Period of Time and Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), covering the time period since the previous report from 16 June 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. The rare mentions of women-specific concerns are solely in relation to the protection pillar, including accounts of sensibilization trainings on SGBV for UNISFA military personnel and members of the Community Protection Committee by UNISFA police personnel. It further reports on the training of 36 women on promoting awareness for SGBV without specifying whether these women were part of international staff or local women (leaders/civil society representatives). Additionally, the report provides sex-disaggregated data in its reference to the strength of the UNISFA police component. Interestingly, while the report dedicates one paragraph to commenting on special provisions for children as “the most vulnerable from violence, exploitation and other abuse”, 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. Hence, this report joins the ranks of previous reporting that has only very selectively informed on WPS-related concerns.
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
While the report states that the security situation remains “stable but unpredictable”, 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 traditional and 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 including women in the UNISFA-led efforts to establish the Community Protection Committee in order to ensure women’s security concerns are adequately addressed.
The report completely fails to refer to the participation pillar of the WPS agenda, which it could have considered in regards to women’s participation in meetings of the traditional leaders’ dialogue. It further does not mention the importance of including women’s civil society in the UNISFA-led efforts to focus on grassroots-level dialogue in preparation for a future reconciliation conference. 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.
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 families”, accounting for widows, disabled and elderly persons, was actually informed by a vulnerability assessment and whether the decision not to mention female-headed households 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.