Report of the Secretary-General on Somalia (S/2015/331).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding
Security Council Agenda Geographical Topic: 
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Report of the Secretary-General on Somalia (S/2015/331).

Code: S/2015/331

Period of Time and Topic: Covering the period from 1 January to 30 April 2015, the report informs of the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

Women, Peace and Security

The Secretary-General Report on the implementation of UNSOM details the major political and security developments, emphasizing progressive steps in the federalization process, on-going Al-shabaab and clan violence, and the humanitarian situation. The report provides considerable information on women’s inclusion in the political process. In comparison to past reports, gender disaggregated data is provided for substantially more processes of state formation, particularly in terms of political representation of women in newly formed state structures. The Cabinet of the Prime Minister was reported to have 5 women-held positions out of 66,[1] while the Cabinet of the Interim South-West Administration reported 4 women out of 63.[2] In addition, in January the National Independent Electoral Commission law provided for at least 2 female commissioners.[3] The incorporation of this data not only helps to support the report’s claim that women’s participation in the clan-based political structure remains a major challenge,[4] but also gives a clear indication of the situation for women in the political process. Although no data for Somaliland was provided, the report also identified that the ruling party, Kulmiye, urges Parliament to approve important legislation on the political participation of women,[5] which further signifies that pervasiveness of the issue of women’s participation throughout a diversity of regions in the country.

The Secretary-General’s report identified measures taken by UNSOM to increase women’s participation in the political processes and the security sector. In March, UNSOM supported members of civil society that advocate for women’s representation though facilitating a Somali Women’s Leadership Initiative-Led solidarity mission to Kismaayo, which supported local women’s groups in negotiates with the regional authorities and local elders for participation in the regional assembly process in the Jubba regions.[6] Following the Oversight Committee formal initiation of the constitutional review process on 19 March,[7] UNSOM, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), and UNDP formed a working group to ensure that Somali women’s voices are heard during the review process.[8] In addition, on International Women’s Day, the UN Special Representative held open consultations to provide women with an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the on-going political process.[9] UNSOM also provided advice to the Federal Government on a recruitment strategy for female officers.[10] The Secretary-General’s final observations commended the Interim Administrations of Juba and South West for their efforts towards inclusion, but demanded greater overall participation of women, calling for “women, minorities and youth [to] be well represented in all the processes.”[11]

In regards to women’s protection, the report focused primarily on sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). The report noted that the rates of seuxal violence are similar to that in 2014, with already 200 cases of rape reported in January and February, particularly within the Banaadir region.[12] Notably, the report also identifies the main perpetrators of sexual violence, armed men, but also implicates the Somali army and police forces, AMISOM, and Al-Shabaab as perpetrators.[13] The report provided gender disaggregated for the broad category of grave violations against children, citing gender-based violations and early marriages.[14] The report also identifies displaced persons,[15] especially women and girls,[16] as the main targets of SGBV, emphasizing the vulnerability of minority clan members.[17] The report recognizes that women and children disproportionately make up the 1.1 million displaced within Somalia, which further emphasizes the degree of insecurity.[18] Violent threats are also reported against female disengaged combatants.[19]

The report identifies a number of developments to mitigate the situation for women and other survivors of SGBV, including the Federal Government’s development of a National Action Plan on Sexual Violence in May 2014 and the pending Sexual Offenses Bill, which criminalizes rape.[20] Further, the report notes the completion of AMISOM’s report on sexual abuses allegations and welcomes the publication of the report and implementation of recommendations suggested by AMISOM.[21] The African Union and the UN Special Representative also jointly committed to uphold the zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers.[22] More concretely, UNSOM facilitated mandatory deployment training on gender for 80 Ugandan soldiers joining AMISOM.[23]

The report also considers the situation for women in regards to recovery, noting the delivery of essential package of health services was rolled out in 39 districts, benefitting more than 25,000 pregnant women.[24] In addition, the Secretary-General cites equitable economic opportunities for Somali women as a key priority of recovery.[25] The report provides some gender analysis of Somali women’s economic fate, noting that women in Somalia mostly occupy low-paying jobs in the informal sector.[26]

References in Need of Improvement

Although numerical data on women’s representation increased in this report, women’s participation would be better understood if gender mainstreaming was adopted across all reporting. Gender mainstreaming reporting would also give an indication of the situation on women in regions that are not mentioned in this report, such as Puntland, aiding in the overall understanding of the situation of women in Somalia and their diverse needs. In addition, UNSOM supported women’s participation through a single mission in Kismaayo.[27] However, no indication was given as to the outcome of the mission; nor, did the report provide a justification for why the mission only targeted women in Kismaayo. Transparency would also have improved references in which UNSOM and the Special Representative consulted women to ensure their inclusion. How women’s grievances are understood by the UN and how this information is provided to the Federal Government of Somalia has a significant impact on women’s fate within the system. The Secretary General can improve upon these references by providing clarification of communication channels to ensure gender dynamics, or other dynamics, between the UN and Federal Government of Somalia are not hindering the induction of women-provided information. The Secretary-General’s demands for women’s inclusion would also be aided by the sole focus of the reference on women. Discussing women, minorities and youth’s inclusion together may diminish the commitment to women’s participation as it links all women to a broad array of grievances that may or may not apply to all women in Somalia, such as clan minority representation. Further, the underrepresentation of women may be further diminished by coupling women and youth, as not all youth will be permitted to participate in Vision 2016 as voters, candidates, or monitors, given their status as children.

