What's In Blue

Posted Tue 1 Jun 2021

Arria-formula Meeting on “Strengthening an Integrated Approach to Peace and Security in the Sahel through a Gendered Lens”

Tomorrow afternoon (2 June), Security Council members will hold an Arria-formula meeting on “strengthening an integrated approach to peace and security in the Sahel through a gendered lens”. The Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel will be launched at the meeting. Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) will chair the meeting, which Niger is co-convening with 11 other Council members (Estonia, France, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, the UK, the US and Viet Nam), and together with Chad, Mauritania, the AU and the EU.

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who undertook several visits to the Sahel in recent years to focus on women’s participation, will deliver the opening address. AU Permanent Observer to the UN Fatima Kyari Mohammed and EU Ambassador to the UN Olof Skoog will also provide opening remarks as co-chairs (together with Niger) of the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel. Nana Aïcha Cissé, Regional Coordinator of the G5 Sahel Women’s Platform, is expected to deliver a statement at tomorrow’s meeting. Statements are also expected from representatives of the co-chairs of the Group of Friends’ Advisory Leadership Board, including: UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Diene Keita; and Ousmane Diagana, Regional Vice President for Western and Central Africa at the World Bank. In addition to Council members, member states that intend to join the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel will make statements. The meeting will take place in person, with speakers from west Africa participating via videoconference. The meeting will be webcast on UNTV at 1:15 pm EST.

The concept note for the meeting underscores that stability and prosperity in the Sahel will require an integrated and gender-responsive approach that combines local governance, peacebuilding and human development. It states that women are underrepresented in decision-making and peace processes and face increased threats to their security and human rights, including in the form of sexual and gender-based violence linked to conflict and violent extremism. Notwithstanding these challenges, women peacebuilders in the Sahel are “leading momentous change”, according to the concept note, as first responders within their communities and as key players to prevent and mitigate the effects of hazards such as climate-induced disasters. The concept note says that “progress will be more sustainable, inclusive, faster and greener” if women and girls are meaningfully involved.

The objective of the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel will be to “inform the discourse, policy and practice on and in the Sahel by furthering the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in development and peacebuilding”. The security situation in the Sahel receives ample attention at the UN—including in Security Council meetings which address the situation in Mali, the Group of Five for the Sahel joint force, and strategies to tackle root causes of conflict, such as the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.  However, the effects of insecurity on women in this sub-region and their role in addressing these effects are less often discussed. The Group of Friends will seek to raise attention to the disproportionate impact of many of the Sahel’s challenges on women and girls, and to support and amplify organisations led by women in the sub-region.

The Group of Friends is expected to meet on a quarterly basis in New York, with two meetings a year anticipated at ministerial level. The participation of Aïcha Cissé at tomorrow’s meeting is envisioned as the start of a process to provide women’s groups in the Sahel an audience in UN meetings. Among other objectives of the Group of Friends is to foster exchanges between women of the Sahel and other regions on issues of development, peace and security.

UN Women and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Sahel are the proposed co-leads of the Advisory Leadership Board that will be established for the Group of Friends, which is apparently a relatively new construct for a UN group of friends. Diagana of the World Bank, which will serve on the board, may address the issue of funding for women’s organisations in the Sahel. He may note that only a small percentage of aid goes to such groups. Keita of UNFPA, also an advisory board member, may speak about the implications of the Sahel having one of the world’s highest birth rates and one of its youngest populations. While this creates challenges, the concept note also highlights opportunities, stating that “unlocking the full potential of young women, adolescents and girls will be a game changer”.

The concept note proposes several questions for participants to consider at tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting, including:

  • How to better adopt a gender responsive lens to peace, security, and development in the Sahel?
  • What should be the main priority areas of the interventions of the Group of Friends? How could the Group of Friends best support initiatives and advocacy efforts at various levels (international, regional, national, local) in the Sahel?
  • How could the Group of Friends amplify the work of women, women peacebuilders and women’s organisations? What types of funding mechanisms could be established or furthered strengthened?
  • What actions could the Group of Friends undertake to further inform the discourse on peace, security and development?
  • What specific metrics could be adopted to measure the implementation and effectiveness of a gender-responsive approach?