Period of Time and Topic: MINUSCA’s mandate implementation from 29 July, 2015 to 30 November, 2015
The November report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) provides information on key political, humanitarian and human rights developments as well as transitional processes as supported by the MINUSCA mandate. Notably, it discusses recent incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeeping forces. MINUSCA has a broad gender mandate, but the report retains an excessive focus on women’s protection, and leaves out the sporadic references to women’s political participation included by preceding reports altogether - thus contributing an to a decrease in the quality of CAR WPS reporting.
Nevertheless, WPS is mentioned in the Observations section of the report, with the SG expressing outrage over the aforementioned SEA incidents and discussing impunity for SGBV perpetrators (paras. 74, 76). The report could and should take better care to respond to its mandate and mainstream gender considerations, not only with regards to SGBV responses, but as a cross-cutting issue in reporting on DDR, SSR, political and electoral processes and on finding durable solutions for CAR’s many refugees and IDPs. Such discussion must be substantive and go beyond the simple provision of sex-disaggregated data.
Military, Police, Civilian Personnel
The report’s treatment of MINUSCA’s military and police does not contain any WPS references beyond a note that out of 331 deployed police, 99 are female and that women comprise 29% current civilian personnel (paras. 58, 59). MINUSCA should seek to increase its number of female military, civilian and police personnel to better respond to the protection and participation needs of CAR women, and outline specific steps taken to do so.
Security Sector Reform
The report’s discussion of SSR centers on the need for transformation of current security forces into “professional, multi-ethnic, regionally balanced” units through the development of an SSR roadmap, verification of current CAR armed forces, and rehabilitation of a military school (paras. 52-54, 72). There is, however, no mention of how and where women fit into this picture.
MINUSCA’s mandate calls for mission activities to take gender considerations into account as a cross-cutting issue and assist the CAR government to ensure the full and effective participation, involvement and representation of women in all spheres including in SSR (S/RES/2217, OP 40). The report therefore missed an opportunity to outline how gender considerations are applied to SSR efforts, or whether women are being consulted in the design and implementation of the mission’s various SSR projects. At a minimum, the report should provide sex-disaggregated data, for instance on the number of Central African armed forces personnel involved in simplified verification (para. 54).
Demilitarization and Arms Management
The report discusses DDR measures at length, including the establishment of a joint MINUSCA/DDR-SSR taskforce, awareness-raising activities to encourage disarmament, labor-intensive projects for former combatants and community violence reduction initiatives (paras. 49, 50). Similar to the reporting on SSR, there was no reference to women’s involvement in any of these mechanisms. The report missed an opportunity to discuss the unique needs of female ex-combatants and female dependents in DDR, and the gender sensitivity of ongoing DDR/development programming. To further apply gender as a cross-cutting lens, the mission must consult women’s groups in the design of DDR measures and report on the number of women participants at all stages. At a minimum, it should provide sex-disaggregated data on the numbers of combatants registered, demobilized, and/or repatriated.
PoC & Humanitarian Support
The report is entirely gender-blind in its discussion of the humanitarian situation. For instance, figures on people living in dire humanitarian conditions and the displaced are not sex-disaggregated. The report states the need to insure the free movement of people “including those belonging to vulnerable groups” but does specify women as one of these groups (para. 38). In light of a mandate calling for gender as a cross-cutting lens, the report would do well to detail which portion of humanitarian resources is allocated to programs supporting women, including female IDPs and refugees, and provide information on the impact of the conflict and refugee crisis on different genders. More thorough reporting, or at a minimum the provision of sex-disaggregated data, on these issues could give insight into the unique needs of food insecure, displaced or otherwise vulnerable women, including - but not limited to - their susceptibility to SGBV and other forms of violence.
