Date: 15 April 2016
Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), pursuant to S/RES/2251 (2015), and covering the time period between 14 November 2015 and 15 April 2016.
Women, Peace and Security
The Secretary-General’s report gives account on major developments in the Abyei Area, including updates on the current security, political, and humanitarian situation as well as the implementation of the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism. References to the WPS agenda are limited to two rather descriptive mentions of activities by UNISFA, including induction training sessions for military personnel by the UNISFA police gender cell and the organization of two global open days on WPS relating to the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 (2000). Further reporting on women- and girls-specific concerns is limited to one remark about food-related activities to encourage girls’ education. Additionally, the report offers some sex-disaggregated data on the strength of the UNISFA police component. The report does not apply a gender lens to analyze how women, men, girls and boys are affected differently by the volatile security situation and seasonal climatic effects on their livelihood activities , 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 not seen any improvement compared to previous reporting periods.
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
While the report states that the security situation remained “unpredictable but generally 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 relating to SGBV. Ideally, the report would have highlighted whether perceived insecurity infringes on women’s mobility and hinders them in pursuing livelihood activities. The report further fails to comment on the situation of women IDPs and returnees. Considering the conflict prevention and mitigation strategy of UNISFA and 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 community-based interactive 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 committees 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 its reporting on the UNISFA-led efforts to promote grassroots-level dialogue between hostile communities. 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. Ideally, the report would have provided information on whether women and female-headed households are adversely affected by environmental hazards, e.g. lack of rainfall and anticipated drought, and, consequently, by food insecurity. Aside from mentioning that programs are in place to reduce the risk of malnutrition of pregnant and nursing mothers, the report should have further mentioned 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 literacy classes.
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.