Report of the Secretary-General on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia (S/2016/843)

Friday, October 7, 2016
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Report of the Secretary-General on the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia (S/2016/843)

Date: 7 October 2016

Topic: This report discusses implementation of Resolution 2246 (2015) and includes the situation with respect to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia and major developments for the period between 12 October 2015 and 30 September 2016.

Women, Peace and Security Introduction

Since 2011, there has been a reported overall trend in piracy decline off the coast of Somalia due to progress in state-building, peacebuilding, and situational awareness and deterrents for ships, yet progress remains “fragile and reversible.” Women's protection is mentioned once in the report, but it does not constitute a substantial reference to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda, and represents no change in scope or quantity of references since the last report. Somali pirates have released only one hostage in 2016: he was kidnapped with his female Kenyan colleague who was still being held hostage at the time of reporting.

References in Need of Improvement

This reference could have been improved in a number of ways. The Secretary-General should have analyzed the situation facing this woman, called for her release, discussed reasons why she was not released, and status of efforts to have her released. Given that no data provided for people currently being held hostage is sex-disaggregated and conflicting non-UN reports on these numbers in relation to piracy abound, several other things should have been mentioned to contextualize and analyze her situation. These include the duration of her detention, where she was kidnapped and what role she was serving in when she was kidnapped. Doing so can enhance understanding of how or why pirates target women and to what end or extent this is happening.

Missed Opportunities

Although the report discusses national, regional and international efforts to counter and prevent piracy, all of these initiatives reported are entirely gender-blind. One specific actor, the Board of the Trust Fund, agreed that “gender analysis” should be included in the developments of all future project proposals as expressed in the last report, but the present report does not illuminate any gender analysis in those activities. Every other initiative divulges neither evidence of concern about sexual exploitation of women and children in pirate-controlled areas and their coercion to participate in pirate-supporting activities, nor mentions the need to ensure that counter-piracy activities, especially land-based ones, “protect women and children from exploitation, including sexual exploitation,” as stated in the mandate. Moreover, the report missed an opportunity to discuss these aspects of the mandate, or any human rights considerations, in the section titled “International legal and judicial issues, including human rights considerations.” There is a full range of threats and human rights violations and abuses experienced by women in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and more must be done to ensure transitional justice measures address these violations and abuses. Women and girls experience a differentiated impact of violations and abuses of human rights, forced displacement, enforced disappearances and destruction of civilian infrastructure, as acknowledged in WPS Resolution 2122.

More specifically, INTERPOL is in the process of implementing a hostage debriefing initiative aimed at released hostages to “help build a stronger understanding of pirate networks,” including determining pirate’s clan affiliations and evaluating relevance of evidence gathered from released hostages. However, there is no indication of intention to investigate the diverse roles of women in piracy and how they may or may not contribute to the illicit activities, or the gender dynamics and impacts of piracy on women and girls, particularly monitoring and reporting on the use of sexual exploitation and abuse by pirates. At minimum, the Secretary-General’s call in the Observations section for the return of hostages should have specifically addressed women and girl hostages.

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

Several things should be addressed to transform the situation for women as related to piracy in Somalia: underlying drivers, economic conditions, reintegration programs, planning and funding. The drivers of piracy remain unchanged, particularly the lack of economic opportunity and criminal networks, and if they are not addressed, piracy could re-emerge; several non-governmental organizations work to improve these conditions, and are essential to fighting piracy and long-term improvement of livelihoods, not least because some have unique access to affected communities. All future efforts towards this end should include a gender dynamic that targets women’s and girls’ participation in the Somali economy, at least by recognizing the unique agency women have in this crucial initiative, and addressing their specific needs. Having strong links and closing gaps between UN peace and security in the field, human rights and development work is integral to addressing root causes of armed conflict and threats to security of women and girls, as per WPS Resolution 2122

Similarly, UNODC and Trust Fund projects, which aim, among other things, to enable rehabilitation of juvenile offenders and endow them with skills necessary for reintegration into society, should specifically target women and girls both as beneficiaries of the project and as agents who can facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of juveniles back into society. At a minimum, donors should be called to earmark funding to increase cooperation on WPS related concerns. In sum, nationally-owned processes of development, state-building and peacebuilding are integrally linked to eliminating the threat of piracy in Somalia, but this will not be achieved or sustained without women, who are half of the population, participating fully and actively in decision making, design and implementation. Women's and girls’ empowerment and gender equality are critical to conflict prevention and efforts to maintain international peace and security.