Women, Peace and Security
In the Secretary General’s report on the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, pursuant to paragraph 43 of Security Council resolution 2211 (2015), the Secretary General reports on the electoral process, the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) framework, the humanitarian situation and the continued violence against civilians and human rights violations. References to women in the report focus almost exclusively on women’s protection. This is a significant step back from the previous report, which repeatedly referenced women’s participation in political processes and called for an increase in the proportion of women voters and candidates.
References to women are largely confined to the report’s discussion of sexual violence and child protection. Though the majority of references to sexual violence did not specify the gender of the survivors, the report provides some gender-disaggregated data when it mentions “114 victims of conflict-related sexual violence, including 19 girls” were documented and FRPI elements “allegedly raped three women and two girls” in July (paras. 67, 24). On the topic of child protection, the report notes the number of boys and girls that were separated from armed groups (para. 70). The report also highlighted violence targeted specifically against women and children (para. 26). Lastly, the report included sex-disaggregated data in its discussion of security sector reform, noting the number of women involved in MONUSCO-supported training programs (para. 46).
References in Need of Improvement
Similar to past reporting (S/2015/486), the report fails to specify the gender of SGBV survivors in all but the two instances noted above. When references are made to acts of SGBV, such as “abductions and rapes committed by ethnic militia,” “beatings, ill treatment, and rapes,” “mass rapes,” the assumption is that survivors are female (paras. 65, 67). In the report’s most comprehensive SGBV statistic, the documentation of “114 victims of conflict-related sexual violence, including 19 girls” during the reporting period, the report does not specify the number of male and female survivors and instead focuses on “girls” (para. 67). It is essential that sex-disaggregated data be sought out and provided in all SGBV reporting, particularly since sexual violence is widely used against both genders in the DRC. The report’s failure to acknowledge men as SGBV survivors misrepresents the conflict and could negatively affect male access to key services and protection measures.
Reporting on the actions taken by the UN to prevent sexual violence is limited, beyond mentioning they are providing technical support and advice on policy implementation, including NAP implementation (para. 69). There is no reporting on the progress made in implementing DRC’s NAP. The report would do well to incorporate some of the strong language used in the mission mandate, for instance noting that conflict-related SGBV may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The mandate also specifies that MONUSCO, where appropriate, will support the DRC government in providing necessary services and protection for “survivors and victims” of sexual violence, yet the report makes no reference to whether such services are being provided (S/RES/2211, OP 32).
The report missed a significant opportunity to report on women’s participation in the electoral process. Per its mandate, MONUSCO must assist the DRC Government to ensure the participation, involvement and representation at all levels - including in the national political dialogue and electoral processes (S/RES/2211, OP 10). As the report discusses “consultations between the government and stakeholders (...) on the electoral process” it does not specify whether the government is engaging with civil society and/or women’s groups or whether the mission is providing assistance to facilitate such engagement (paras. 2, 18). In discussing MONUSCO’s own contacts leading up to the electoral process, the report indicates that MONUSCO is engaging with civil society but makes no mention of whether women are being consulted as stakeholders. When it comes to women’s participation in politics, S/2015/741 takes a step back from past reporting (S/2015/486) which detailed the proportion of women as voters, advocated for the sensitization of political parties, and supported the convening of women leaders. The reduced attention to issues of women’s participation is concerning, particularly as the country enters a period of political transformation.
The report discusses progress made in regards to the regular strategic dialogue between the UN and DRC government, and joint development of a roadmap and MONUSCO exit strategy (para. 35). The dialogue includes conducting joint assessments on the situation in Eastern DRC. Though MONUSCO is mandated to ensure the representation of women in stabilization activities, there is no mention of the consultation of women as stakeholders in the dialogue process and no indication that any gender considerations are being discussed. Women’s absence from strategic dialogue is worrisome, as women’s involvement in transitional processes is critical for the advancement of their rights and protection of their needs.
The report also missed the opportunity to evaluate women’s involvement, or the need for greater involvement, in DDR processes and SSR. The report leaves out any gender considerations in its discussion of the DDR process, and does not specify the gender of disarmed combatants or their dependents (paras 58-60). With regards to the security sector, there is no indication women are being consulted in police reform efforts or that gender considerations are taken into account in the re-establishment of prisons (paras. 46, 49). The latter is particularly startling, since previous reports mentioned the challenges of separating women and men in prisons, the construction of women-only prisons and the training of women prison officers (S/2015/486 para. 59, S/2014/956 para. 55, S/2014/698 para. 64). The report misses opportunities to be consistent in its reporting of gender-specific SSR challenges, follow up on past concerns, and ensure they are being addressed.
The SG is mandated to report on the “impact of the conflict on women,” yet the report misses the opportunity to do so on several occasions. Its discussions of the humanitarian situation and of violence against civilians are entirely gender-blind. Statistics on refugees, IDPs, the food insecure and victims of attacks are not sex-disaggregated. There is no mention of impact of food insecurity, displacement or armed group violence on women. The report fails to consider how gender-specific needs are being taken into account in the distribution of humanitarian aid or the design of non-military PoC programming such as community alert networks, human rights investigation, conflict resolution initiatives and sensitization and dialogue activities with local populations (paras. 52, 53). Though the mandate calls for the “swift deployment of Women Protection Advisors,” the report makes no mention of whether this requirement was fulfilled (S/res/2211, OP 9(c)).
MONUSCO has the benefit of a broad gender mandate, and ideally reporting would closely track implementation of this mandate, particularly the mission’s ability to “take fully into account gender considerations as a cross-cutting issue.”
Future reports must track and assess the implementation of MONUSCO’s gender mandate, discussing the protection and participation of women in the areas of SSR, DDR, NAP implementation, development of national policies to counter SGBV, combating impunity, services for SGBV victims, and the impact of conflict on different genders. Reporting should highlight the need for greater involvement and inclusion of women in all issue areas, at all levels. Reporting should be more vocal in its condemnation of SGBV and specify targeted steps taken to increase accountability for perpetrators.
In order to draw an accurate picture of the impact of the conflict on women, the report should substantively engage with women from all stakeholder groups, and consult women’s civil society organizations. At a minimum the report should provide sex-disaggregated data on all those impacted by the conflict, including survivors of SGBV, victims of attacks by armed groups, IDPs and refugees, and recipients of humanitarian aid.