Report of the Secretary-General: Progress towards the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (S/2015/866).

Thursday, November 12, 2015
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Report of the Secretary-General: Progress towards the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (S/2015/866).

Code: S/2015/866

Topic: Covering the period from 1 June 2014 to 30 October 2015, the report provides a summary of the major developments in the Sahel region and a status update on the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS).

Women, Peace and Security

In pursuant of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2056 (2012) and 27 August 2014 presidential statement of the Security Council (S/PRST/2014/17), the Secretary-General report provides a summary of the major developments in the Sahel region and a status update on the implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS). References have slightly improved since the previous report (S/2014/397), both in terms of number and scope. WPS was not mentioned in the Observation section of the report, which is a critical section for shaping future developments of the mission. References to women center mainly on women’s participation and interventions by different entities to improve women’s participation; however, the report lacks analysis on the outcomes of women participation with regard to UN- supported regional and national programmes and projects.

Political Participation and Governance

In its discussion of electoral processes in the Sahel region, the report provides a substantive discussion on women’s political participation,[1] which includes identifying the need to increase women’s participation in remote communities[2] and women’s social and cultural challenges that limit their access to resources.[3] In addition, the report provides data on women in parliament and at the ministerial levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali Mauritania and the Niger, which stands at 14 and 19 per cent respectively, noting these figures are far below the 30 perfect minimum level of representation of women in decision-making called for by the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, article 4(1) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union and its 50/50 parity principle.[4] The report also states that affirmative action, including quotas, has had a positive impact on women’s political participation, citing data from Senegal, Mauritania, and the Niger.[5] While the data provides an understanding of political representation of women at high level of politics, the report misses an opportunity to provide information on women at the local level as well as to identify the specific challenges faced by women that limit their political resources and participation. Issues with the implementation of “decentralization” are identified,[6] but are not linked to women’s participation.

In terms of UN action on women’s participation, the report cites a number of projects and programmes undertaken by two UN entities. The Office of the Special Envoy to the Sahel (OSES) supported women’s political participation as a cross-cutting issue.[7] OSES also assisted the G5 Sahel to organize a high-level meeting on radicalization and violent extremism in the Sahel in May 2015, in which opportunities for “women and youth” to prevent radicalization in areas of detention and building the capacity of state institutions to educate the population on violent extremism.[8] The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is also cited with assisting in two projects focused on women’s participation. The first, a regional project in Burkina Faso, Gambia, the Niger and Senegal, focused on combatting discrimination against women to increase their political participation, by addressing “gender stereotyping and promot[ing] gender equality in the mass media.”[9] OHCHR also is in the process of implementing a series of projects aimed at building national human rights capacity, particularly women’s political participation.[10]

The report misses an opportunity to provide any specifics on the projects undertaken by OSES and OHCHR. As a result, it is unknown in several projects if women were consulted in the design, implementation, and monitoring of the project. In instances where direct engagement with women is cited, no information is provided on the outcome of such engagement or how women contributed.


The report provides no sex disaggregated data on women in the security.[11] The only WPS-related references notes that Boko Haram is carrying out systematic and widespread human rights abuses, including rape.[12] Women and/or women’s protection are not mentioned in the discussion of terrorism,[13] drug trafficking,[14] and/or human trafficking.[15] At the very least, sex disaggregated data should be provided in the security trends section. The report should also have provided gender analysis of all cited security-related issues as well as identified women’s protection needs and participation in the illicit activities.

Two WPS-related national projects are reported on in Mali. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization and UNDP are implementing a USD 2.1 million for capacity-building in conflict resilience for “women and youth” in the Gao and Timbuktu regions.[16] In addition, a programme for improved access to justice and security for women victims of sexual and gender-based violence in peacebuilding process, implemented by UN-Women, UNFPA, and MINUSMA.[17] The report misses the opportunity to provide information on outcomes or any action-oriented accomplishments of either project in Mali.


