What's In Blue

Posted Tue 14 Jun 2022

Ministerial-Level Open Debate: The role of regional organisations in implementing the women, peace and security agenda in contexts of seizures of power by force

Tomorrow morning (15 June), the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on women, peace and security (WPS) titled “Keeping the promises: the role of regional organizations in implementing the women, peace and security agenda in the face of political turmoil and seizures of power by force”. Albanian Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhaçka will chair the meeting, which is a signature event of Albania’s June presidency. Secretary-General António Guterres will provide opening remarks. The expected briefers are: UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous, Special Envoy on WPS of the Chairperson of the AU Commission Bineta Diop, EU Ambassador for Gender and Diversity Stella Ronner-Grubačić, Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Helga Maria Schmid, and Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (LAS) Haifa Abu Ghazaleh.

According to the concept note for the open debate, which was prepared by Albania, recent military coups have had detrimental effects on the situation of women in affected countries. These include the interruption of national commitments on WPS, the closure of specialised courts and legal aid offices addressing violence against women, and threats, violence, and the disappearance and killing of women peacebuilders, journalists, and civil society leaders.

The concept note argues that, in the context of violent takeovers, regional organisations—which “are often the first to react in crisis response, in order to engage with the parties concerned to ensure the protection of civilians”—can have a positive role in protecting and advancing the implementation of the WPS agenda. Specifically, regional organisations are uniquely positioned “to offer support in mediation and reconciliation, and can be influential in advocating women’s full, equal, and meaningful, as well as safe, participation in all aspects of peace and security”.

One of the stated objectives of tomorrow’s open debate is to share ideas and experiences on how to better protect and advance the implementation of the WPS agenda in contexts of military takeovers and political turmoil, “including to support the work of women peacebuilders and civil society organizations and make gender analysis central to prevention and response strategies”.

In his remarks, Guterres may refer to the high number of current conflicts as well as seizures of power in which women have seen gender equality gains reversed. He may provide recent examples of the UN’s cooperation with regional and sub-regional organisations on areas of relevance to the WPS agenda and may call for bolstering existing engagement. In her briefing, Bahus may note the important role of regional organisations in establishing networks of women mediators and in ensuring that their member states adopt national action plans on WPS. Bahus may also draw attention to areas in which the Security Council, regional organisations, states and donors can strengthen their work towards the full implementation of the WPS agenda.

Tomorrow, Council members may be interested in receiving an update from the briefers representing regional organisations on their respective efforts to implement the WPS agenda in situations of takeovers and political turmoil. It is also likely that some Council members will refer to the work on WPS by regional and sub-regional organisations not represented among the briefers, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (EAC).

Consistent with the approach presented in the concept note, several Council members may stress that regional organisations—because of their knowledge of regional dynamics and proximity to the specific crisis contexts and local actors—are uniquely placed to address situations of insecurity and facilitate women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in political and peace processes. Accordingly, Council members may call for increased efforts and cooperation with regional organisations towards narrowing the implementation gap on the WPS agenda, including in areas such as women’s empowerment, participation in decision-making and in addressing impunity for conflict-related sexual violence. Some members may also call on regional organisations to promote information sharing and capacity building and to foster an enabling environment for civil society and women human rights defenders.

Members are likely to underscore the harmful consequences of recent violent takeovers for women and their communities. Some speakers will probably discuss specific country situations on the Council’s agenda and may refer, for instance, to the Taliban’s recent decisions to impose compulsory face covering for women in public spaces and to close schools for girls in Afghanistan. Speakers may also refer to the situation in Myanmar, where several women working with advocacy organisations had to leave the country, and many women’s organisations were forced to shut down in the aftermath of the military takeover in February 2021. Some may refer to developments following the August 2020 and May 2021 coups d’état in Mali and the October 2021 military takeover in Sudan—such as the formation by the UN, AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) of a trilateral cooperation mechanism in support of a Sudanese-led process to end the political crisis and restore a civilian-led transitional government. Several members are also expected to reference the ongoing war in Ukraine, focusing, among other issues, on the role of regional organisations in supporting accountability efforts, such as investigations into alleged war crimes, and in providing assistance to refugees.

Some members may also refer to the need to continue to extend support, including political and communication platforms and appropriate funding, to women’s civil society organisations in the aftermath of violent takeovers and political turmoil. Some may reference the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, which was launched in 2016 to generate funding for local women’s groups working in conflict and humanitarian crisis contexts. Some may also refer to the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action (WPS-HA), a multi-stakeholder initiative bringing together governments, UN entities and other regional and international organisations, civil society actors, private sector entities and research institutions.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting, including:

  • What actions have been taken to protect the implementation of the WPS agenda in the face of the proliferation of military coups and seizures of power by force, or the deterioration of the security situation in conflicts throughout the world?
  • In what ways can regional organisations support women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and security efforts in contexts of military coups and seizures of power by force?

Tomorrow’s open debate is in line with the statement of shared commitments on WPS, which Albania has undertaken with Brazil, Norway, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UK, and former Council member Niger. Among other things, these members pledged to focus at least one geographic meeting on WPS or to host a WPS signature event during each presidency.

It seems that, in recent weeks, Albania informally discussed with some Council members the possibility of an outcome, but it appears that the decision was eventually taken not to go forward with this initiative. A Council product is therefore not expected in connection with tomorrow’s debate.

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