Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2116 (2013), this Report of the Secretary-General covers major developments in Liberia since the previous SG Report of 12 August 2013 (S/2013/479), and updates the Council on progress towards achieving United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) transition benchmarks and of its progressive handover of security responsibilities to national institutions. Particular attention was paid to continuous public dissatisfaction with national authorities; delays in the update of the voters list by the National Election Commission; the beginnings of the National Reconciliation Road Map, including the President’s official launch of the national “Palava Hut” program (although with significant implementation delays due to technical and financial challenges); slow progress on constitutional reform; efforts towards decentralization and local governance; progress in establishing legislative and policy frameworks for land reform; a stable though fragile security situation, with significant mob violence and high reporting rates of sexual violence; the development of a cross-border security strategy in the Mano Region; the Ministry of Justice’s launch of a five-year national human rights action plan; continuing high unemployment among youth; the second phase of UNMIL’s three-phase military drawdown, but with the Government of Liberia continuing to face significant challenges in assuming greater security responsibilities; continuing efforts towards increasing the professionalization of the police, but with trainings significantly behind schedule; continuing efforts to improve justice and security sector service delivery through the justice and security hubs initiative; and the UN beginning the first year of its “One programme” implementation, along with other initiatives in the areas of public information, gender, HIV/AIDS, conduct and discipline, and security and safety of UN personnel.
This Report of the Secretary-General effectively includes significant attention to women, peace and security, and balances a consideration for women’s protection with a concurrent emphasis on women’s participation. The implementation of the National Reconciliation Road Map includes project(s) on women as peacemakers (para. 8); the Constitution Review Committee appointed female leaders to mobilize women’s engagement in the constitutional reform process (para. 11); women were included in a joint council of chiefs and elders from both sides of the Liberia/Cote d’Ivoire border to discuss reconciliation, cross-border cooperation and conditions for refugee return (para. 21); and efforts were made to increase female representation in the national police, including through national outreach programs (para. 41). The Report also offers sex-disaggregated data on women’s participation in other sectors, including in the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (para. 44), the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation (para. 51), and in HIV sensitization trainings within various Liberian security agencies (para. 69). It also highlights female personnel in UNMIL (paras. 73, 76, 77).
More broadly, the Report points to gender mainstreaming work in governance with the completion of a study on gender and decentralization (para. 12); the development of a basic gender training manual for security sector institutions by UN-Women (paras. 37), and included as part of the curriculum of the police academy (para. 40); and as part of the UN’s “One programme” implementation, UN-Women has also taken the lead on developing a “One gender framework” for gender equality and women’s empowerment (para. 66).
The Report also addresses women’s protection concerns, including high reporting rates of sexual violence with 15 percent involving children under the age of 10 (para. 14) and most involving victims under the age of 18 (para. 48); the Government/UN joint program on sexual and gender-based violence increasing its focus on prevention, although efforts continue to improve response to sexual offenses, including the launch of a pilot project to enhance forensics capacity, which includes the training of police officers, nurses and laboratory technicians, and the creation of a database to track investigations (para. 48); the Ministry of Gender and Development, with UN support, is also training traditional leaders on preventing gender-based violence (para. 48); the second and third justice and security hubs are expecting the deployment of various staff, including sexual- and gender-based violence personnel, as they move towards implementation (para. 47); the Government conducted validation exercises to review draft domestic violence legislation and prepared a draft periodic report on the implementation of CEDAW (para. 68); the President launched a campaign in December called “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence”, for which UNMIL supported public information efforts (para. 68); outreach was conducted to community and religious leaders through community radio stations to engage young people in discussions on the UN zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse and to raise awareness about reporting misconduct (the reporting period included four reported allegations of serious misconduct, including three allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse) (para. 70); the Secretary-General notes his concern at the human rights situation in Liberia, particularly with respect to sexual- and gender-based violence, especially against children (para. 89); and he welcomes the anti-rape campaign launched by the President and underscores the importance of efforts to address impunity and strengthen the rule of law (para. 89).
The Report brings a strong voice to women, peace and security concerns, but still has room for improvement. It misses the opportunity to stress the need for education and vocational training for women and girls associated with fighting forces in their reintegration efforts. Despite efforts to enhance women’s participation in the security sector, in peacemaking, and in the constitutional reform process, there was no concurrent mention of women’s role in other areas of political and public life. Further, high rates of rape and sexual violence persist in Liberia, especially against those under 18 (and many under 10 years of age), yet the Report is (again) notable for its lack of urgency in calling for specific reforms to the justice system to immediately address this clear shortcoming (although trainings, public information campaigns and the pilot project to enhance forensics capacity are welcome developments).
The Report is largely responsive to the recommendations put forward in the most recent MAP on Liberia (September 2013), as the Constitution Review Committee appointed female leaders to mobilize women’s engagement in the constitutional review process; UNMIL continues to support the development of Liberian institutions (especially security sector institutions) with regards to gender and sexual- and gender-based violence, and promoted public awareness of the zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse; and the launch of a pilot project to enhance forensics capacity seeks to bring greater responsiveness to survivors of sexual violence. Yet the Report does not touch upon the need for the mission to support education and vocational training for women and girls associated with fighting forces in reintegration efforts.
There is a great deal of consistency from the previous Report on UNMIL, S/2013/479, to the current one, with both evidencing significant consideration for the promotion and protection of women’s rights.