Women, Peace and Security: Open Debate and Resolution
Tomorrow (29 October), the Security Council is scheduled to hold its annual open debate on women, peace and security. South Africa, as president of the Council this month, has prepared a concept note (S/2019/801) to guide the debate. The theme of the debate, as proposed by South Africa, is “Towards the successful implementation of the women, peace and security agenda: moving from commitments to accomplishments in preparation for the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000)”. The concept note further elaborates that the focus of the open debate should be the implementation of the entire normative framework of the women, peace and security agenda. It also states that another objective is the adoption of an outcome.
The expected briefers are UN Secretary-General António Guterres; UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop; Lina Ekomo of FEMWISE (the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation); and Alaa Salah, a civil society activist and community leader from Sudan.
At press time, it seems that South Africa is planning to table a draft resolution for a vote during the meeting, despite strong concerns that have been raised by a majority of Council members.
Security Council Report plans to produce a more in-depth analysis of these negotiations at a later stage.
As stipulated in the concept note, South Africa has proposed a number of issues to help guide the discussion. Those include: how well the four pillars of the women, peace and security agenda (participation, protection, prevention, relief and recovery) have been implemented; what new actions the Council should adopt to further the agenda; how well the national and regional strategies on the agenda have been implemented; how stakeholders can ensure the inclusion of women in peace processes; what activities stakeholders should undertake towards next year’s 20th anniversary of resolution 1325; and what objective that commemoration should have.
The Secretary-General’s Report and Council Dynamics
The basis for the open debate is the Secretary-General’s latest annual report on women, peace and security. It emphasises that “addressing the root causes of gender inequality” and the implementation of the agenda must be a priority in trying to achieve sustainable peace. Drawing from a report commissioned by UN Women, one of the key findings is that almost 40 per cent of the world’s economies limit property rights for women and close to 30 per cent limit women’s freedom of movement.
The report notes that “only 41 per cent” of UN member states have adopted a National Action Plan (NAP) on women, peace and security, and that only 22 per cent of these NAPs included financing for their implementation. The Secretary-General writes in his report that “resourcing is a key indicator of political will”.
In the past, the Council has also questioned the level of member states’ commitment to the women, peace and security agenda. In its most recent presidential statement on this issue (S/PRST/2016/9), the Council observed that “inconsistent levels of political will, resourcing, accountability, dedicated gender expertise and attitudinal change have often prevented the full and meaningful inclusion of women in regional and international efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, and to build and sustain peace”.
The Secretary-General’s report further decries “the stark contrast between rhetoric and reality” and calls upon the UN and member states to “act immediately to halt regression […] in the implementation” of the agenda.
The report emphasises that “women’s participation as delegates and decision-makers has become increasingly difficult”. It names some reasons why this is so. Peacemaking is complicated due to the rising number of non-state actors and armed groups “for whom gender inequality is not only a vestige of historic social structures but a strategic objective consistent with misogynist ideology and attitudes towards the rights and roles of women”. At the same time, “influential partners” in peace processes behave inconsistently in their efforts to include women. The report concludes that the UN, member states and regional organisations are not on track to achieving significant progress in this part of the agenda. As an example, it states that in six UN-led or co-led peace processes in 2018, 14 out of 19 delegations included women, but in low numbers, showing that participation in negotiating delegations has not improved in the past year. Calls for enhanced women’s participation in peace processes have been highlighted in several recent Council products and will most likely be emphasised by a number of member states in tomorrow’s debate.
In relation to his own reporting, the Secretary-General emphasises that one hundred per cent of his reports on special political missions and 90 per cent of his reports on peacekeeping missions contained information on the women, peace and security agenda. At the same time, he acknowledges that “the analytical quality of this information and links to actionable recommendations must be strengthened”.
The Secretary-General recommends to the Security Council that expert groups, supporting sanctions committees as “the primary source of information and recommendations for designations”, “must have adequate resources and dedicated expertise on gender and conflict-related sexual violence”. He further states that these expert groups must “make recommendations to list individuals and entities on that basis”.
It should be noted that in recent years the Council has integrated concerns about sexual violence into the work of its sanctions committees. Sexual violence as a sanctions designation criterion is included in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen sanctions regimes.
In order to avoid a backsliding of the women, peace and security agenda, the Secretary-General’s report announces immediate actions that the UN will take, which he is likely to reference in his briefing. These include: in public messaging and other types of engagement, all senior UN officials will emphasise the women, peace and security agenda; reporting to the Council and UN strategies and plans will integrate gender-responsive conflict analysis; and heads of missions and entities will prioritise the agenda in their budget requests to member states.
The Secretary-General also recommends actions that can be taken by member states and regional organisations. Those include: the increase of funding for women, peace and security, including in UN budget negotiations; the support and nomination of women as negotiators in peace processes; and the deployment of an increased number of uniformed women in peace operations.
As for action by the Security Council, the Secretary-General urges a number of immediate steps. These include statements by Council members raising women, peace and security issues; ensuring that mandates of missions include language requiring women’s “meaningful participation in peace and security”; requiring reporting on these provisions; noting if required reporting is not being done; tracking and follow-up on recommendations made in meetings of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on women, peace and security and by civil society briefers; suggesting an annual update report by the IEG co-chairs; and presenting information on those updates in their statements during regular Council meetings.
Council members have traditionally had divergent views on women, peace and security, but it seems that widening divisions have been increasingly evident in recent years. This is reflected by the difficult negotiations on the current draft resolution proposed by South Africa and even before that, by the negotiations on resolution 2467 on conflict-related sexual violence, proposed by Germany in April, which was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia). Some members are keen to consider ways to advance the women, peace and security agenda across all areas of the Council’s work. Other Council members resist what they interpret as an expansion of the women, peace and security agenda or perceive as an infringement on state sovereignty or the competencies of other parts of the UN system. The differing perspectives among Council members are likely to be evident in tomorrow’s discussion.