With regards to protection of civilians, the report notes that community liaison assistants carried out MINUSCA’s PoC strategy around the country to identify needs and “diffuse intercommunal tensions” with 28 community liaisons yet to be recruited (para. 28). The report should provide information on the gender of these assistants and strive for a gender balance in its recruiting, to better respond to the needs of female community members and identify any unique challenges faced by women civilians. Similar gender-sensitive considerations should be applied to other elements of MINUSCA’s PoC strategy including protection of minority groups, the deployment of protection teams to at-risk communities, and the distribution of a “peacekeepers’ handbook” (paras. 25-27).
Human Rights, WPS, Children and Armed Conflict
Reporting on protection issues is relatively extensive, discussing incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, prevention and outreach measures, increases in the number of “victims” seeking health-care services and steps taken to guarantee safe access to medical care for survivors (para. 33). The report also provides sex-disaggregated data on SGBV survivors. References would be improved by using best-practice “survivor” language instead of the more disempowering term “victim.” Reporting on health-care services is commendable, and might be expanded to include information on the provision of psychosocial and legal services.
The report also provides sex-disaggregated data on human rights violations (para. 29). Despite this, reporting falls short when it comes to participation of women in human rights and reconciliation processes. In the Observations section, the SG states that “participation of young people and women” in these processes is of “paramount importance” (para. 71). However, the report does not provide any information on such participation by women - this gap is glaringly absent in the report’s discussion of the international seminar against impunity, held in September, which included representatives from civil society. The report missed an opportunity to detail whether and how women’s civil society was involved in this important process (para. 32). Women play a key role in the fight against impunity and should be involved in designing judicial mechanisms accessible to SGBV survivors.
Rule of Law
In addition to the abovementioned international seminar against impunity, the report states that MINUSCA seeks to establish a Special Criminal Court intended to, among other purposes, form a strong judicial response on SGBV (para. 46). Once again there is no information given describing if/how women are engaged in the establishment of the court.
With regards to extending legal authority across the country, the report states that UN-Women is involved in capacity-building efforts for justice, police and corrections, but does not specify their role (para. 47). It would be useful to know how exactly women are involved in these efforts
Political Process & Electoral Assistance
With CAR undergoing a political transition, elections scheduled in the near future, and a mandate demanding the full and effective participation of women in political dialogue and electoral processes, it is surprising that the report does not provide any gender-specific information on these topics. At a minimum, the report could mention the number of female members in political parties, number of female voters registered, and the presence of women civil society in the electoral process. To truly respond to the mandate, reporting should include information on the (potential) effect of electoral violence on women, outline clear measures aimed at increasing women’s political participation as candidates and voters, and seek to systematically engage women’s civil society as key advisors to the peace, political and electoral processes.
International Cooperation and Coordination
Reporting on this topic focuses, understandably, on allegations of SEA and misconduct by MINUSCA personnel. In the Observations section, the SG expresses “outrage,” reiterates the zero-tolerance policy, describes strategies for victim assistance and urges troop-contributing countries to address allegations (para. 76). The section also discusses the establishment of an independent external panel to investigate UN responses to these allegations (para. 76). The core section of the report contains a factual breakdown of the allegations and outlines training sessions, risk assessment visits, adjustments to the mission code of conduct and the establishment of a task force on SEA (para. 64). Future reporting should provide information on all outcomes of these established mechanisms and identify their accountability.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Too frequently in 2015, MINUSCA reports appear to scatter sex-disaggregated data around the report to meet their mandate requirement and technically “take into account gender considerations” - yet they avoid any substantive or analytical reporting on WPS developments and initiatives. This omission is particularly flagrant in when it comes to women’s participation. MINUSCA must seek to reflect their mandate in future reporting and detail how women are engaged as active participants in DDR, SSR, political, electoral and reconciliation efforts. In order to mainstream gender across these mission activities it is essential that reports provide an accurate picture of the impact of imminent violent threats to women civilians and identify gaps, opportunities and obstacles to women’s freedom of movement and societal participation. Future reporting should also provide information on the deployment of gender advisors, as called for by the mandate.