What's In Blue

Posted Tue 16 Jan 2024

Visit to South Sudan by Members of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security: Meeting under “Any Other Business”

This morning (16 January), following the consultations on Yemen, Security Council members will discuss the recent visit to South Sudan by members of the Informal Experts Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The meeting, which will be held under “any other business”, a standing item in closed consultations, was requested by Switzerland, one of the co-chairs of the IEG on WPS. Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl (Switzerland) is expected to brief Council members on the visit, which took place between 11 and 14 December 2023.

The visit was proposed by the two IEG co-chairs for 2023, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). (In January, Sierra Leone succeeded the UAE as IEG co-chair after the conclusion of the UAE’s Council term at the end of 2023.) Representatives of France, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, Russia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US, as well as former Council members Gabon and the UAE, participated in the visit. Representatives from UN Women, which acts as the IEG Secretariat, also attended. While most participating Council members were represented by experts based in New York, other members participated with representatives from their embassies in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, and the region.

Today’s meeting under “any other business” marks the first time that a meeting by members of the Security Council has been requested to discuss a visit by IEG members. The IEG on WPS was established pursuant to resolution 2242 of 13 October 2015, which recognised the need to address challenges related to the provision of “specific information and recommendations on the gender dimensions of situations on the Council’s agenda” and expressed the Council’s intention to convene expert-level meetings “as part of an Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security” to facilitate a more systematic approach to WPS and “enable greater oversight and coordination of implementation efforts”. Field visits by the IEG on WPS are included in the 2016 IEG guidelines as an option to improve the flow of information on WPS to the Security Council. The visit to South Sudan marked the second visit undertaken by IEG members; the first was to Lebanon in June 2022.

At today’s meeting, Baeriswyl is expected to provide an overview of the visit and highlight its main goals and takeaways. It seems that a key objective of the visit was to consolidate members’ understanding of the situation of women and girls in South Sudan, including in relation to women’s participation in the implementation of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCCS) and in political and public life more generally, as well as of how the dire security and humanitarian situation has been affecting women and girls in the country.

With the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) expiring on 15 March, the visit was also apparently intended to provide IEG members with an opportunity to see first-hand how WPS language in UNMISS’ mandate and in other Security Council resolutions on South Sudan is implemented on the ground.

The visit, which took place mainly in Juba, featured several meetings with South Sudanese government officials, such as Minister of Gender, Child and Social Welfare Aya Benjamin Warille, and UN representatives in South Sudan, including Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan and head of UNMISS Nicholas Haysom. IEG members also had the opportunity to meet with civil society representatives and women political leaders.

On 13 December 2023, members of the IEG travelled to Wau, in Western Bahr el Ghazal state, for a one-day visit. There, they held meetings with the governor of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Sarah Cleto Hassan, and civil society representatives, before heading back to Juba. On the following day, participants visited a UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) mine action demonstration site outside Juba, where they had the opportunity to meet with women deminers.

At today’s meeting, Baeriswyl may emphasise the importance of women’s political participation in South Sudan, particularly in the context of the general elections, which are currently scheduled for December. These will be the first elections in the country since South Sudan gained independence in 2011.

According to an update issued by UN Women following the visit by IEG members, although the R-ARCCS contains a commitment to a 35 percent quota for women in all executive and transitional institutions and processes, “this quota has not been met in most of the commissions set up to implement the peace agreement, or the current government and parliament”. At the same time, the update says that, of the bodies established more recently under the transitional architecture in South Sudan, women’s representation stands at 32 percent of the National Constitution Review Commission, 22 percent of the National Election Committee, and 40 percent in the Political Parties Council.

Today, Baeriswyl is likely to note that conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) remains a key issue of concern in South Sudan and may stress the need for strengthening access to justice and counselling for survivors. According to the most recent report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the country, dated 12 December 2023, UNMISS documented and verified 19 CRSV cases affecting 25 survivors, including 16 women and nine girls, during the 1 September to 30 November 2023 reporting period.

Among other issues, Baeriswyl may also express concern about the adverse effects on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan of the fighting in Sudan that started on 15 April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces.

Council members that participated in the visit might share their observations regarding challenges and positive aspects in the implementation of the WPS agenda that they observed during their visit. It seems that several participating members found the visit to South Sudan useful, as seeing the situation first-hand and holding in-person meetings with key stakeholders on the ground strengthened their understanding of WPS-related issues in the country as well as of the political situation in South Sudan.

While Council members are generally supportive of the IEG, and of the WPS agenda more broadly, dynamics on WPS remain difficult, with China and Russia often resisting the inclusion of language on gender and WPS in Council products. Today, these members might stress the informal nature of the IEG and challenge the need for Council members to meet to discuss the visit.

In 2023, the IEG on WPS met eight times, with recent meetings focusing on Colombia, Haiti, and “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Overall, the IEG has held four meetings on the situation in South Sudan, the most recent of which took place in February 2023. The IEG is expected to hold its first meeting of 2024 later this month, with an expected focus on the situation in Sudan.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails

Subscribe to receive SCR publications