Period of Time and Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), covering the time period from 14 April to 12 August 2015.
Women, Peace and Security
Pursuant to S/RES 2223 (2015), this report by the Secretary-General gives account on major developments in South Sudan, including updates on the current political, security and humanitarian situation. It specifically refers to the WPS agenda in one instance, confirming that UNMISS uses S/RES/1325 (2000) as an advocacy tool in training women on prevention, participation and protection concerns. The report further highlights that South Sudan acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 30 April. It also reiterates the commitment of UNMISS to the zero-tolerance policy on sexual-exploitation and abuse for all its staff. Given the extensive reporting on the protection of civilian mandate, most references to women focus on the protection pillar of the WPS agenda, calling for specific protection measures for women (and children) and providing sex-disaggregated data in several instances to outline the adverse impact of the severe humanitarian situation as well as human rights abuses, including sexual violence, on women and girls. While reporting on women’s participation in the peace process would ideally be stronger, one can assume that gender-sensitive reporting is being taken equally seriously as in previous reports and that a gender lens is being applied throughout the implementation of the various mandate components.
Considering the newly reached peace agreement from 17 August 2015, the report fails to mention women’s participation in the negotiation process, including the IGAD-plus formula that expanded the participation of key regional and international stakeholders, which leaves it completely blank whether women leaders as well as representatives of women’s civil society were part of the negotiations to ensure a gender-balanced perspective on the issues at stake and to ensure that women’s concerns were adequately addressed.
Considering the adoption of the 2015 Non-Governmental Organizations Bill by the National Legislative Assembly, which establishes a regulatory framework for the operations of national and international non-governmental organizations, the report could have been stronger by detailing the concerns that have been raised by civil society members, particularly women’s civil society organizations. It would have further benefited by additionally commenting on whether organizations working on women’s concerns, including women’s human rights and women’s health, are adversely affected by this bill.
In view of the importance of local-level peace and reconciliation processes, the report should ideally have provided gender-sensitive accounts on whether women are particularly affected by inter-communal disputes over access to pasture and access to water.
Protection of Civilians
Gender-sensitive reporting on the implementation of the PoC mandate is remarkably strong. The provision of sex-disaggregated data in several instances signifies an awareness for the importance of adopting a gender lens to analyze how women, men, girls and boys are affected differently by the severe security and humanitarian situation as well as to ensure that their particular needs are adequately addressed. The mention of UNMISS’s three-tiered early-warning strategy and their endorsement of a “protection through dialogue and engagement” strategy through “daily interaction with community leadership, women, youth and other authorities” particularly demonstrates UNMISS’s awareness to assess and discuss security concerns on a local level and directly with the affected population.
The mention of events on conflict management, mitigation and resolution training for civilians, particularly including women, as well as the account on inter-communal activities and workshops at PoC sites further indicates commitment for supporting inclusive, gender-sensitive grassroots peacebuilding initiatives. One can thus assume an overall awareness for the participation pillar and the centerpiece of the WPS agenda, i.e. recognizing women’s participation as fundamental for the success of all conflict resolution, peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.Ideally, the report would have further detailed whether there are future plans to expand conflict-resolution trainings for inter-communal disputes to communities outside the PoC sites.
However, considering reports on incidences of violence and extortion against women at military checkpoints at the entrance to PoC sites, the report would have benefited from outlining whether there are specific protection mechanisms in place under tier two of the PoC strategy on the provision of physical protection to ensure the safety of women who leave the sites for livelihood activities, including gathering food and firewood. Further, considering the mention of integrated sensitization programs for national police personnel on, inter alia, SGBV, the report would have benefited from mentioning whether the military checkpoints in question were staffed with international peacekeeping or national police personnel to assess whether additional sensitization trainings on SGBV should be established for international military and police staff. In its mention of the opening of South Sudan’s first safe house for survivors of SGBV in Juba, the report could have ideally stated whether additional safe houses are to be opened in other crisis-affected regions to ensure that survivors receive counseling and psychosocial support.
Considering the deteriorating humanitarian situation and challenges in regards to humanitarian access, particularly in remote areas, the report would have highly benefited from commenting on whether UNMISS or any other organization operating in South Sudan, had conducted gender-sensitive needs assessments to identify whether and how women, particularly internally displaced women, are affected differently in order to effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to their needs. The report further fails to mention whether humanitarian assistance includes measures to specifically cater to women’s needs such as secure access to sanitation facilities as well as hygiene and health assistance, including reproductive health, family planning and maternal health services. Additionally, information on whether local civil society organizations, particularly women’s civil society, were consulted in the design and implementation of delivery mechanisms for humanitarian assistance would have been desirable.
Recognizing the increase in women’s human rights violations, particularly sexual violence, including rape, gang rape and abductions, and further human rights abuses against civilians, the report should have detailed whether protection measures are in place within PoC sites, particularly for women and girls leaving the site for livelihood activities, and whether these measures are planned to be extended. Considering the increasing number of women held at detention cells throughout the country, the report could have additionally mentioned whether human rights monitoring and investigation mechanisms are available, including whether women were part of the design and implementation processes. Ideally, the report would have further detailed whether there are specific reporting mechanisms for SGBV available, how they are advertised and how women can access them. The success of reporting and investigation instruments for SGBV critically depends on the provision of easily accessible mechanisms, including physical safe zones staffed with female personnel where the survivors’ integrity is respected, including through assuring that no action will be taken without their consent.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Pursuant to resolution 2223 (2015) on the mandate of UNMISS, particularly OP 4(a)(i), (v), (vi); (b)(i),(ii), (iii), and OP 14 on the protection of civilians mandate, which calls for specific protection provisions for women, including the deployment of Women Protection Advisors, and the implementation of reporting, monitoring and investigation mechanisms for sexual violence, future reports by the Secretary-General must reflect the Security Council’s commitment to the WPS agenda and provide updates on the implementation of gender-sensitive programming regarding both participation and protection concerns. Applying a gender lens throughout the report will ensure that all genders are adequately represented and their particular needs in regards to the severe security, political and humanitarian situation are being met.
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 S/2015/655: P 39, 40, 45, 48, 49, 54
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