Period of Time and Topic: The report provides an update on the CAR since the 1April 2015 report (S/2015/227) and on the implementation of MINUSCA mandate.
The report offers no direct references to women, peace and security (WPS) resolutions, and only references elements of the WPS agenda. Of the 17 thematic subsections of the report, 9 included sex and age disaggregated data. These inclusions predominantly provided rudimentary male and female breakdowns of import intersectional areas of study. Overall, the reports engagement with women, peace, and security issues is limited to protection issues for women, which promotes their status as only victims in conflict. Apart from women’s participation in electoral processes, the reports engagement with women’s participation issues is even more lacking.
Protection of Civilians
The report describes the human rights violations, including sexual exploitation, against displaced Fulani peoples in Yaloke and other regional areas. In response to this, the report describes the response by MINUSCA in sending a “joint protection team”. In providing a gender lens, the report should have disclosed the composition of this team to investigate whether it comprised of Women Protection Advisors or Gender Advisors.
Rightly, and after reiterating the UN’s zero-tolerance policy on this issue, the report revealed allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by MINUSCA personnel. In combating these devastating crimes, it is important that future reports continue to describe measures the UN and the MINUSCA hierarchy has made, and will continue to strengthen, towards preventing sexual misconduct.
The report provides sex disaggregated data in the form of simple figures on the amount of women in MINUSCA’s police force. The report should have strengthened this reference by providing information on quotas for women’s inclusion. It should also have included a discussion on gender training for the entire police and military components of MINUSCA.
Regarding the extension of state authority, MINUSCA has trained prefets and sous-prefets in conflict reconciliation practices. The report should have provided sex disaggregated data to determine the level of women’s inclusion in this program. In order to promote an open and inclusive reconciliation process and security sector reform, MINUSCA and the Transitional Authority must build women’s capacity as mediators.
Security Sector Reform
The report makes no reference to WPS regarding security sector reform (SSR). The report should have investigated and analysed women’s protection requirements, and women and women’s organisations participation in security sector reform and decision-making processes.
Demilitarization and Arms Management
The report makes no reference to WPS regarding the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR) subsection. The report should have investigated and analysed information regarding the specific needs of female combatants and women associated with armed groups. It should have also analysed the link between small arms and light weapons and their propensity to increase sexual and gender-based violence. The report should have also recognised the differentiated impact explosives has on women, men, boys, and girls.
The report makes no reference to WPS regarding the humanitarian subsection. With the extraordinary number of Central Africans living in extremely poor humanitarian conditions as IDPs and refugees, it is imperative that their gender specific needs are addressed and appropriately resourced. The report has missed an opportunity to investigate and include this information. At a minimum accurate sex and age disaggregated data should have been provided. Such information is crucial for providing basic gender specific supplies and services, such as sexual and reproductive health services, and psychosocial services.
Human Rights, WPS, Children and Armed Conflict
The report referenced violations by anti-Balaka and ex-Saleka elements, which included killings of women and children accused of witchcraft. Notably, the report included a subsection on conflict-related sexual violence. This subsection mainly highlighted the unacceptable levels at which sexual and gender-based violence occurs across the entire CAR. It also made reference to the joint work by MINUSCA and the UN Population Fund in combating sexual and gender-based violence through the development of preventative programs and the increased operationalization of legal advice, medical treatment, and psychosocial services for survivors and their communities. This included the planned deployment of MINUSCA women’s protection officers in Bangui and other field offices.
In the Secretary-General’s ‘observations’ subsection, the report makes several references to elements of the women, peace and security agenda. In relation to post-conflict peacebuilding, the Secretary-General implores the integration of women’s perspectives across all initiatives such as truth seeking, reconciliation programs, and justice as an essential ingredient for sustainable peace in the CAR. The Secretary-General also expressed great concern over the human rights situation, with particular concern over sexual and gender-based violence committed against women and children. In addition, there was added emphasis placed on eradicating sexual exploitation and abuse of children by international protective forces, such as MINUSCA. The report would have benefitted from the issues raised in this subsection. Considering the overall lack of engagement with WPS issues throughout the other subsections, its inclusion at the end of report highlights an inconsistency in application of gender perspectives in UN reporting.
