Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) covering the time period between 11 September 2015 and 31 October 2015.
Women, Peace and Security
The Secretary-General’s report gives account on major developments in the Abyei Area, including updates on the current political, security and humanitarian situation as well as the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. The report does not include any specific references to the WPS agenda, such as mentions of WPS resolutions. Reporting on women- and girls-specific concerns is limited to one observation, stating that the education of girls is particularly affected by the conflict, which results in high dropout rates in higher primary education. Additionally, the report offers some sex-disaggregated data on the strength of the UNISFA police component.
Interestingly, while the report gives detailed account on provisions for the protection of children, who are said to be among the most vulnerable, it does not apply a gender lens to analyze how women, men, girls and boys are affected differently, which emphasizes an overall unawareness for gender-sensitive reporting. Moreover, given that the report completely fails to take conflict-related SGBV into consideration, reporting on WPS-related concerns has seen a further decline compared to previous reporting periods.
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
The report completely fails to refer to the participation pillar of the WPS agenda, which it could have considered in its reporting on the UNISFA-led efforts to promote grassroots-level dialogue and mediation “to achieve mutual respect for each community’s culture and livelihood and [commitment] to a series of follow-up conferences.” One can thus assume an overall unawareness for the participation pillar and therefore 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. Given the prevalence of community-based disputes in the Abyei Area, addressing the root causes of conflict and fostering reconciliation and healing is unlikely to succeed if the voices of women remain unheard.
While the report states that the security situation remained calm during the reporting period, it gives no account on whether women continue to be adversely affected or whether there have been any improvements in regards to women’s security, particularly in regard to SGBV. The report particularly failed to comment on the situation of women IDPs and returnees. Considering the UNISFA-facilitated Joint Security Committee meetings with community leaders, the report would have been much stronger if it had included whether women that are representative of their communities were part of these consultations to ensure any security-related decisions, such as patrols, are informed by the women’s voices and take into account women’s specific security concerns. Further, the report would have been stronger if it had mentioned the importance of training women to participate in patrolling activities by the UNISFA-led Community Protection Committee in order to ensure women’s security concerns are adequately addressed.
The report would have highly benefited from commenting on whether any of the UN agencies, funds and programs or NGOs operating in the Abyei Area had conducted gender-sensitive needs assessments to identify whether and how women, particularly women IDPs and returnees, are affected differently in order to effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to their needs. An indication of whether the identification of vulnerable groups, including children and agro-pastoralist groups, was actually informed by a vulnerability assessment and whether the decision not to mention women in general – and female-headed households and women IDPs and returnees in particular – was a conscious one, would have been also interesting. Ideally, the report would have provided information on whether women and female-headed households are adversely affected by environmental hazards, e.g. heavy rainfalls and floods, and, consequently, by food insecurity. 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, are consulted in the design and implementation of delivery mechanisms for humanitarian assistance would have been desirable. The report would have further benefited from commenting on whether women are specifically targeted in vocational training programs and whether they receive specific help in establishing their own businesses, e.g. in the Abyei town market, as outlined in the report.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Pursuant to resolution 1990 (2011) on the mandate of UNISFA, 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 security concerns. Applying a gender lens throughout the report will ensure that all genders are adequately represented and their particular needs in regards to the volatile security, political and humanitarian situation are being met.