The Report of the Secretary-General, dated 12 September 2013 (S/2013/547), covers major developments in Sierra Leone during the reporting period of 1 March 2013 to 31 August 2013, as well as offers an update on the drawdown of the United Nations Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) and its transfer of responsibilities to a United Nations country team, scheduled to be completed by 31 March 2014 (pursuant to SCR 2097 of 26 March 2013). More specifically, the report highlights the beginning of the constitutional review process, the launching of the Third Poverty Reduction Strategy (known as “Agenda for Prosperity (2013-2018)”) and other socioeconomic developments, and UN efforts to advance peacebuilding, transition to the country team, and address corresponding challenges.
Women, peace and security concerns are raised in several capacities throughout the report. As a cross-cutting theme, the report includes a section on “gender issues” (paras. 48-51), which begins by acknowledging President Koroma’s stated commitment to gender equality, having recently cited the appointment of women to several public positions, a proposal to establish a National Commission for Women, the need for gender equality legislation, and the inclusion of a gender pillar in the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity as evidence in this regard (para. 48, also para. 17).
The report highlights the importance of women’s participation or consultation in various political and transitional processes, including via: the SG’s calls for youth and women’s organizations to continue to serve as platforms for building national cohesion (para. 69), UNIPSIL’s efforts to engage women and youth groups in the constitutional review process (para. 55, also para. 9), consultation with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs on the preparation of Sierra Leone’s report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (para. 42), UN-Women’s support for local councils striving to achieve greater women’s participation and equal gender balance at all levels of local governance (para. 24), training for women parliamentarians (para. 49), and conflict prevention programs prioritizing women’s groups as major stakeholders (para. 58). In addition, the report offers several instances of gender-disaggregated data, socioeconomic investments in employment and business opportunities with a focus on women and girls, and access to services for women and girls, including pregnant adolescents (paras. 24, 36, 51).
There are also references to the protection of women and children, including the role of the police in dealing with sexual offenses and combating violence against women and children (paras. 44 & 50), as well as efforts to promote and protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons (para. 43).
Gender is not mainstreamed throughout the report, however, with key areas lacking a sufficient gender perspective. Although UNDP and the Government are aiming for a transparent and inclusive constitutional review process, and UNIPSIL is facilitating engagement with women’s groups (among others), the report misses the opportunity to stress the need for changes to discriminatory aspects of the 1991 constitution, including those provisions related to marriage, divorce and inheritance. Such laws also relate to questions of land ownership, and although the SG recognizes land disputes in his report, he unfortunately offers no gender analysis (encouragingly, however, the government is considering reforms to land ownership regulations, and the inclusion of local communities and civil society representatives in design, implementation and response to land matters and processes). Gender should also be included in discussions around security sector reform, and as the functions performed by the Human Rights Section of UNIPSIL continue to transition to the National Human Rights Commission, the SG should consider sending a gender advisor to accompany the human rights advisor being deployed in early 2014.
As UNIPSIL draws down its presence in Sierra Leone, the September 2013 MAP asserts that women must continue to receive support with political and financial resources to ensure their full and equal engagement in Sierra Leone’s future. In that regard, it is encouraging that the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity (2013-2018) includes gender as one of its eight central pillars, but it remains to be seen whether women will receive the corresponding resource support to effectively implement that Agenda. At present, though, several UN entities continue to support gender-related programming in Sierra Leone, including – in addition to UNIPSIL – UN-Women, UNDP, UNFPA, WFP, UNICEF and the Peacebuilding Fund.
The previous report of the Secretary-General dated 27 February 2013 (S/2013/118) also highlighted President Koroma’s stated commitment to gender equality and the political participation of women, and similarly included a number of references to women’s protection and empowerment. Overall, the current report offers a greater and more diverse gender analysis, although the previous report does particularly emphasize women’s participation in and oversight of the electoral process.
Security Council briefing on the situation in Sierra Leone S/PV.7034 (18 September 2013)
Mr. Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen – Executive Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), Mr. Guillermo Rishchynski - Chair of the Sierra Leone country-specific configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Canada, and Mr. Samura M.W. Kamara, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Sierra Leone, briefed the Council on the situation in Sierra Leone. In line with the recent Report of the Secretary-General dated 12 September 2013 (S/2013/547), the briefing focused on Sierra Leone’s national development strategy (known as the Agenda for Prosperity (2013-2018)), the launching of the constitutional review process, and UNIPSIL’s transition and exit plan to a UN country team (and the future of the Peacebuilding Commission’s engagement).
Women, peace and security concerns appear in several of the speakers’ statements, especially with regards to the Government’s Agenda for Prosperity and the constitutional review process. Mr. Rishchynski and Mr. Kamara both acknowledge the eighth pillar of the Agenda (gender), with Mr. Rishchynski voicing the proposals therein to combat violence against women, improve women’s economic empowerment and increase women’s participation in political decision-making. He also recognizes the opportunity for a transformative constitutional review process, especially if it is one that truly advances equality between men and women. Mr. Kamara also underscores the Sierra Leone Government’s record on human rights protection, and points to initiatives undertaken to mainstream gender and broaden opportunities to enhance the role and visibility of women in decision-making.
The Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen, makes no mention of women, peace and security in his briefing. He misses the opportunity to stress the importance of a gender perspective in security sector and justice reforms, in conflict prevention, and in the UNIPSIL transition. He also neglects to emphasize women, peace and security in the context of the UN Development Assistance Framework for 2015-2020, which will serve as the UN’s strategy to support the Sierra Leone Government’s Agenda for Prosperity. The representatives from the Peacebuilding Commission and the Sierra Leone Government, on the other hand, did address gender equality, women’s protection and women’s empowerment.
The September 2013 MAP calls for a strong message from the Council that the gains for women must be consolidated in the transition to the UN country team, and Mr. Rishchynski accordingly contends that a successful and inclusive transition could help to enable a transformative constitutional review process that advances equality between men and women. Both he and Mr. Kamara also point to the encouraging inclusion of a gender pillar within the Agenda for Prosperity, which is planned for the years 2013-2018. Yet Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen is silent on the issue, and there is little talk of the financial resources necessary to specifically support women’s engagement in Sierra Leone’s future (although Mr. Rishchynski did state that the Peacebuilding Commission would be holding a high-level meeting to “discuss, promote and disseminate” the Agenda for Prosperity).
Encouragingly, the current briefing addresses women, peace and security concerns with greater frequency and substance than the previous briefing (S/PV.6933). In the previous briefing, women, peace and security issues were only acknowledged by Mr. Kamara, and largely confined to his reporting on President Koroma’s statement on International Women’s Day. Again, the Executive Representative to the Secretary-General, Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen, makes no mention of women, peace and security, despite the significance of his briefing on the mission’s transition to a country team.