This is the final report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), as the Office concludes its mission and transitions to a UN Country Team. As it is the final review, the Report begins with an overview of UNIPSIL mandate implementation across its history from 2008-2014. It then proceeds to cover major developments within Sierra Leone during this final period of review, and offers an assessment of the remaining challenges facing Sierra Leone after UNIPSIL’s drawdown. After noting the many achievements of Sierra Leone with UNIPSIL support, the Secretary-General highlights a number of persistent challenges linked to the root causes of the conflict that continue to require attention, including: the high poverty rate, corruption, youth unemployment, mutual distrust between the two main political parties (APC and SLPP), election-related tensions and perceived ethnic and regional imbalances and political exclusion. This requires further work in rule of law, human rights, accountability and political tolerance, and the successful conclusion of the constitutional review process and implementation of the Agenda for Prosperity.
This Report includes many strong references to women’s participation, including: the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding (para. 2); the creation of cross-party women organizations (All Political Parties Women’s Association), who helped to promote peaceful elections and inter-party dialogue (para. 4); a program aimed at promoting non-violence and political participation, especially of women and youth (para. 7); and a series of dialogues organized to facilitate discussion of the constitutional review process with women’s groups and others (para. 36).
Beyond an exclusive focus on participation, the Report also highlights the development of a National Action Plan in line with Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), and a broader agenda promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment and the combating of violence against women (para. 16). UNIPSIL has also given technical and financial assistance to state and non-state actors working on human rights and advocating for crucial laws relating to women and other vulnerable groups (paras. 15, 49), and helped to facilitate the development of the All Political Parties Women’s Association and of family support units within the national police force (para. 16).
Although the Secretary-General is generally outspoken on the importance of women’s participation in different areas of public life, he places much less emphasis upon the need for women’s protection in this Report. There are a few vague references to combating violence against women and to advocating for laws that promote the rights of women, but few specifics on the current status of women’s protection or the need to consolidate any gains made as the missions transitions into a country team (although the Secretary General did mention the creation of family units within the national police force). More attention is needed on the role of the police in combating sexual offenses and violence against women and children, as noted by the Secretary-General in his previous Report (paras. 44 & 50, S/2013/547), and how prevention and gender-sensitive response capabilities will be further integrated after UNIPSIL departs.
There were also missed opportunities to promote women’s participation beyond the political and reconciliation arenas, such as the need for more socioeconomic investment in employment and business opportunities for women and girls (as referenced, again, in the previous Report, paras. 24, 36).
This Report is modestly responsive to the most recent MAP on Sierra Leone (March 2014). There is considerable support expressed for women’s participation in political life as well as for their meaningful engagement in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding. However, there is little to no attention given to women’s involvement in other aspects of Sierra Leone’s future, including their roles within the economic and social spheres, nor is there sufficient emphasis placed on consolidating the gains made for women in the transition to the UN country team.
The previous Report of the Secretary- General, S/2013/547, generally had more references to women, peace and security concerns than the current Report. However, the current Report is also shorter with fewer specifics, as it is the final report of the Secretary-General on UNIPSIL, and so is more overarching in its comments.
Security Council debate on the final report of the Secretary-General on UNIPSIL, dated 26 March 2014 (S/PV.7148)
Mr. Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, the Executive Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), and Mr. Guillermo Rishchynski, Chair of Sierra Leone country-specific configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission, introduced the Final Report of the Secretary-General on UNIPSIL, S/2014/192, and led the final briefing and debate before the Mission’s drawdown. Most of the remarks centered around the positive achievements of the Mission, as well as the challenges that still remain as Sierra Leone moves forward. In that regard, the end of the debate also included the text of the adopted Presidential Statement, S/PRST/2014/6, which welcomed considerable progress made in Sierra Leone, recognized the contributions of UNIPSIL and the Peacebuilding Commission, and stressed the important work that remains and the need for continued support in the future.
A number of speakers referenced the importance of women’s inclusion and political participation both past and in the future (Jordan, Argentina, Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Sierra Leone), with Sierra Leone pointing to its efforts to ensure more women in positions of authority in government, security forces and other key institutions. The representative from Sierra Leone also recognized UNIPSIL’s work in (among other things) furthering gender empowerment in the country, and claimed that Sierra Leone was ensuring greater access to healthcare for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children than at any time in the country’s history. The Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission acknowledged the work of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the precedent set concerning forced marriage, and noted that United Nations technical assistance was being provided in this transition phase in (again among other things) enshrining human rights and addressing women’s rights.
