The Report of the Secretary General dated 20 January 2014 (S/2014/36) detaileds progress made in implementing the mandate of the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB), as assessed against the benchmarks jointly agreed with the Government of Burundi, with a view toward determining the future evolution of BNUB into a UN country team presence. Theis report offered updates since the last Report of 18 January 2013 (S/2013/36), covering the workshop on electoral lessons learned and the new draft electoral code; the return of several major opposition leaders from exile or hiding; the contentious question of President Nkurunziza’s eligibility to contest a third election in 2015; ongoing intimidation, harassment and violent attacks by the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, limiting the ability of opposition actors from exercising their political freedoms; the passage of several pieces of legislation, including the Media Law and the Law on Public Gatherings, also limiting the exercise of political rights and freedoms; efforts by the Government to revise the 2005 Constitution without broad-based consultations; the lack of progress on the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission; impunity for human rights violations, including sexual violence and rape; draft laws regarding land disputes and the perceived unevenness created by some of the decisions of the Commission nationale des terres et autres biens; and the strategic assessment deployed by the Secretary General and the continuing disagreement between the Secretary General representing BNUB and the Government of Burundi on whether Burundi and the UN are ready to shift to a UN country team presence.
There were several strong references to women, peace and security in theis Secretary General Report, although mostly confined to the protection sphere. In a brief section on the cross-cutting issue of gender, the Secretary General recognized an effort to strengthen medical, psychological, judicial and social support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence through a draft law adopted by the Government in June 2013, which aimed to strengthen the protection of victims and improve prevention (para. 47). He also highlighted the new criminal procedure code promulgated in April 2013, which introduced special sections on sexual and gender-based violence in the courts and public prosecutor offices while also allowing civil society organizations to subrogate victims before the courts at both the national and local levels (para. 47). The Report also called for capacity-building for the Independent National Commission on Human Rights, so that it could effectively conduct the monitoring of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as cases of gender-based violence (para. 35). Finally, in his observations and recommendations section, the Secretary General placed particular concern around the continuing impunity for human rights violations, including sexual violence and rape, and urged the Government to bring perpetrators to justice, apply a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding human rights abuses committed by the security forces, professionalize those forces and instill discipline in them, especially the national police, and urged partners to support security sector reform to help improve overall accountability and performance (para. 71).
There was is also one reference to women’s participation in the disarmament process, stemming from a BNUB-sponsored workshop on the role of women in disarmament, which led to the creation of a network of women from the defense, security forces and civil society (para. 23); and one mention of the importance of prevention in relation to the draft law on sexual and gender-based violence (para. 47).
Although the Secretary General Report devoted significant attention to the protection of women from sexual and gender-based violence in this Report, it nonetheless missed a number of opportunities to address other important aspects of the women, peace and security agenda. Critically, despite many references to the electoral road map, the upcoming elections in 2015, the need for a vibrant democratic opposition, and the constitutional review process, there was no mention of women’s active role in any of these electoral and political processes. Beyond sexual and gender-based violence, there was also no consideration for how women and girls were particularly affected by limitations on political freedoms, or by the recent decisions on land disputes by the Commission nationale des terres et autres biens. Finally, with the exception of one reference regarding the draft law on sexual and gender-based violence, most of the language that responded to sexual and gender-based violence concentrated on protection instead of more holistically calling for both protection and prevention activities.
In relation to the most recent MAP on Burundi (January 2014), this Report offered a rather limited response. It did touch upon human rights monitoring and justice for survivors of crimes, including sexual violence. However, there was no call for the participation of women and women’s civil society organizations in the drafting of the new constitution, no effort to ensure the substantive and meaningful inclusion of women’s rights in that process, and no vocal support for political dialogue that includes the meaningful participation of women. Finally, the Report referenced the Truth and Reconciliation and special tribunal, but noted no significant progress on either front.
The previous Report on the United Nations Office in Burundi, S/2013/36, suggested a fairly consistent trend of women, peace and security content from year to year. Like the current Report, it brought particular attention to sexual and gender-based violence in the country. But significantly, it also highlighted a five-year National Action Plan to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), and briefly touched upon several issues not raised in the current Report, including: women’s lack of access to land owing to the national inheritance law; low female representation within the security forces and local government; a high level of female representation in the executive, legislature and administration branches at the national level; micro-credit loans supporting several women’s organizations; and reintegration programming that places special attention on women and children. However, the current Report contributed more frequently to the women, peace and security agenda across the length of the Report, and critically, included a paragraph in the observations and recommendations section dedicated to addressing impunity for human rights violations, including sexual violence and rape.
The Special Representative and Head of BNUB, Mr. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the and Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, Mr. Paul Seger, and with remarks from Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Burundi, Mr. Laurent Kavakure, briefed the Council on 28 January 2014 (S/PV.7104) on the situation in Burundi and the question of transition toward a UN country team. Drawing upon Secretary General Report S/2014/36 and the strategic assessment mission that was conducted pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2090 (2013), the briefing addressed the constitutional review and its initial absence of a consensual revision process; the electoral road map and the 2015 elections; the limitations to the exercise of political freedoms, with the intolerance and political violence involving young people associated with certain political groups; the new law that gave the National Commission for Land and Other Property new powers; and especially the question of whether Burundi and the United Nations are ready to transition from BNUB to a UN country team presence. While the Secretary-General contended that Burundi and the UN are not yet prepared to transition to a country team, the Burundian Foreign Minister strongly asserted otherwise, and laid out his Government’s stance accordingly.
Neither the Special Representative nor the Chair of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission addressed women, peace and security. It was only the Foreign Minister of Burundi who madekes one reference to WPS, noting how the BNUB and the Burundian Government have worked together in many priority areas, including “the gender dimension.”
Despite several strong references to women’s protection needs in the Secretary General Report, S/2014/36, theat language did oes not translate into attention within the briefing. Therefore, the Special Representative and Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission missed the opportunity to expose continued impunity for human rights violations, including sexual violence and rape, and to call for a strict zero-tolerance policy and for perpetrators to be brought to justice. They was also also made no mention of the need for women’s full and equal participation in the electoral, political and constitutional processes, and neglected to consider how women and girls are particularly affected by limitations on political freedoms as well as by the recent decisions on land disputes by the Commission nationale des terres et autres biens.
The briefing was largely silent in response to the most recent MAP on Burundi (January 2014). There was no mention of women’s participation in the drafting of the constitution or in the political dialogue between the government and the opposition, nor was there a call for the substantive and meaningful inclusion of women’s equal rights within the content of the constitution. Further, despite attention to human rights monitoring and justice for survivors of crimes, including sexual violence, in the Secretary General Report, theis briefing altogether excludeds that the majority of content as well.
Theis briefing was much weaker on women, peace and security content than the previous briefing on the situation in Burundi, S/PV.7006. While the current briefing givesgave effectively gives no attention to women, peace and security (with the exception of the Burundian Foreign Minister’s reference to “the gender dimension”), the prior briefing on the other hand highlighted Burundi’s hosting of a regional conference on women, security, peace and development, co-organized by Special Envoy Mary Robinson’s office, which led to the adoption of a regional action plan on resolution 1325 (2000), as well as to a renewed commitment to collaborate in the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region. The briefing also offered sex-disaggregated data, and touched upon the Special Representative’s meetings with, among others, women’s organizations and civil society.