Adoption of a Presidential Statement on Women, Peace and Security
This morning (15 June), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on women, peace and security which follows up the 28 March open debate on the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution in Africa, an initiative of Angola during its presidency of the Council in March. At that debate, many member states highlighted the importance of the Council focusing its efforts on conflict prevention, a strong message in all three of the 2015 peace and security reviews on peace operations, the peacebuilding architecture and the implementation of resolution 1325.
Angola and the UK, as the penholder on women, peace and security, circulated the draft statement in mid-May. The draft was almost entirely based on previously agreed language from Council outcomes on women, peace and security as well as outcomes on conflict prevention. Nevertheless, negotiations were protracted and difficult. Agreement was finally reached yesterday afternoon.
The draft presidential statement to be adopted this morning acknowledges that women, peace and security should be part of the Council’s approach to conflict prevention and mediation. It notes the many obstacles to women’s meaningful participation in conflict prevention and resolution processes, and reaffirms that the inclusion of women contributes to the long-term sustainability of peace efforts. It also draws attention to the importance of women’s economic empowerment and the adverse impact of violent extremism on the human right of women and girls.
However, over the course of nearly a month of negotiations it emerged that, while consensus could be easily reached on broad principles, several Council members had difficulty in agreeing to language that would link the women, peace and security agenda with the conflict prevention agenda in any concrete way. This tension was demonstrated by China and Russia’s resistance to making reference to resolution 2171 on conflict prevention in the presidential statement. Russia broke silence over this issue when the draft statement was first put under silence in late May, even though a significant number of other Council members expressed support for the draft. In the end, while the statement maintains substantive language on women’s roles in conflict prevention, any specific reference to resolution 2171, including language from that resolution recalling member states’ primary responsibility to prevent conflict, protect civilians and respect the human rights of individuals within their territory and under their jurisdiction, was removed in order to reach consensus.
Another difficult issue was how to link the women, peace and security agenda to early warning of conflict. In the first draft of the presidential statement, there were mentions of early warning, preventive diplomacy and preventive deployment as important components of a comprehensive conflict prevention strategy. There was also language from resolution 2171 acknowledging that sexual and gender based violence can be an early indication of conflict. China, Egypt, and Russia expressed serious concerns about incorporating this into the presidential statement and in the final version to be adopted this morning no mention of early warning remains in the text.
An additional difficult issue was how to characterise the UN’s incorporation of gender into its mediation and prevention capacities, in particular how the UN could incorporate best practices from the African Union and women-led peace initiatives in Africa. For example, the draft presidential statement welcomes the African Union’s initiative to build a dedicated roster of women mediators, but the call on the UN to also develop a dedicated roster was dropped and replaced with a more general call for the UN system to increase the number of women mediators on its existing roster.
There was also difficulty in getting agreement on how to describe Women’s Situation Rooms in Africa, which the AU has declared a best practice to prevent conflict. Such situation rooms have been used in UNOWAS and are led by women’s groups as an early warning mechanism as well as a way to prevent or mitigate electoral violence. A similar example was in Burundi when local-level conflicts were mitigated or prevented in the lead-up to the 2015 elections by women’s networks. But same dynamic applied during the negotiations on this issue as with others: the existence of the Women’s Situation Rooms and effective conflict prevention by women’s civil society was welcomed while eschewing their specific utility, i.e. early warning and facilitating the peaceful conduct of elections.
Many Council members were surprised at the difficulty of the negotiations in light of the fact that the draft was based on agreed language. In general, China and Russia are known to lend support to initiatives led by African members of the Council. However, it seems their concerns regarding incorporating conflict prevention into the statement overrode their usual deference to regional actors, in this instance Angola. Senegal was supportive of Angola’s draft statement, but it seems that Egypt, while constructive, was not in complete alignment with its fellow African Council members, further complicating negotiations.
China and Russia, and in some instances Egypt, resisted many elements that they interpreted as an expansion of the women, peace and security agenda or perceived as infringing on state sovereignty or the competencies of other parts of the UN system.