Ms. Karin Landgren – Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Mr. Staffan Tillander – Chair of the Liberian country configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and representative of Sweden, and Mr. Brownie J. Samukai – Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Liberia, briefed the Security Council on the situation in Liberia, following the twenty-sixth progress report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL (S/2013/479) and the Mission’s continuing drawdown of its military presence in the country.Mr. Tillander highlights widespread sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia, and the need for more gender-focused activities and actions to reform and strengthen the criminal justice system (in line with SCR 2106). He also acknowledges the role of Liberian grass roots organizations, women’s groups and civil society.
Although the speakers reference the importance of civil society engagement and inclusive dialogue, Mr. Tillander was the only one to directly address gender. Especially coming on the heels of a more gender-sensitive report (S/2013/479), this briefing affords relatively limited attention to the topic. It concentrates attention to women, peace and security within the section on “gender-related issues,” rather than integrating a gender perspective throughout. In so doing, it misses the opportunity to engage women, peace and security concerns more holistically, especially in regards to women’s representation and empowerment.
The September 2013 MAP calls for continuing capacity-building with regards to gender, sexual and gender-based violence, and sexual exploitation and abuse within Liberian institutions. Mr. Tillander emphasizes the need for more gender-focused activities and criminal justice reform, but offers no specifics as to what these activities would look like. There is no mention of education or vocational training for women and girls associated with fighting forces, nor to access to relief and recovery programs for survivors of gender-based violence. Inclusivity is promoted generally, but only specifically referencing women as participants within the high-level meeting on a subregional strategy for the Mano River Union.
The previous briefing occurred on 25 March 2013 (S/PV.6941), and similarly included mention of the need to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. It also cited engagement with men and women and women’s participation in decision-making as necessary measures to help prevent gender-based violence.
Taking note of previous resolutions and Secretary-General Reports of 28 February 2013 (S/2013/124) and 12 August 2013 (S/2013/479), the UN Security Council adopted a resolution dated 18 September 2013 (S/RES/2116) to renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) through 30 September 2014, with an eye towards continuing the Mission’s gradual drawdown (as per SCR 2066 of 30 September 2012).
Women, peace and security and its thematic resolutions are referenced in the preliminary paragraphs, with the operative section addressing: the high incidence of sexual and gender-based violence, especially involving children, and the need for the Liberian Government to provide redress, support and protection to victims, as well as to counter impunity (para. 10); the importance of qualified specialist advisors in transitional mentoring to increase the capacity of the Liberian Government to, among other things, implement mechanisms to hold perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence accountable (para. 8); and the continued need for participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, including in decision-making roles (para. 12).
The resolution includes four paragraphs dedicated to women, peace and security – which is to be commended – but it misses the opportunity to integrate and mainstream women, peace and security concerns more fluidly throughout the resolution. By effectively siloing these issues, accompanying references to human rights protection and rule of law are unfortunately gender-neutral, and with the exception of the one paragraph on women’s participation (which includes a qualifier, “within existing capabilities,” para. 12), there exists no other mention of the importance of women’s inclusion or even civil society more broadly in transitional processes and state reform.
The September 2013 MAP calls on the Security Council to ensure that UNMIL: continues to develop the capacity of Liberian institutions with regards to gender; strengthens the participation of women in consultations regarding the constitution; addresses the urgent need for education and vocational training for women and girls associated with fighting forces; offers full access to relief and recovery for survivors of gender-based violence; and prioritizes women’s full participation in all post-conflict recovery programs. The resolution partially reflects the points on gender capacity-building (especially around sexual and gender-based violence), support for survivors, and women’s participation generally, but its approach lacks in both specificity and broader integration, and misses entirely on women and girls associated with fighting forces.
Unfortunately, the current resolution is almost identical to its predecessor, SCR 2066 (12 September 2012). On a positive note, however, the operative paragraph on sexual and gender-based violence offers a bit more substance than the prior resolution, including through its calls for the funding and implementation of the national action plan on sexual and gender-based violence and improving women’s and girls’ access to justice.