The Report of the Secretary-General, dated 12 August 2013 (S/2013/479), offers an account of major developments since the last SG Report of 28 February 2013 (S/2013/124), and provides an update on progress towards transition benchmarks and in the handover of security responsibilities to national institutions. Pursuant to SCR 2066 of 30 September 2012, and with the upcoming tenth anniversary of the signing of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 18 August, this report details recent successes in Liberian governance and the accompanying gradual drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). Progress includes the launch of the National Reconciliation Road Map and the constitutional review process, the Liberia Land Commission’s land rights policy calling for equal access and secure rights to land and property, border security cooperation with Côte d’Ivoire, and continued efforts towards the recruitment and professionalization of national police and other security sectors. Significant challenges remain, however, in the areas of accountability, oversight and capacity. In particular, weak rule of law translates into mismanagement, abuse and widespread impunity for serious crimes, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) (especially involving children), and oversight and capacity problems challenge natural resource management and the transition of security responsibilities alongside the UNMIL drawdown.
Women, peace and security concerns are commonly referenced in the SG Report, with a particular focus on the high rates of SGBV (especially amongst children), widespread impunity for offenders, and modest efforts taken to curtail such practices (paras. 11, 28, 29, 43, 51, 73, 93), including: joining UN-Women in the global effort to end violence against women and girls, adopt domestic violence legislation, fund implementation of a national action plan on SGBV and improve women’s and girls’ access to justice (para. 29); trainings and campaigns on SGBV and child sexual abuse (paras. 28 & 43); a UN evaluation of the joint program on SGBV, which highlighted the need for continued support for protection services and increasing attention to prevention strategies (para. 51), and efforts to strengthen coordination in support of the program on SGBV (para. 73). Other protection concerns include continued traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and forced initiation into Sande and Poro secret societies (para. 27), and UNMIL held focus groups and distributed educational materials about the UN zero tolerance policy on misconduct and sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) (para. 75).
The report also includes a number of references to female representation, equality and empowerment, including: greater gender balance in government (para. 2); the National Election Commission drafting a revised election law with a provision that requires at least 30% female representation on party nomination lists (para. 4); the Liberia Land Commission presenting its policy to the President for a reconfigured land tenure system that would provide all Liberians with equal access and secure rights to land and property (para. 9); the Government’s preparation of its report on CEDAW (para. 29); a nationwide recruitment strategy to increase female representation in the police, including steps taken to achieve gender equity at the management level (para. 41); the Constitutional Review Commission’s consultative forum with women, UN assistance towards gender mainstreaming in decentralization and land reform processes, and support for women’s “peace huts” to build their conflict resolution skills (para. 73); and the launching of the National Reconciliation Road Map, which includes many elements of the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, such as the development of an inclusive people’s history and the empowerment of women and children (para. 87).
Although many references are made to SBGV – as well as trainings, campaigns and broader efforts in response – the report acknowledges that impunity persists, and that reported cases of SGBV actually increased by 25% over the same period in 2012, with more than 20% of reported incidents involving victims under the age of 10 years (para. 11). Yet the report is notable for its lack of urgency in calling for specific reforms to the justice system to immediately address this clear shortcoming.
In relation to the June 2013 MAP, the current SG Report addresses several of its recommendations, including offering information on the capacity of Liberian institutions as well as UNMIL with regards to certain aspects of gender (such as gender-disaggregated data, female representation and, to a lesser extent, trainings on SGBV or SEA); and updates on the status of human rights in Liberia, including weaknesses in rule of law, and some of their effects upon women and girls. However, the report fails to cover economic insecurity challenges and women’s continuing limited access to social services. There was also no mention of the Liberian National Police Gender Unit specifically (although it does highlight the nationwide recruitment campaign to increase female representation in the police more broadly), nor of any educational or vocational training initiatives for women and girls associated with fighting forces. The report did note positive developments in female representation and empowerment, especially with the electoral law provision and the National Reconciliation Roadmap (if implemented), but offered little evidence of survivors of SGBV having full access to post-conflict relief and recovery programs.
There is a fair amount of consistency from the previous SG Report (S/2013/124) to the current one, with some of the initiatives detailed in the prior report showing signs of progress in the current one (such as consultations with, among others, civil society and women’s groups leading to the National Election Commission’s draft provision requiring at least 30% female representation on party nomination lists as well as a draft land rights policy that would provide all Liberians with equal rights and secure access to land and property). Both reports offer gender-disaggregated data, make multiple references to female representation and consultation, and highlight the continuing problem of SGBV, although the current report raises protection concerns more consistently throughout, which is a positive development.
Ms. Karin Landgren – Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Mr. Staffan Tillander – Chair of the Liberian country configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and representative of Sweden, and Mr. Brownie J. Samukai – Minister of National Defence of the Republic of Liberia, briefed the Security Council on the situation in Liberia, following the twenty-sixth progress report of the Secretary-General on UNMIL (S/2013/479) and the Mission’s continuing drawdown of its military presence in the country.
Mr. Tillander highlights widespread sexual and gender-based violence in Liberia, and the need for more gender-focused activities and actions to reform and strengthen the criminal justice system (in line with SCR 2106). He also acknowledges the role of Liberian grass roots organizations, women’s groups and civil society.
Although the speakers reference the importance of civil society engagement and inclusive dialogue, Mr. Tillander was the only one to directly address gender. Especially coming on the heels of a more gender-sensitive report (S/2013/479), this briefing affords relatively limited attention to the topic. It concentrates attention to women, peace and security within the section on “gender-related issues,” rather than integrating a gender perspective throughout. In so doing, it misses the opportunity to engage women, peace and security concerns more holistically, especially in regards to women’s representation and empowerment.
The September 2013 MAP calls for continuing capacity-building with regards to gender, sexual and gender-based violence, and sexual exploitation and abuse within Liberian institutions. Mr. Tillander emphasizes the need for more gender-focused activities and criminal justice reform, but offers no specifics as to what these activities would look like. There is no mention of education or vocational training for women and girls associated with fighting forces, nor to access to relief and recovery programs for survivors of gender-based violence. Inclusivity is promoted generally, but only specifically referencing women as participants within the high-level meeting on a subregional strategy for the Mano River Union.
The previous briefing occurred on 25 March 2013 (S/PV.6941), and similarly included mention of the need to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. It also cited engagement with men and women and women’s participation in decision-making as necessary measures to help prevent gender-based violence.