Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (S/2016/452).

Monday, June 13, 2016
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Report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (S/2016/452).

Period of Time and Topic: Covering the period 26 February 2016 to 16 May 2016, the report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) mandate and outlines the major political and security developments in Libya as well as provides an overview of the human rights and humanitarian situation.

Women, Peace and Security

Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2273 (2016), the Secretary General’s report outlines information on the major political and security developments in Libya, with an overview of the human rights and humanitarian situations, and provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). References to WPS issues have slightly increased, both in terms of their quantity (from 9 to 11 reference) and scope, since the last report (S/2016/182). Similarly to the previous report, there are no WPS references in the “Observations” portion of the report, which is a critical section for shaping future developments of the mission. For the first time in 2016, references to women and civil society broadly focus on participation, with seven of the eleven WPS-related references citing participation. The increasing focus on women’s participation in the report can be attributed to the continued addition of the “Women’s Empowerment” section, which focuses on women’s participation in political processes. Unfortunately, the report does not offer any analysis on the gender dynamics of the conflict itself, and overall, the report is largely gender blind, missing key opportunities to identify women’s protection concerns in the country’s transition period.

Security Sector (Military and Police, Security Monitoring, and Demilitarization and Arms Management)

The report does not provide any gender analysis of the impact of the flow and proliferation of small arms and light weapons on women; however, there is one reference to activities carried out by the mission which aim to strengthen women’s participation in arms control efforts. The reference is to a risk awareness training program, implemented by the UN Mine Action Service, which engages Libyan women on small arms and light weapons. At a minimum, the report have should provide information on how many Libyan women were engaged by this program as well as in what region of Libya the trainings are taking place.

The report also misses an opportunity to provide any analysis on the integration of gender concerns in UNSMIL supported security activities and/or women’s participation in the security sector. Pursuant to its engagement strategy on interim security arrangements, UNSMIL held consultations with a broad spectrum of security actors, which focused on operational issues, such as behavioral conduct and protection for the National Government of Accord. In addition, the report notes that the mission participated in a conference which discussed possible future international training and mentoring of the Libyan army and police. The report should provide information on women’s participation for all UNSMIL supported security-related dialogues and consultations as well as information on how changes will reflect women’s protection needs in the security sector and the National Unity Government. At a minimum, UNSMIL trainings and support should detail women’s human rights, including issues of sexual and exploitation by security forces.

While the report notes a slight improvement in the security sector, as the result of the December 2015 Libyan Political Agreement, the signing of several local ceasefires in the south, and the retreat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), the report misses an opportunity to provide any analysis on the gender dynamics of the conflict itself, and overall, the report provides gender blind information on the discussion of security issues in western, eastern, and southern Libya as well as in regards to ISIL territorial and economic consolidation. Additionally, no sex disaggregated data is provided for civilian and combatant casualties, detentions, executions and other security-related statistical points. The report also notes that ISIL has imposed a set of new regulations, which include compulsory religious lessons for males between 20 and 50 years of age. As such, the report should provide information on the gender tactics and violence in ISIL-controlled territory.

Political processes and Electoral Assistance

The report does not provide any gender analysis of the on-going political transition, in which the Presidency Council has temporarily installed itself in Tripoli and has retaken control of several Government ministries, despite the failure of the House of Representatives to endorse the proposed Government of National Accord as well as opposition from the Tripoli-based Government of National Salvation. However, there is one reference to activities carried out by the Presidency Council which aims to strengthen civil society participation. The references is to a meeting between the Presidency Council and a number stakeholder, including civil society, in which stakeholders were informed about executive decisions to establish control over state finances. Although the report mentions several official meetings, including a meeting of members of the Libyan Political Dialogue in Tunis and consultations with the General National Congress (March 2016), the report misses an opportunity to discuss women’s participation. From the report, it is unknown whether women sit on the nine-position Presidency Council and/or whether the Presidency Council have engaged at all with women in Tripoli. The report further misses an opportunity to provide any information updates on the implementation of provisions for women on the Libyan Political Agreement (signed December 2015), including whether or not Government of National Accord has given “fair representation of women when selecting its members” (Article 2.2)  and/or whether or not any further steps have been taken to form the “Women Support and Empowerment Unit” (Article 11).

In regards to the constitutional drafting process, UNSMIL contributed to promote the inclusion of “gender provisions” in the draft constitution, by facilitating meetings between Libyan women activists and members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly. The report cites women’s demands for a quota system and the right of Libyan women married to non-Libyan citizens to transfer their nationality to their children. Despite these meeting, the report notes that the most recent draft continues to reflect disagreement among members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly, which include disagreements on “the rights of women and minorities.” These references could be improved by providing information on: which women representatives were included in the discussions, particularly whether or not any women representatives were representatives from civil society; reactions of the Constitution Drafting Assembly to the women’s inputs; and key arguments over women’s rights in the draft Constitution.

