Period of Time and Topic: Report covers developments since the issuance of the 13 March, 2015 report until 15 September, 2015
The September report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Region provides information on peace and security developments in Eastern DRC and the Great Lakes region. The report is similar to the last report on PSC framework implementation, focusing heavily on women’s participation (specifically regarding the activities of the Special Envoy) and touching on women’s protection from sexual violence. However, the report has notably improved its treatment of WPS issues since the last time it was issued, discussing SGBV protection in greater detail and expanding its discussion on civil society engagement. WPS is mentioned in the Observations section of the report, with the SG commending the work of the Women’s Platform for the PSC framework and calling for greater funding for the initiative (para. 62). Overall, the report provides some admirable information on women’s participation in regional development processes but could take better care to mainstream gender concerns throughout reporting on all areas of the PSC framework including DDR, electoral processes and finding durable solutions for IDPs and refugees.
Demilitarization and arms management
The report discusses several elements of the DDR and repatriation process in different countries in the region (paras. 3-7, 39, 41). It notes, for instance, the repatriation of ex-M23 combatants from Uganda and Rwanda (para. 6) and the Special Envoy’s visit to a Rwandan demobilization and reintegration centre (para. 41). The report missed an opportunity to take into account gender considerations in these processes and discuss the unique needs of female ex-combatants and female dependents in DDR. At a minimum, it should provide sex-disaggregated data on the numbers of combatants captured, demobilized and/or repatriated.
Human Rights, WPS, Children and Armed Conflict
The report dedicates a substantial section to the promotion of women, youth and civil society organizations in which it details the role of women in the PSC framework, particularly as it relates to the activities of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy. The report identifies women as forces vives in the region and discusses the involvement of the Women’s Platform for the PSC framework, a coalition of women leaders from 34 grassroots civil society organizations who receive grants from the Office of the Special Envoy (para 37, 48). The report details the amount and thematic breakdown of grants awarded, some of which directly supported the implementation of SCR 1325 regional action plans (para. 48).
The report notes the Women’s Platform held their inaugural grantee convention at which 40 women leaders and grassroots beneficiaries came together to strengthen coordination on various projects, including the inclusion of women in Great Lakes peace processes and women’s opportunities for livelihoods (para. 48). Other reported activities that involved the Women’s Platform include a conference call of the Platform’s Advisory Board (para. 50). The Operations section of the report recognizes the Platform as an “unparalleled vehicle” for disseminating women’s voices and facilitating women’s participation in decision-making processes and social and economic development, thanks existing donors and urges other donors to contribute to the Platform (para. 62, 65).
In addition to supporting the Women’s Platform, the Office of the Special Envoy participated in high-level meetings and side events around the 25th African Union Summit on women’s empowerment, development and protection from SGBV in conflict-affected areas (para. 51). The Office also initiated youth and gender projects with the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries to strengthen cross-border trade and relationships between women living in border communities (para. 53). Finally, the Office conducted extensive consultations with civil society actors from all Great Lakes countries to devise a strategy for PSC implementation (para. 52).
The work of the Office of the Special Envoy and the Women’s Platform on promoting women’s inclusion and participation in key processes is admirable, and the space dedicated to reporting on women CSO’s coordination in the region is commendable. These references could be improved by detailing whether and how women CSOs are involved in the design of PSC activities and projects. The report must also ensure that gender considerations are not restricted to the section of the report that discusses activities of the Women’s Platform, but mainstreamed throughout all report issue areas - including the DDR, humanitarian and political processes discussed in this analysis. In doing so, the report should take heed to avoid an excessive focus on women, and rather report on how conflict affects all genders differently.
With regards to protection, the report acknowledges the dire state of the regional human rights situation (including abuses by security forces) and mentions measures put in place in different countries to address conflict-related sexual violence, including the signing of a resolution by FARDC commanders in the DRC (para. 16). The report also provides information on training activities for government officials, civil servants and police aimed at addressing sexual violence (para. 17). These references could be improved by including information on available psychosocial and health services for SGBV survivors, access to justice for survivors, and by highlighting the unique protection concerns of female IDPs and refugees in the region. Future reports should further expand SGBV discussion and describe steps taken towards progress in the region in greater detail.
The report is entirely gender-blind in its discussion of the humanitarian situation in the region. For instance, it fails to give information on the effect of the Burundi and South Sudan political and refugee crises on different genders, and fails to provide sex-disaggregated data on IDPs and refugees (para. 12). The DRC mandate calls for reporting on the “impact of the conflict on women,” yet this report does not include any such gender analysis. The report notes that UNHCR released recommendations for action on ways political, humanitarian and development activities can address root causes of conflict displacement (para. 14). However, it does not specify whether these recommendations are gender-sensitive. More thorough reporting on the intersection of gender, conflict and humanitarian issues could inform greater gender mainstreaming within the PSC framework. It could give insight into the unique needs of forcibly displaced women, including - but not limited to - their vulnerability to SGBV.
International cooperation and coordination
The report delineates several cooperative efforts undertaken by the PSC countries and regional bodies to address gender issues and prevent and combat sexual violence in the region. These include the arrest of Jamil Mukulu (for, among other things, sexual violence), the creation of the 2015-18 Domestication Road Map (implementing a protocol on prevention and suppression of sexual violence), and a Special Envoy meeting with senior officials from regional organizations to discuss issue coordination, including on gender (paras. 24, 26, 44). These efforts show potential for regional cooperation to combat impunity for SGBV perpetrators and comprehensive progress on gender concerns. Greater attention should be paid in future reporting to measures aimed at fighting impunity, and the role international cooperation can play in bringing SGBV perpetrators to justice. Recommendations for cooperation on human rights could be improved by directly naming SGBV as a violation of special interest and concern (para. 25).
The report also misses an opportunity to discuss the inclusion of women in regional economic collaboration (para. 18). Giving data on the number of female public and private sector representatives in the Great Lakes Private Sector Investment Conference, for instance, could give insight into the participation of women in economic processes (para. 45-46).
Despite the report’s detailed discussion of the Women’s Platform for PSC implementation, it lacks information on the participation of women in DRC’s domestic political process. The report missed an opportunity to give information on whether President Kabila consulted women’s groups as part of his national consultation strategy (para. 20).
In the Observations section of the report, the SG should call for women’s participation as an essential element of inclusive dialogue, electoral and political processes of countries in the region, as many are undergoing critical political transitions (paras. 61, 62).
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Future reports should continue to expand the extensive discussion of the influence and participation of women’s groups, such as the Women’s Platform, in PSC implementation. However, rather than confining gender considerations to this section, they should be mainstreamed as a cross-cutting lens throughout the report, including discussions on the humanitarian and refugee situation, international coordination, political and electoral processes, and DDR. They should provide comprehensive sex-disaggregated data to give greater insight into the gender dimensions of the regional conflict.