Period of Time and Topic: Report covers the situation on the ground and the implementation of the UNMIL mandate from 15 August 2014 to 30 March 2015
Women, Peace and Security
In the Secretary General’s twenty-ninth report on Liberia and the implementation of the UNMIL mandate, pursuant to resolution 2190 (2014), the Secretary-General reports primarily on the Ebola outbreak and the anticipated drawdown of UNMIL. The report does very well in providing sex and age disaggregated data and seems to include women’s concerns throughout the report (serving as an example of mainstreaming gender across its reporting). The report provides substantive information on women’s political participation, as well as plans to increases women’s participation in politics, and also covers gender in the constitutional review process, noting that there is now a “gender technical working group to mainstream gender perspectives into the constitutional review." In the same paragraph the Secretary-General notes widespread support in the review process for equal gender representation in the governance system, and for women’s inheritance rights. In the realm of SSR, Women police officers also participated in Ebola response training provided by UNMIL, comprising nearly a quarter of attendees, and UNMIL went on to also train 379 female UNMIL staff in Ebola safety. Notably, the report includes a reference in the observations section calling for women’s increased participation in the constitutional review process.
In the realm of women’s protection, the report references the targeting of a female journalist for exposing police corruption. The report addresses the Ebola crisis, its impact on women, and women’s participation in relief efforts. The Secretary-General notes women’s participation in local mediation to address social tensions resulting from the outbreak, cross-border meetings to increase cooperation, and women’s civil society organization’s contributions to managing the crisis. It is also noted that an analysis of the impact of the epidemic on women and girls “revealed that women’s economic activities, income and livelihoods and maternal health care were most affected by the Ebola crisis." In paragraph 32, regarding the human rights situation, the Secretary-General notes that there are “continued challenges related to sexual and gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices." While not explicitly referencing female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), one can assume that this was the intended reference. Later in the report, Liberia’s second UPR is referenced with explicit mention of efforts in “combating female genital mutilation and sexual and gender-based violence." Despite efforts by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, cases of “rape, female genital mutilation, and sexual and gender-based violence continue to be quite high. Within UNMIL, a protection cluster was formed focusing on gender, gender-based violence, and gender and HIV. In the end, the Secretary-General notes that he remains concerned by the persistence of human rights violations, including “sexual and gender-based violence and impunity for such crimes, and also by harmful traditional practices, in particular female genital mutilation."
In the context of disaggregated data, there have also been strides in incorporating women in the new Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, where they now comprise 31% of personnel. The report notes that women’s participation in the national police force increased to 18%. The report further provided the standard sex disaggregated data on the UNMIL military forces, police component and civilian component. Additionally, the report included information that one instance of sexual exploitation and abuse occurred in UNMIL.
References in Need of Improvement
While impressive that the report notes the Ebola epidemic disproportionately affects women and girls, particularly women’s economic activities, income, livelihoods and maternal health care, the report would be strengthened by further explanation of how those aspects of women’s lives are disparately affected by Ebola. The report made no consideration of how to address the impact of Ebola on women, including through consulting with women’s and women’s civil society organizations’ to ensure any relief and recovery programs meet women’s needs and address their concerns. Also, the report makes multiple references to “female genital mutilation (FGM)” and would be strengthened by including FGM/C “female genital mutilation/cutting” as other UN agencies do, in an effort to recognize both viewpoints. The report should have also considered actions to address FGM/C and SGBV, especially addressing impunity in its reporting on them to the Human Rights Council and security and justice sector response when reporting on national monitoring and actions.
The report’s response to resolution 2190 (2014)’s calls to support women’s participation could have been more comprehensive if they included women in decision-making roles, especially in government institutions and reform efforts, as well as in conflict prevention, and peacebuilding. For example, the report highlighted that the constitutional review supported equal gender representation in the government and women’s inheritance rights, and that the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection launched a gender working group to mainstream gender into the review, but it didn’t mention if women or women’s civil society organizations participated in the review or at what levels to incorporate women’s human rights and concerns into the review.