Regarding reconciliation and conflict prevention, the report examined efforts by the Transitional Authority and the UN in supporting ‘at risk’ people. The report missed an opportunity to explore the identities of vulnerable and marginalised groups in the reconciliation and reintegration process. The report only mentions ‘young people’ and fails to recognise the diverse needs of women, men, boys and girls in facilitating and achieving national and communal healing. The report should have promoted women’s capacity as mediators and negotiators and held consultations with women’s organisations to integrate a gender lens into reconciliation processes.
Rule of Law
In terms of ending impunity for wide range of crimes, the report made reference of the efforts by the Ministry of Justice, MINUSCA, UNDP and UN Women in prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence cases and ensuring support for “victims”. This reference to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence as victims disempowers people who suffer from these crimes. The reference to sex and gender-based violence, in terms of rule of law, could have been strengthened by the promotion of women’s participation in legal reforms and processes to safeguard women’s rights.
The report highlighted the attendance of approximately 120 women out of more than 600 representatives to the Bangui Forum on National Reconciliation, held from 4 to 11 May 2015. In addition, the report also highlighted the inclusion of 7 women in the 25-member Forum follow-up committee, tasked with ensuring the implementation of the Forum’s recommendations. These two references to women could have been strengthened if the report included more information on how the participation of these women affected the outcome of both the Forum and the follow-up committee. Simply adding women to the conversation is a necessary step, but it does not ensure meaningful participation and increased empowerment. The report needed to investigate how women’s engagement was facilitated, and report on whether women’s capacity to influence was limited or not.
The section on political developments missed an opportunity to investigate and include information relating to the 23 April 2015 agreement on the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation of armed groups into the State forces of the CAR, and the 5 May 2015 agreement on the liberation of child soldiers on the 5 May. The report should have included a gendered lens to investigate if women’s participation was encouraged during these agreements. The report only specifies the attendance of the Transitional Government and the 10 armed groups as being party to the negotiations of these issues. Regarding this issue, information should have been included on the participation of female combatants and women associated with armed groups. There should also have been reporting on the differentiated impact small arms and light weapons, and explosives have on women, men, boys and girls.
The report references the work by MINUSCA and the UNDP in facilitating “…strengthened participation of community representatives”. Here, the report missed an opportunity to discuss what measures, if any, were taken to promote women’s participation and empowerment through this process. To achieve true representation of the CAR, facilitate community engagement, and post-conflict process ownership, there needs to be a removal of barriers to civic engagement. Women, women’s organisations, and marginalised groups must be encouraged to participate.
Also, the report missed an opportunity to include a gender lens on the topic of the constitutional review workshops held from 3 to 6 July, which led to a constitutional referendum. There is no information regarding the participation of women or women’s groups, which raises the issue of representation. The report should have included how women’s participation was or was not facilitated. Participation and empowerment of women in law reform and institution building is vital.
This subsection referenced the work by UN Women, MINUSCA, and the UNDP on supporting women’s participation in the electoral process through the development of a database of potential women candidates for government decision-making roles. Whilst this was a positive inclusion, it could have been strengthened with information regarding the development of this program. The report should have investigated how these women were researched, such as the objectivity of the search criteria or if women’s organisations were consulted. Women’s participation as voters, candidates and monitors at all levels is essential for electoral reform. In order to achieve this, there must be an open and inclusive investigation and disclosure of gender sensitive information.
International Cooperation and Coordination
The report makes no mention of the gender concerns regarding funding and international assistance. The report should have provided the specific amounts allocated in funding for gender related programs. Given the high accounts of sexual and gender-based violence in the CAR, the report should request increased funding for data and reporting programs, women’s organisations, and services for survivors such as legal assistance, medical, and psychosocial services.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
The report should have included a gender perspective across all themes in analysing the situation in the CAR and MINUSCA’s activities. Importantly, future reports should avoid focusing mainly on women’s protection issues. Instead they must provide a balanced analysis of protection issues and women’s participation in all peacebuilding and UN mandated activities. In particular, future reports should investigate and include measures taken to promote women’s equal and full participation in political processes, SSR, DDRR, legal reforms, and humanitarian support. They should also strengthen the use of sex and age disaggregated data by analysing its implications on the gender and context specific needs of women and marginalised groups. As should be the standard in all sexual and gender-based violence reporting, survivors of sexual and gender based violence should not be referred to as victims.
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