Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (S/2015/510).

Tuesday, July 7, 2015
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Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (S/2015/510).

Code: S/2015/510

Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the United Nations Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB), pursuant to Security Council resolution 2137 (2014). 

Women, Peace and Security

The Secretary-General’s report gives account on major developments relating to the electoral process and political and security situation in Burundi in the run-up to the elections of 29 June 2015. Mandated to “encourage the promotion and protection of human rights, with a special focus on the human rights of women and children as well as people belonging to ethnic minorities”[1] and to ensure “full and effective participation of women at all stages of the electoral process”[2], the report reiterates the commitment of MENUB to ensure the participation of women and “other marginalized groups.”[3]

One section is dedicated to the “participation of women and other marginalized groups”, reporting on the establishing of a UN-women-supported gender unit within the electoral body CENI to closely monitor women’s participation throughout the whole electoral process. The section also reports on advocacy and capacity-building activities by women’s civil society organizations, “aimed at empowering women for the upcoming elections and increasing their participation as candidates and voters.”[4]

However, the section could have been much more sensitive towards women’s specific challenges regarding their access to and participation in decision-making processes, including the upcoming elections, by refraining from packing issues related “to women and other marginalized groups” into two paragraphs. Assumably, women and ethnic minorities are confronted with different challenges, which would have not only deserved to be the discussed in greater depth but also to be mainstreamed throughout the report. The report further provides sex-disaggregated data in two instances, accounting for the gender composition of CENI (in accordance with the Arusha agreement which demands ethnic and gender balance within the electoral body) and for voter registration where the women’s figures outnumber those of men.[5] Additionally, the report states that 30% of the electoral candidates for communal and legislative elections were women.[6]

While accounting for women’s participation in the electoral process, the report does not pay any attention to additional concerns relating to the WPS agenda, such as references to the participation of women’s civil society organizations in consultations surrounding the electoral process or to the status of women’s human rights, including mentions of the prevalence of sexual violence. Failing to consistently apply a gender lens, one can assume an overall unawareness for considering women’s concerns in aspects other than activities related to the electoral process.

References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities

Electoral assistance

In its reporting on the establishment and operational procedures of MENUB as well as the political negotiations surrounding the electoral process, the report fails to mention whether women representatives were among the various stakeholders, including former presidents of Burundi and leaders of political parties, who were part of the consultations with the Special Envoy.[7] Referring to the criticism that was raised by oppositional political parties and civil society about the electoral process, particularly President Nkurunziza seeking his third mandate, the report could have included whether women’s civil society organizations were part of the public protest to provide a gender-sensitive view on the issues at stake, including whether women’s concerns are specifically affected by the electoral process and expected outcomes of the election.[8] Additionally, the report would have benefited from providing information on whether women were among those protesters killed, injured or arrested, and affected by the increasing number of grenade attacks, particularly in places that are supposedly frequented by women such as the central market, to assess the extent to which women are involved in the protest and whether consequences affect them differently.[9]

In its consideration of UN efforts, the report refers to the establishment of consultative groups and the “Dialogue” agenda that brings together various stakeholders, including political leaders, civil society organizations and religious leaders, to join forces in solving urging issues relating to the electoral process.[10] However, the report completely fails to mention whether women leaders and representatives of women’s civil society were included in these processes. Ensuring women’s participation in all decision-making processes is crucial as only a gender-balanced view on the deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situation on the ground can ensure that the varying needs of women, men, girls and boys are adequately addressed. Additionally, the report would have benefited from mentioning whether women were also trained to be employed as election observers in order to create an enabling and safe environment for women to approach observer staff to report irregularities.[11]

Human Rights

Considering the increasingly severe human rights situation, including incidences of “the violation of the right to life, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention”[12], the report fails to particularly reference women’s human rights violations, including the prevalence of sexual violence. Considering that “[w]omen, children and the elderly comprise the majority of refugees”[13], the report completely fails to account for women-specific reasons to abandon their homes/communities and the challenges that women face in IDP/refugee camps. Additionally, the report could have mentioned whether the Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP), implemented by UNHCR and 17 partners, is gender-sensitive and receptive to women’s concerns, and whether its design and implementation was/is informed by the voices of local civil society, including women’s civil society organizations.[14]

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

Future reporting must reaffirm the Security Council’s commitment to fully and effectively incorporate the WPS agenda into the mandate of MENUB, including through ensuring women’s participation and leadership in all decision-making processes relating to the electoral process and support for women’s civil society organizations.

Pursuant to resolution 2137 (2014), which mandates MENUB to promote and protect women’s human rights and ensure women’s full and effective participation at all stages of the electoral process, future reporting must include updates on the implementation of gender-sensitive programming to ensure women’s concerns regarding the electoral process are fully taken into account. [15]


[1] S/RES/2137 (2014): OP 8

[2] S/RES/2137 (2014): OP 11

[3] S/2015/510: P 30

[4] S/2015/510: P 51

[5] S/2015/510: P 33, 35, 57

[6] S/2015/510: P 52

[7] S/2015/510: P 3

[8] S/2015/510: P 6

[9] S/2015/510: P 9, 11

[10] S72015/510: P 17, 18, 10, 23

[11] S/2015/510: P 30

[12] S/2015/510: P 13

[13] S/2015/510: P 16

[14] Ibid.

[15] S/2015/510: P 16