Argentina and especially Lithuania, though, were the most comprehensive in their comments on women, peace and security, with Argentina acknowledging a law that had been passed with the aim of ensuring gender equality, preventing, eradicating and punishing violence against women, and strengthening their political participation; and Lithuania encouraging Sierra Leone and United Nations entities to continue supporting women’s full and equal participation in the country’s political, economic and social spheres., advocating that all political parties in Sierra Leone encourage and empower more women to participate in politics and give them more opportunities to seek election to Parliament and key positions in it, noting the proposal to enact a gender empowerment bill that would give statutory endorsement to a 30 per cent quota for women’s participation, and calling for political and financial support to be directed towards civil society organizations led by women in order to enable them to engage meaningfully in building the country’s future.
Although there were a number of references to women, peace and security in this final briefing and debate on UNIPSIL, not one of the P-5 touched upon WPS. And neither did the ERSG. Therefore, one missed opportunity was for more Members of the Council to highlight the importance of WPS and the imperative need to consolidate gains made for women as the Mission transitions out of the country.
Further, as with the Final Report of the Secretary-General, S/2014/192, there was almost no attention given to women’s protection needs. Even Lithuania, whose thoughtful and vocal statement brought great attention to women’s participation needs going forward, was silent on women’s protection.
Several speakers, and especially Lithuania, responded to the most recent MAP on Sierra Leone (March 2014), calling for continued efforts to support women’s full and equal participation. However, only Lithuania called for women’s participation beyond the political spectrum in the economic and social spheres (although several others did acknowledge ‘gender empowerment’ more broadly), and only Lithuania called for the political and financial supporting of civil society organizations led by women.
The previous meeting on situation in Sierra Leone, S/PV.7034, was only a briefing, and so did not include remarks from the broader Council. However, when comparing the comments from the ERSG, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and the representative from Sierra Leone, there was a consistency from the previous meeting to the current one. The ERSG again made no reference to women, peace and security concerns, but both the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and the representative from Sierra Leone acknowledged the eighth pillar of the Agenda for Prosperity (gender), both pointed to initiatives that aim to increase women’s political participation, and the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission also recognized proposals to combat violence against women and to improve women’s economic empowerment.
Presidential Statement on the situation in Sierra Leone, dated 26 March 2014 (S/PRST/2014/6)
This Presidential Statement marked the end of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), welcomed considerable progress made in Sierra Leone since the Mission’s beginning in 2008, recognized the contributions of UNIPSIL and the Peacebuilding Commission, and stressed the important work that remains and the need for continued support in the future.
There were no references to women, peace and security concerns.
Despite the Final Report of the Secretary-General on UNIPSIL, S/2014/192, stressing the importance of women’s participation, and the final debate in the Council including a number of references to the need for women’s continued participation in the future, the Council missed the opportunity in its Presidential Statement to emphasize the consolidation of these gains and the promotion of women’s participation in the future. The Council also missed the opportunity call for greater women’s involvement in other aspects of public life (i.e. economic and social sectors), and to underscore the need for women’s protection, especially with regards to sexual offenses and violence against women and children.
As there was no attention given to women, peace and security, this Presidential Statement was not responsive to the most recent MAP on the situation in Sierra Leone (March 2014). Therefore, there was no mention of the need to continue efforts to promote women’s full and equal participation in the political, economic and social spheres, nor of the political and financial resources necessary to ensure women’s meaningful engagement in the country’s future, such as through the support of women-led civil society organizations.
The previous Presidential Statement on the situation in Sierra Leone, S/PRST/2012/25, was eighteen months prior and more specific to its then-recent elections. More recently, the Council adopted resolution 2097 (2013), which – as a resolution – was more comprehensive than the current Presidential Statement, but nevertheless, offered much greater attention to women, peace and security concerns. It spoke of the promotion of gender equality; noted efforts to ensure the full and equal participation of women in the electoral process; urged the passage of the Gender Equality Bill; and encouraged the Government of Sierra Leone to continue implementing the National Gender Strategic Plan and the Sierra Leone National Action Plan to address Gender-Based Violence. Although the current Presidential Statement is naturally shorter and more overarching than the previous resolution, in such a period of transition, the Presidential Statement can still set the foundation for future work and help to consolidate gains made. Yet it offers no attention to WPS.
United Nations Security Council S/2014/211 (24 March 2014) on Sierra Leone – Peacebuilding Commission
Letter dated 24 March 2014 from the Chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission addressed to the President of the Security Council
There were no references to the women, peace and security agenda. There were also no references to civil society nor human rights.
As the Chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission referenced his trip to take stock of the progress on peacebuilding as the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone prepares for withdrawal, he missed a chance to use a gender lens on his brief statement that discussed proposals for a scaled-down, lighter and more responsive form of engagement by the PBC.