The report misses an opportunity to provide an understanding of the gender dimensions of the humanitarian situation in the Sahel region or provide information on how gender-specific needs are being taken into account in the distribution of humanitarian aid. There are no references to women in the entire section “Humanitarian Trends”[18] section of the report and no sex disaggregated data. The only mention mention of women and humanitarianism references a national project in Mauritania, which supports the “protection of vulnerable children and women affected by malnutrition and food insecurity;”[19] however, no specifics on the project or outcomes of assistance are provided. At a minimum, reporting should provide sex-disaggregated statistics on refugees, IDPs, and the food and health insecure, particularly those populations that have become vulnerable as a result of regional issues, such as terrorist violence, drug trafficking, and human trafficking.

Economic Empowerment 

Women’s economic empowerment is outlined a focus of regional and national projects. At the regional level, UNDP is implementing a project in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and the Niger to enhance the involvement of communities in border management, including by promoting food security through women’s cross border trade.[20] In addition, under the resilience pillar of UNISS, UNFPA is working on a women’s empowerment, which held preparatory technical meetings in March 2015.[21] At the national level, in Burkina Faso, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has started implementing a project aimed at supporting national efforts to boost employment, “especially for women and youth.”[22]

While women’s empowerment is a clear objective within UNISS strategy, the references to regional and national projects provide no information on how women are empowered and/or what are the outcomes, intended or otherwise, of the projects. The report misses an opportunity to provide any information on women’s empowerment beyond citing specific project.


The Secretary-General report dedicates a section to women entitled, “Strengthening the role of women in addressing Challenges in the Sahel.”[23] No information is provided on why other references to women, particularly cited regional and national projects to assist and empower women, are not included within this section. The references within this section center on the UN commitment to the technical integration of gender,[24] the adoption a declaration by the women’s forum in N’Djamena, Chad,[25] which called for enhancing women’s involvement in the maintenance of peace and security in the Sahel,[26] and UN capacity development and training activities with border agencies of the G5 Sahel countries on gender issues.[27] The report misses an opportunity to again provide any information on the outcome of these engagements or detail how UN agencies have integrated gender.

Ideal Asks

In the context of the implementation of UNISS, Secretary-General reports must provide more than a laundry list of programmatic activities. The specifics of  how UN agencies, within regional and national projects and programme, engage, support, and assist women in the Sahel region must be provided. Reports on the Sahel region must also specifically advocate for the active participation of women at all levels of regional cooperation, strategic planning processes, and political process, especially in the context of counter terrorism, border management, and humanitarian aid. It is also critical that future reports mainstream gender as a cross-cutting issue, providing at a minimum sex-disaggregated data on the political, humanitarian, and security sectors, and give balanced reports on women’s participation and protection concerns. Future reporting must include a comprehensive discussion of women’s protection, with a focus on access to resources, particularly for survivors of SGBV.


[1] S/2015/866 para. 5-6

[2] S/2015/866 para. 5

[3] S/2015/866 para. 6

[4] S/2015/866 para. 6

[5] S/2015/866 para. 6

[6] S/2015/866 para. 7

[7] S/2015/866 para. 25

[8] S/2015/866 para. 27

[9] S/2015/866 para. 31

[10] S/2015/866 para. 39

[11] See S/2015/866 para. 8-14

[12] S/2015/866 para. 11

[13] S/2015/866 para. 9-11, 14

[14] S/2015/866 para. 12

[15] S/2015/866 para. 13

[16] S/2015/866 para. 42

[17] S/2015/866 para. 45

[18] S/2015/866 para. 15-18

[19] S/2015/866 para. 48

[20] S/2015/866 para. 29

[21] S/2015/866 para. 35

[22] S/2015/866 para. 46

[23] S/2015/866 para. 50-53

[24] S/2015/866 para. 50

[25] S/2015/866 para. 51

[26] S/2015/866 para. 52

[27] S/2015/866 para. 53