Special report of the Secretary-General on the review of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (S/2015/899).

Monday, November 23, 2015
S. Sudan
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Justice, Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform
Security Council Agenda Geographical Topic: 
South Sudan
Document PDF: 

Special report of the Secretary-General on the review of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (S/2015/899).

Code: S/2015/899

Period of Time and Topic: This special report by the Secretary-General reviews the mandate of UNMISS and recommends potential future support for the South Sudan National Police Service and the Joint Integrated Police.

Women, Peace and Security

The report succeeds in incorporating a gender lens into the conflict analysis as well as the review of almost all mandate components of UNMISS, which is further reflected in the recommendations for future mandate adjustments. Stating the purpose of this report in the introductory paragraphs, the report highlights that a cross section of South Sudanese stakeholders, including IDPs, young people, women, and civil society representatives, were consulted in the technical review of the tasks and resources required from and for UNMISS.[1]

In view of the participation pillar of the WPS agenda, the report considers its mandate to “facilitate the inclusion and participation of women at all levels of governance”[2] and reiterates the mission’s commitment to facilitate grassroots as well as state-level conflict efforts “in partnership with local leaders, including women leaders, faith-based groups and agencies to promote dialogue and reconciliation.”[3]

Given the extensive reporting on the PoC mandate, most references to women focus on the protection pillar of the WPS agenda. In its analysis of the key challenges that inhibit sustainable peace in South Sudan, the report identifies pervasive sexual and gender-based violence, including “rape, gang rape, abductions, sexual slavery, forced abortion, and mutilation of women’s bodies” as well as sexual violence against minors, as a grave human rights violation.[4] Specifically referring to resolutions 1960 (2010) and 2106 (2013), the report calls for “activities relating to advocacy, mainstreaming, training and capacity-building and raising awareness inside and outside the Mission on conflict-related sexual violence concerns to enhance prevention and response.”[5]

Considering the grave security situation, the report assesses its engagement with national police staff, including by supporting a confidence and trust-building policy strategy to work with IDPs. If further accounts for workshops held for national police personnel (60 men and 44 women) to raise awareness for civilian protection principles, including human rights and community-oriented policing.[6] Moreover, the report calls for increasing capacity to establish reporting, investigation, verification, and monitoring mechanisms for human rights abuses and violations, including sexual violence, and for implementing transitional justice mechanisms that tackle impunity and increase accountability for, inter alia, conflict related sexual violence. [7]


In its call to support local civil society, the report asks for “supporting human rights defenders, the media and groups for victims and survivors”, which suggests awareness for treating persons affected by human rights abuses as agents for change rather than merely perpetuating the victimization narrative.[8]

Political Process

Reiterating the commitment of UNMISS to encourage and facilitate women’s participation in all decision-making processes, the report should have also specifically addressed women’s participation concerns in the electoral support component of the mandate, including by considering trainings for women candidates as well as women election observers, to ensure women’s unhindered ballot access.[9] An additional call for continuing and expanding mediation trainings for women to strengthen their role in local conflict resolution and reconciliation mechanisms, as reported in S/2015/902, would have been desirable.[10]

Protection of Civilians (PoC)

Reassessing the mission’s engagement with and training of national police staff, the report fails to specifically consider the benefits of increasing the number of female police staff to ensure services of law enforcement institutions are more easily accessible to women and their staff is perceptive to women’s security concerns. The report could have additionally asked for a comprehensive vetting process for police personnel, ensuring that prospective candidates have not previously been involved in allegations of human rights abuses, including SGBV, and for mandatory pre-deployment training on SGBV and the United Nations zero-tolerance policy.[11]

In its considerations of expanding the scope of PoC activities to conflict-affected areas outside of designated PoC sites, the report should have confirmed more precisely that any PoC strategy must be informed by situation-based, on-the-ground assessments, particularly in consultation with local women’s civil society to ensure women’s security concerns are adequately addressed.[12] Additionally, women’s voices must be heard in implementing early warning strategies as well as in assessing high risk areas to identify gender-specific risks, better allocate resources, and deploy forces where needed.

Discussing the design and implementation of strategies for the voluntary return of refugees, the report would have further been stronger by accounting for gender-specific provisions to women refugees, including comprehensive psychosocial and trauma support and the provision of livelihood opportunities for women.[13]

Human Rights

Calling for increasing the mission’s capacity to establish reporting, investigation, verification and monitoring mechanisms for human rights abuses and violations, including sexual violence, the report should have considered the importance of women’s participation in the design and implementation processes.[14] Ideally, a report on the implementation of these instruments would detail how reporting mechanisms for SGBV are established, 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. Moreover, women’s civil society must be at the forefront in establishing transitional justice mechanisms to ensure they are accessible and accountable to women and sensitive to the claims of survivors of SGBV.[15]

Humanitarian Response

The report fails to incorporate a gender dimension into its consideration of the delivery of humanitarian assistance.[16] It fails to call for women’s participation in the design, implementation, and monitoring of secure delivery mechanisms and further fails to mention whether a gender-sensitive assessment of the already realized or planned alleviation measures was or is going to be conducted to ensure that women’s specific needs are fully addressed. Any future humanitarian action must be informed by consultations with local women’s organizations.

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

Adjusting the mandate of UNMISS to support the implementation of the Agreement from August 2015, future mandate renewals must reaffirm, enhance and strengthen the Security Council’s commitment to fully and effectively implement the WPS agenda, including through women’s participation and leadership in all conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts and support for women’s civil society organizations. Given the severe political, humanitarian and security situation, specific attention must be paid to women’s participation in all security-related matters, including through increasing the number of female police officers and military personnel. Recognizing the disproportionate impact of SALW proliferation on women and girls and its link to the perpetration of SGBV, the disarmament of civilians and armed groups must be given priority.  The design, implementation and monitoring of DDR programs must be inclusive of women and represent the voices of women’s civil society. A comprehensive DDR strategy must address the specific needs of female ex-combatants and women associated with armed groups, including through providing safe demobilization sites and gender-sensitive reintegration support. Broader security sector reforms must be informed by women’s civil society participation, ensuring that security institutions are accessible and accountable to women and sensitive to the claims of survivors of SGBV.

The design and implementation of gender-specific protection measures has to be informed by situation-based, on-the-ground analysis to assess whether and how women’s security is particularly endangered. Identifying women a priori as vulnerable might perpetuate the notion of victimization and undermine the assertion that women are important agents for peace and security. This can only be achieved through engagement with women civil society and women leaders that are representative of their respective communities.


[1] S/2015/899: para. 3

[2] S/2015/899: para. 20

[3] S/2015/899: para. 45

[4] S/2015/899: para. 14

[5] S/2015/899: para. 56

[6] S/2015/899: para. 31

[7] S/2015/899: para. 49(b), 51

[8] S/2015/899: para. 53

[9] S/2015/899: para. 24

[10] S/2015/899: para. 45

[11] S/2015/899: para. 33

[12] S/2015/899: para. 37, 38

[13] S72015/899: para. 47

[14] S/2015/899: para. 49(b)

[15] S/2015/899: para. 51f

[16] S/2015/899: para. 59f