The report’s reporting on women’s participation could have been stronger if it had been more detailed and comprehensive to ensure women were able to participate in a meaningful way in all areas and sectors. The mention of decreasing women’s participation in the legislature and the re-appropriation of funds for their support going to Ebola response should have included how to better support women not just as candidates but also voters and monitors during the next election to ensure women’s voices are part of the government. Reporting on potential targeting of a female journalist should have included reporting on the broader of context of the situation on female journalists to ensure their unique needs and concerns were incorporated into UNMIL’s work. While the report did include sex-disaggregated data on women in the security sector, it did not consider integrating women’s protection needs into the security sector, quotas for women’s participation in the security sector, or gender training for all involved.
In regard to women’s protection and SGBV, the report could have been stronger by linking women’s participation with protection. While there was an effort to mainstream gender, including GBV, in the Ebola response, there was no consideration of consulting with women or having women and women’s civil society organizations be a part of the design and implementation of any response, or broadening gender-mainstreaming to UNMIL as a whole. The report, furthermore, should have called for a gender-sensitive response, protection, prevention and reporting on crimes of SGBV including gender-specific services for survivors and guaranteeing that women have access to these services. Any actions taken should have included the participation of women and women’s civil society organizations at all stages and levels of design and implementation to ensure the response met women’s needs, responded to their human rights concerns, and were survivor-centered.
Throughout the report, women and youth are mentioned together, overlooking the unique needs and contributions of each group, and the report could have been stronger by separating women and women’s groups from children’s and youth’s.
In the discussion of the National Reconciliation Roadmap and the implementation of projects supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, the Secretary-General misses the opportunity to both report on the level of women’s participation in these post-conflict processes, and to call for increased women’s participation where appropriate. In commenting on the ongoing imposition of race and origin requirements for citizenship, the Secretary-General fails to note the disparate impact this has on Liberian women who cannot pass their citizenship on to their children, solely due to the race and origins of their male partner, and thus face the additional hurdles of raising stateless children. The Secretary-General also misses the opportunity to call for women’s equal and meaningful participation in post-Ebola socio-economic recovery as well as identifying women’s issues and the need for women’s participation in the national Ebola recovery assessment. In noting that the most economically vulnerable are severely affected, it would also be helpful to note if this population is mostly women. In discussing the Government of Liberia Plan for UNMIL transition, the report could also have noted the role of women in this transition process and the importance of their participation in all phases of planning and execution. The report also misses the opportunity to discuss the potentially disparate conditions and issues within women’s correctional facilities, only noting that “insecurity at correctional facilities remained a concern."
The report misses opportunities to respond to resolution 2190 (2014) in regards to women’s protection, especially SGBV. Although the report does highlight the high rates of SGBV, it fails to include any action to address impunity, provide redress, support and protection for victims, strengthen police capacity, and raise awareness of sexual violence legislation, in addition to funding the national action plan on SGBV and improving women and girls’ access to justice. Nor is there any mention of UNMIL addressing impunity through accelerating mechanisms to hold perpetrators of SGBV accountable.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Future reports, and all peace-building processes in the context of the drawdown of UNMIL, should continue to support and advocate for women’s equal participation in all post conflict processes, including and especially post-Ebola recovery. During the transition, UNMIL should call for women’s full and equal participation in the “critical work of transforming the social and institutional fabric of the nation by taking forward national reconciliation initiatives” and in “crucial political reform processes."
 S/2015/275 para. 32
 S/2015/275 para. 61
 S/2014/275, para. 29
 S/2014/275, paras. 36, 37
 S/RES/2190 (2014), OP 2
S/2014/275, paras. 15, 22, 25
 S/2014/275, para. 17
 S/2014/275, para. 68
 S/2014/275, para. 8
 S/2014/275, para. 12
 S/2014/275, paras. 45, 48
 S/2014/275, paras. 32, 74
 S/2014/275, para. 35
 S/2014/275, paras. 32, 35, 36, 37, 74
 S/2014/275, paras. 36, 37
 S/2014/275, paras. 25, 68
 S/RES/2190 (2014), OP 8
 S/RES/2190 (2014), OPs 10(e)(ii), 13