is an example of the impact UN Women and the Office of the Special Representative bring in enhancing the quality of Council decision-making on the women, peace and security agenda.

Despite more substantive references to women, peace and security across the board in 2013, implementation in the field remains a challenge.  To be certain, there are various circumstances beyond the Council’s control that create obstacles to implementation.  But there are two clear factors related to the work of the Council that could be improved.  First is the Council’s uneven approach, at times, to applying a coherent strategy to a country situation, exemplified by Somalia, as described below. Secondly, is the continued culture of viewing women, peace and security as an “add-on” component to a mandate versus being one of the central tenets which support conflict prevention and underpin long-term stability.

An example of the Council’s acting with a certain degree of contradictory impulses can be found in the decisions taken in 2013 on Somalia. The  partial lifting of the arms embargo in Somalia, where sexual violence is pervasive, stands in direct contrast to the link identified by the both the Secretary-General and the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict—that the widespread availability of illicit small arms and light weapons is linked to conflict-related sexual violence. Also, AMISOM’s overarching focus on counter-terrorism operations against Al-Shabaab, strongly supported by the international community, drains focus away from implementation of other tasks—including those related to women’s protection. In this regard, the Council’s call for AMISOM to develop a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation is a welcome precedent and it will be a crucial issue for Council members to follow-up assiduously since AMISOM troops have been identified as perpetrators of abuse.  And finally, it seems counter-intuitive that the UNSOM mandate, which was established to support both Somalia and AMISOM with advice on peacebuilding and state building, should have weaker references to women’s participation than the AMISOM mandate.

There is also the detrimental culture in parts of the Secretariat and in the field of viewing the women’s agenda as an “add-on”. While the resolutions adopted by the Council in 2013 have made a substantial leap in adding operational language, it may be for naught if neither the Secretariat nor the field approach the task rigorously.  The Secretariat could improve its deployment of women protection advisers and gender advisers, including by ensuring such posts are part of a mission’s core budget. Leadership in peacekeeping, peacebuilding and political missions could better integrate such advisers’ work in the operational framework of the mission. Council members have expressed admiration of Martin Kobler’s leadership of MONUSCO in the DRC and his cooperation with Mary Robinson, the Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, as positive examples of a mission-wide prioritisation of the women, peace and security agenda. On the other hand, Council members have expressed concern over whether MINUSMA is willing to fully integrate a gender perspective into its work. The Council can significantly underscore the importance of women, peace and security agenda simply by asking mission leadership follow-up questions when they come to New York to brief.  If Council members exhibit such commitment to the agenda, then it will likely result in the Secretariat and mission leadership approaching the task with more attention.

For example, in 2013, the Council specifically called for women protection advisers to be deployed to missions in the CAR, Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, the DRC, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan. The Council could ask the Secretariat why it has not matched the Council’s call for women protection advisers with a corresponding number of deployments. Another area where the Council could improve is consistently underscoring the importance of women protection advisers’ role in implementing the MARA. In 2013, the Council only specifically referenced the MARA in relation to two missions despite calling for advisers in seven missions.

The Council’s work at the sanctions committee-level in 2013 was largely flat when considering sexual violence or rape as designation criteria in various sanctions regimes as a tool to enhance accountability. However, again CAR proved to be the exception in 2013 with the Council expressing intent to impose targeted measures for sexual violence in December 2013 and following through with that intent in January 2014. This makes the CAR the third sanctions regime, along with the DRC and Somalia, to specifically include sexual violence as designation criteria. 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.
  • 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, there are eight individuals who the Council has sanctioned and who also have been indicted by the ICC on sexual violence charges.  However only one of these eight individuals has been designated for rape by the Council as well as charged for such crimes by the ICC.   The justification for designating the other seven individuals 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 all relevant sanctions committees and associated expert groups, as is the case with the 1572 Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Committee.
  • Welcome the submission of sexual violence perpetrators’ names by the Special Representative to the relevant sanctions committees and ensure follow-up at committee-level to determine whether to adopt targeted measures against such individuals.
  • 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 continues to be notable. The Special Representative has briefed not only on her broader mandate but also on country-specific situations such as the CAR and Syria. The Council could continue to 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, in particular 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. The first instance of this occurred on 18 March 2014 when the Executive Director of UN Women briefed on South Sudan—a practice which should not be relegated to a one-time exercise.

Regarding Security Council visiting missions, whenever the women, peace and security agenda was incorporated into the terms of reference of the visit, 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 tended to be subsequently overlooked by Council members during the visiting mission. 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 be unlikely to occur spontaneously.  Especially important for 2014 will be whether the Council honours its commitment made in resolution 2122 to focus one of its periodic field visits on women, peace and security in advance of the 2015 High-Level Review.

While our research 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 relevant country-specific reports in both 2012 and 2013— such as those on Afghanistan, Darfur and Libya—did not use such a separate heading or section. This should be achievable as the UN missions in these countries have personnel with gender expertise. A small improvement in 2013 over 2012 is that reports on UNAMI in Iraq began to include a separate section for gender. This incremental shift could be built upon and included consistently in all future UNAMI reports.  It is also welcome that all of the reports on MINUSMA included a separate section on sexual violence. However, a broader section on women, peace and security would be more appropriate in order to capture both the challenges and progress in women’s participation and empowerment in Mali.

There were important developments in 2013 regarding the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse by its own personnel. The policy was highlighted in the MONUSCO mandate in the DRC, the MINUSMA mandate in Mali and the AMISOM mandate in Somalia. However, the study still revealed continued inconsistency by the Council in this area. An immediate measure the Council could take is ensuring consistent inclusion of all aspects of this policy in all resolutions renewing or establishing peacekeeping mandates.  The Council could also consistently request troop-contributing countries to undertake pre-deployment training, preventive measures and disciplinary action if necessary.  Finally, to ensure accountability, the Council could specifically reiterate its call from the 31 May 2005 presidential statement for follow-up reporting on allegations of such misconduct in relevant Secretary-General’s reports—this would be easily achievable if all country-specific Secretary-General’s reports included a conduct and discipline section.

The overarching observation from the research conducted for this Cross-Cutting Report is that 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 application of sanctions for such atrocities or calls for accountability is less than consistent.

Finally, there continue to be worrying indications that the Council’s focus is less sharp when it comes to the women’s participation aspect of this thematic agenda. This is demonstrated by the fact that of the nine resolutions adopted in 2013 that included new, substantial and operational references to women—the new language therein was almost exclusively protection related and only one resolution included comparable references to both protection and participation elements, resolution 2100 establishing MINUSMA.  (These resolutions were identified in the cross-cutting analysis of country-specific resolutions.)

Many of the resolutions with new, rich protection language already included general references on women’s participation and empowerment.  Nevertheless, the gap lies in moving the agenda forward from general calls to concrete directives on how the field mission should implement such recommendations.