Humanitarian Situation and Support

The report does not provide analysis of either the gender dimensions of the humanitarian situation, or the ways in which the humanitarian response, including emergency responses and contingency planning, are responding to gender-specific needs. There are no references to women, civil society, or gender in the report’s discussion of “humanitarian assistance.” The report cites UNICEF support to 593 children participation in community-based child protection and psychosocial support programmes implemented through fixed and mobile spaces.The provision of this information is positive, but there should be information provided on girls in these programs, including whether or not the programs are taking in their specific gender needs, both in terms of protection and medical assistance. At a minimum, there should be sex and age disaggregated data provided for all statistical points, including information on the increasing numbers of conflict-related internally displaced persons, returnees, asylum seekers, and migrants (rescued and perished).

Human Rights

The report provides some information and analysis on the ways in which women’s human rights are being violated. The report notes that at least six civilians were killed in hospitals, including a nurse and her two-year-old son, who were sleeping in their apartment in the compound of the hospital in Zawiyah. In addition, the report cites the arbitrary detention of a 65-year-old woman for more than 11 months, as a result of her children’s alleged links with the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, noting that no charges have yet to be brought against the woman herself. Although the inclusion of this information in the report is positive, the references provide no analysis of the situation of these women, particularly by linking their experiences with the larger issues of human rights abuses against women. The report also vaguely states that women are “frequently targeted by armed groups” for abductions and arbitrary detentions, as a result of their affiliations to their male family members. In addition, women are often held in detentions facilities with no female prison guards. These references should include information on the specific protection concerns for women, particularly in detentions facilities with all male authorities. Overall, the references to women’s protection in the report fail to make the link between the cited incidence of violence and the ongoing concerns regarding women’s human rights abuses in Libya.

The report also provides two references to UNSMIL related activities intended to increase women’s participation. On 10 March 2016, the mission organized an International Women’s Day event, which brought together more than 30 Libyan women and men to discuss women’s advancement, in particular the role of women in promoting peace.In addition, from 19 to 25 March, UNSMIL and UNDP jointly supported the participation of six Libyan women, from the House of Representatives, the General National Congress, and civil society, in the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York, which included their participation in a Libyan side event, attended by more than 60 persons from Member State missions, the League of Arab States, the African Union and United Nations entities. Although the inclusion of these references is positive, the references fail to provide information on the outcome of these events as well as explain how these outcomes will be articulated in the larger political structure. These reference could also be improved by citing the particular demands and challenges identified by Libyan women at these events, particularly taking note of their diversity of experience in different leadership positions.

Rule of Law

The report does not offer any analysis on the gender dimensions of the judicial sector, missing key opportunities to provide information on women’s protection concerns in the continually “impeded” judicial system. The report notes that increasing violent activity in Benghazi, Derna, and Sirte have hindered multiple courts’ ability to function; however, the report misses an opportunity to provide analysis on how court closures have impacted women’s access to justice in these regions. In addition, the report cites the death of at least 4 detainees and 20 injuries at the al-Nasr detention facility, evidencing “ the serious concern regarding the dire situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya,” which includes “conditions related to their treatment and prolonged detention.” The report should have provided information on the situation of women at al-Nasr detention facility, including their conditions and experience with violence, as well as linked this particular instance to the larger issues concerning women in detention. Most importantly, the report also misses an opportunity to provide gender analysis of IS/Daesh courts in ISIL controlled territories and information on how women’s human rights have been violated by sentences in their courts.

International cooperation and coordination

The reports notes that the arrival of the Presidency Council in Tripoli provided “renewed impetus” for United Nations efforts on the coordination of international assistance to Libya. The report provides two references carried out by UN and international actors which aim to strengthen civil society and women’s participation. In February 2016, as part of efforts to strengthen the capacities of civil society organizations in support of the democratic transition of Libya, UNDP provided technical assistance to a conflict-sensitivity initiative aimed at establishing a Libyan “leadership group” to serve as a platform for shared conflict analysis that would inform United Nations and international community engagement in Libya. In addition, on 31 March 2016, UNSMIL, in partnership with UNDP, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, convened the third Libyan Experts Development Cooperation Forum in Tripoli, in which discussions focused on the urgent challenges facing Libya, including the decline in the status of women and their presence in public life and the need to strengthen civil society. Although these activities can create positive changes in the political sector, the references should have provided information on both events attendees, particularly in regards to individual women experts and women’s organizations, as well as information on the outcomes of the engagements and steps forwards.

Ideal Asks

Future reports must provide specific information on the violation of women’s human rights, including sexual and gender based violence, in a number of settings, including the security sector, migration detentions, and in all three broadly-identified areas of the country. In their mandated monitoring of the on-going civilian casualties and human rights abuses, UNSMIL must provide comprehensive information on the situation for women, which helps to evidence the differential impacts of conflict on all genders. It is critical that reports mainstream gender as a crosscutting issue, providing at a minimum, sex disaggregated data on civilian casualties, injuries, and detentions. In instances in which specific instances of violence against women are identified, reports should provide gender analysis and link the incident to the larger issues regarding women’s human rights. All future activities of the mission to support the security sector must also provide information on women’s participation as well as ensure that women’s protection, particularly in regards to sexual exploitation and abuses, is included in all efforts to train Libyan security forces. In regards to the political transition, UNSMIL’s continued support to women’s participation must identify women’s main demands in the political sector. At a minimum, future reports must advocate for women’s participation at all levels of the political process as well as in the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement, particularly the provisions that ensure women’s representation.