Report of the Secretary-General on Somalia: January 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
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Report of the Secretary-General on Somalia: January 2015

Code: S/2015/51

Period of Time and Topic: Covering the period from 1 September to 31 December 2014, the report informs of the implementation of the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

Women, Peace and Security

The Secretary-General Report on the implementation of UNSOM details the major political and security developments, emphasizing the federalization process, on-going Al-shabaab and clan violence, stabilization efforts, human rights, socio-economic recovery and development, and the humanitarian situation. This Secretary-General report is less focused on the WPS agenda than its previous report,[1] limiting the discussion of women largely to sexual and gender based violence and gender mainstreaming. In addition, despite the reports overall focus on state formation, women’s protection is emphasized more so than women’s participation.

The Secretary-General reported low levels of women’s participation in the on-going state formation processes as a major concern, outlining key challenges and bottlenecks experienced by women, including  lack of resources, lack of formal education, and traditional clan structures.[2] Although no progress has been made towards the establishment of an interim administration in the central region, the report notes that the technical committee of interim central regional state chair, Ms. Halima Ismail, is the first women to hold such a position in the state formation process.[3] Following the Baidoa Reconciliation Conference, in which no women participated, UNSOM supported a mission on women’s solidarity in Baidoa in October, led by the Somali Women’s Leadership Initiative.[4] In addition, the Secretary-General reported meeting with local stakeholder, including “representatives of Somali women’s and youth groups,” during his visit in Somalia to urge inclusion in the political process.[5] In an attempt to help mitigate women’s situation, UNSOM and the United Nations country team provided support to the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development in finalizing an action plan for the development of national gender policy, aimed at providing gender mainstreaming framework in Somalia.[6] Further, UNSOM and the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office provided support to the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development in organizing the women’s side event at the High Level Partnership Forum in Copenhagen on 19 November to help generate new political momentum for the realization of women’s political participation in Somalia.[7] In the Secretary-General’s final report observations, Somali authorities were urged to “involve all segments of society, particularly women, youth and marginalized groups” in the Vision 2016 Somali state processes,[8] emphasizing participation in regional administrations and reconciliation processes.[9]

The Secretary-General report cited continued violations of women’s rights, including high incidences of sexual violence, particularly in settlements for internally displaced persons, as a major concern.[10] However, progress was reported on the development of a legal framework to address sexual violence, with the Sexual Offenses bill, criminalizing rape, currently under review by government.[11] In the report, the discussion of sexual violence was dominated by follow-up engagement with ANISOM, in regards to the reports by Human Rights Watch on sexual exploitation and abuse committed by ANISOM peacekeepers.[12] UNSOM supported ANISOM on a capacity-building Workshop on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Johannesburg South Africa.[13] In addition, the report noted the African Union’s Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security visited Somalia reiterating the AU’s zero tolerance policy.[14] The United Nations is also completing a risk assessment, which identifies a set of mitigation measures to be implemented by AMISOM, including cases of allegations of sexual violence and abuse.[15]

The Secretary General’s report was limited in providing gender disaggregated data. However, gender disaggregated data was provided for grave violations against children.[16] The Secretary General also reported the delivery of basic services as a priority, noting the delivery of Essential Package of Health Services benefitted more than 80,000 pregnant women in 2014.[17] Following up on the last report,[18] women were also the focal point of the discussion on disengaged fighters, with UNSOM continuing to advocate for the establishment of transitional facilities in Baidoa for disengaged female fighters of Al-Shabaab.[19]

In regards to women’s protection, the Secretary-General also noted that international partners hold a responsibility in “prioritiz[ing] such protection and accountability measures, particularly in regards to women and girls.” In doing so, the responsibility of women’s protection in Somalia is internationalized by the report.[20]

References in Need of Improvement

The Secretary-General report should have improved upon its references to women’s participation by providing more detail to references on how the specific undertakings of the government and UNSOM are mitigating the issues of participation in the state formation processes for women. Although the report outlines several developmental and customary challenges to women’s participation,[21] the report gave no indication of how the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development’s national gender policy will transform the political process and if policies will have an impact at the local level.[22] In addition, while interventions of UNSOM were cited, the report should have improved such references to include information on the engagement of women and societal leaders, and whether or not engagement was successful in bringing about women’s participation, such as in the case of Baioda.[23] The Secretary-General also couples women with youth.[24] In doing so, the impact of underrepresentation of women is seen as linked to that on children, diminishing the recognition of each population’s unique needs in the state formation process.

References to women’s protection would have been greatly improved by gender disaggregated data, particularly in instances of casualties, internally placed persons, and incidents of sexual and gender based violence. The report asserts that incidents of sexual based violence are “high,”[25] but the statement is rendered ineffective without data or a relative comparison. In addition, the report should also improve upon its references to women’s protection with more detailed analysis on how women are provided protection by systematic changes, such as the newly developed legislation.[26] This is also especially true in the case of AMISOM, where a clear case of abuse has been identified,[27] but reporting on follow-up workshops and meetings does not yield an understanding of changes on the ground to ensure a policy of zero tolerance.