In regards to women’s protection, references to SGBV would have been stronger with gender disaggregated data, particularly in regards to gender based violence perpetrated against children. Reports of rape were also concentrated in three areas, with an emphasis on the Banaadir region,[28] but no follow-up information was provided to help understand the high rates of rape in these regions and/or the gender and conflict dynamics that are conducive to SGBV. Although the report outlined known groups of perpetrators of SGBV, such references would have been improved with a call to end impunity, discussion of further legal rights of women, and the call for training of all deployed officers, national and international. Most importantly, having identified that displaced individuals are the most likely targets of SGBV and other violence,[29] the report should have made a connection between conflict, displacement, and SGBV and emphasized the protection of displaced persons in camps, particularly demanding that family units be kept intact, given that separation from families is when girls and boys are known to most likely experiences gender-based violence in Somalia.[30]

Finally, the discussion on women as low-income wage earners would have been aided by further gender analysis of the job market, unemployment, and overall Somali underdevelopment that may reveal why women occupy such jobs within society and how such jobs impacts their security and political representation opportunities.

Missed Opportunities

The Secretary-General missed a number of opportunities to fully and consistently incorporate references to women’s participation and women’s protection into the present report. Although women were mentioned in the Interim Administrations of Juba and South-West,[31] women were absent from the discussion of the reconciliation processes in the central region.[32] Throughout the entire report, the Secretary-General missed an opportunity to incorporate gender mainstreaming across all reporting. As a result, the situation of women in multiple regions, particularly at the local level, is unknown. Further, discussions of developments in the federalization processes did not highlight women’s participation.[33] In the high-level meeting of the Federal Government and interim regional administrations,[34] the Secretary-General should have advocated for the inclusion of women’s rights and women’s political participation on the political agenda. In addition, advocating for women’s representation in the political processes should have been encouraged in the future roll-out of the nation-wide civic education campaign,[35] particularly with regards to targeting women in the campaign to ensure their realization of their right to political participation.

In the security sector, the report missed an opportunity to discuss the gendered dynamics and impacts of Al-Shabaab, particularly in regard to humanitarian access. This is concerning given that women and children are reported to disproportionately make up the majority of displaced persons within camps.[36] Gender disaggregated data should also have been provided whenever available to all Al-Shabaab activities, civilian causalities, arrests, and other forms of violence. In his observations, the Secretary-General also missed an important opportunity to call for the inclusion and engagement of women in all countering-violent extremism measures taken by security forces.

The report also did not provide any gender analysis of the on-going stabilization efforts. Although the reports notes that a caretaker system has been instituted at the regional level,[37] reports of human rights violations[38] do not delineate violations against women. Further, while a training of Custodial Corps and Somali police by UNSOM continues,[39] the report fails to call for gender training and gender mainstreaming in reporting of violations for all trained officers. Overall, the Secretary General missed a key opportunity to call for a rights-based approach to security that not only emphasizes women’s rights, but also women’s inclusion in the protection of their rights in the security sector.

Given the reports focus on economic recovery and revenues, the report also missed a notable opportunity to report on the situation for girls in Somalia. Gender disaggregated data should be provided for all educational and health services cited.[40] Further, the Secretary-General missed an opportunity to encourage the targeting of girls in the youth employment joint programme.[41]

Finally, in the humanitarian sector, the report missed an opportunity to provide information on the gender impacts and dynamics of evictions and reduced remittances to Somalis[42] as well as advocate for the targeting of humanitarian relief, such as the building of livelihoods investments,[43] to women. 

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

 Gender mainstreaming must be adopted in reporting to ensure that the situation of women in all regions of Somalia is understood by the UN system and the Federal Government of Somalia. Greater emphasis should be put on collecting data regarding all formation activities, civilian causalities, provision of aid, arrests, economic conditions and SGBV. More specific reporting on WPS should be adopted, especially concerning UN interventions to consolidate women’s participation in government. Further, although reporting has identified a key link between displacement and SGBV,[44] the Secretary-General report needs to emphasize the protection of displaced women and girls. A first step in this process requires advocating for the incorporation of gender and women’s human rights training for all national and international security forces working within the country’s security sector.


[1] S/2015/331 para. 2

[2] S/2015/331 para. 5.

[3] S/2015/331 para. 26, 57

[4] S/2015/331 para. 57

[5] S/2015/331 para. 8

[6] S/2015/331 para. 58

[7] S/2015/331 para. 24

[8] S/2015/331 para. 25

[9] S/2015/331 para. 58

[10] S/2015/331 para. 32

[11] S/2015/331 para. 93

[12] S/2015/331 para. 62

[13] S/2015/331 para. 62

[14] S/2015/331 para. 60

[15] S/2015/331 para. 61, 62

[16] S/2015/331 para. 62

[17] S/2015/331 para. 62

[18] S/2015/331 para. 65

[19] S/2015/331 para. 39

[20] S/2015/331 para. 63

[21] S/2015/331 para. 96

[22] S/2015/331 para. 63

[23] S/2015/331 para. 80

[24] S/2015/331 para. 51

[25] S/2015/331 para. 47

[26] S/2015/331 para. 47

[27] S/2015/331 para. 58

[28] S/2015/331 para. 62

[29] S/2015/331 para. 60, 62

[30] S/2015/331 para. 60

[31] S/2015/331 para. 2-5

[32] S/2015/331 para. 6

[33] S/2015/331 para. 23

[34] S/2015/331 para. 23

[35] S/2015/331 para. 23

[36] S/2015/331 para. 65

[37] S/2015/331 para. 21

[38] S/2015/331 para. 22

[39] S/2015/331 para. 43

[40] S/2015/331 para. 22, 52, 69

[41] S/2015/331 para. 44

[42] S/2015/331 para. 65

[43] S/2015/331 para. 69

[44] S/2015/331 para. 60, 62