Missed Opportunities

The Secretary-General missed a number of opportunities to fully and consistently incorporate references to women’s participation. In the report's discussion of the political situation, the Secretary-General missed an opportunity to report on and/or encourage the inclusion of women in key state formation processes, such as the Boundaries and Federation Commission,[28] Parliamentary Oversight Committee,[29] planning for the constitutional review,[30] and Somaliland 2015 elections.[31] This lack of emphasis for women’s participation is partly concerning in regards to 2016 elections, in which the Secretary-General missed an opportunity to encourage the participation of women in the National Independent Electoral Commission or deploy women electoral advisors. Further, the stabilization strategy, which establishes caretaker administration and law enforcement actors in 25 government-identified districts across the country,[32] made no mention of women as stabilization enforcement or as participants in the District Peace and Stability Committee. In addition, although the report does recognize Ms. Ismail as the first female to hold the Chair of a state technical committee,[33] the report missed an opportunity to discuss whether or not Ms. Ismail faced challenges in the position as the result of her gender and/or how she came to obtain the Chairmanship, which may have provided evidence of women’s empowerment and/or identified challenges to women who are participating in high politics. Despite previously meeting with Somali women,[34] the UN Special Representative also missed an opportunity to consult with women about their views on the political process during this 120 day period.

In the security sector, the Secretary-General report missed an opportunity to discuss the gender dynamics and gender impacts of Al-Shabaab, including the group’s criminal activity.[35] Although the report discusses the disengagement of female Al-Shabaab combatants, the report gives no indication if women are among the 50 plus arrested individual in Mogadishu on terrorist suspicions.[36] The report also cites counter terrorism activity resulting in the displacement of an estimated 80,000 people within the country;[37] however, women and the impact of displacement of women are not outlined in the report. The report should have emphasized women’s protection in regards to Al-shabaab, counter terrorism, and all efforts of peace consolidation. The Secretary-General’s report also missed an opportunity to call for an inclusion of women in all processes of Security Sector Reform, including high-level meetings of the Defense Working Group.

A number of security authorities training sessions were reported for the period. UNSOM reported a total of 7,955 Somali soldiers having received human rights training under the human rights due diligence policy.[38] In addition, UNSOM trained 965 members of the Somali National Army in international human rights and humanitarian law.[39] Further,  the UN continued to support capacity-building of the Somali Police Force through the provision of training, logistical support and assistance in strategic and operational planning.[40] In all instances, the Secretary-General missed an opportunity to call for gender training, focusing on women’s rights and women’s protection as related to conflict and state formation processes. Most concerning, trainings did not mention, advocate, or include SGBV, despite the reports mention of high levels of conflict related SGBV.[41] In addition, the Secretary-General missed an important opportunity to discuss impunity of violence against women and demand that perpetrators of gender-based violence be brought to justice through the help of trained law enforcement.

In the humanitarian sector, the Secretary-General’s report missed an opportunity to encourage women’s protection. No gender disaggregated data was provided, despite an estimated 1000 conflict incidents with humanitarian implications were registered in 2014.[42] Understanding the needs of women in the Somali conflict requires data on the impact of conflict on Somali women.

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

All data regarding state formation activities, civilian causalities, provision of aid, arrests, and SGBV should be disaggregated by gender. In addition, greater efforts should be taken to obtain such data to fully understand the current situation of women in all regions of Somalia. The next report by the Secretary-General should also include more specific reporting on WPS, including concrete information on efforts to consolidate women’s participation in the political process as well as provisions to maintain their long-term participation in the future. The Secretary-General must also ensure that training of security forces incorporate gender understandings and women’s human rights. Further, the Secretary-General should maintain a strong language use of language throughout the entire report to ensure the meaningful participation of women in all political and security processes as well as ensure consisting reporting and follow-up with individual women and women’s civil society organizations to ensure women’s needs are fully addressed and integrated into newly formed state entities.


[1] See Secretary-General Report S/2014/699

[2] S/2015/51 para. 64

[3] S/2015/51 para. 9

[4] S/2015/51 para. 64

[5] S/2015/51 para. 22

[6] S/2015/51 para. 63

[7] S/2015/51 para. 65

[8] S/2015/51 para. 96

[9] S/2015/51 para. 97

[10] S/2015/51 para. 54

[11] S/2015/51 para. 59

[12] S/2015/51 para. 60

[13] S/2015/51 para. 61

[14] S/2015/51 para. 62

[15] S/2015/51 para. 83

[16] S/2015/51 para. 56

[17] S/2015/51 para. 80

[18] S/2014/699 para. 35

[19] S/2015/51 para. 37

[20] S/2015/51 para. 103

[21] S/2015/51 para. 64

[22] S/2015/51 para. 63

[23] S/2015/51 para. 64

[24] S/2015/51 para. 22

[25] S/2015/51 para. 54

[26] S/2015/51 para. 59

[27] S/2015/51 para. 60

[28] S/2015/51 para. 4

[29] S/2015/51 para. 4

[30] S/2015/51 para. 24-25

[31] S/2015/51 para. 10

[32] S/2015/51 para. 26

[33] S/2015/51 para. 9

[34] S/2014/699 para. 57

[35] S/2015/51 para. 18

[36] S/2014/699 para. 15

[37] S/2014/699 para. 69

[38] S/2015/51 para. 82

[39] S/2015/51 para. 53

[40] S/2015/51 para. 38

[41] S/2015/51 para. 62

[42] S/2015/51 para. 69