Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic (S/2016/305).

Friday, April 1, 2016
Central African Republic
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Human Rights
Justice, Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform
Security Council Agenda Geographical Topic: 
Central African Republic

Document Title: Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in the Central African Republic

Code: S/2016/305

Date: 1 April 2016

Topic: Pursuant to resolution 2217 (2015), this report provides an update on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) and mandate implementation of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) between 30 November 2015 and 15 March 2016.

Women, Peace and Security

Women’s participation, protection and human rights are referenced in this report only statistically, and no analysis is provided. In total, there are seventeen references to the WPS agenda. There are five references to participation, and are largely in the context of the legislative and presidential national elections. The report also includes two references to sex-disaggregated data for MINUSCA personnel: 42 of the 375 individually deployed police officers were women, 81 of the 1,535 formed police unit personnel were women, and 29% of the 1,130 civilian personnel were women (S/2016/305, para. 56). Women’s protection and human rights are referenced 12 times. During the reporting period, MINUSCA reported an increase in human rights violations and sexual violence, since the last reporting period. A majority of the victims were women, most of the perpetrators were non-state armed actors, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), anti-balaka and former Séléka, but violations were also committed by state and international actors, including some MINUSCA personnel.

Protection of civilians, including refugees and IDPs

During the reporting period, 7,000 South Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, arrived in the CAR (S/2015/305, para. 38). At the M’Poko airport site for internally displaced persons (IDPs), a joint protection team uncovered new allegations of human rights violations, including sexual violence and abuse by former Séléka, anti-balaka elements and international forces, and MINUSCA established mitigating measures in response to the allegations (S/2016/305, para. 24).

As a response, MINUSCA established mitigating measures for the protection of IDPs threatened by armed elements in camps, contingency plans for preventing and responding to internal displacement (S/2016/305, para. 25), and recruited an additional 28 community liaison assistants who will deploy under new standard operating procedures on early warning and community protection plans (S/2016/305, para. 26). Not only did the report miss an opportunity to include women’s participation or protection concerns in this planned response, but it also failed to notice the differentiated impact that violations and abuses of human rights, forced displacement, enforced disappearances and destruction of civilian infrastructure have on women and girls. More must be done to ensure transitional justice measures address the full range of these violations and abuses, but the report failed to reference any indication that these violations and abuses against IDPs would be addressed (S/RES/2122 (2013), OP. 7).

Human rights, women and peace and security, and children and armed conflict

Overall, references to this mandate component contain only sex-disaggregated data for crimes and violations characterized by various terms throughout the report, including: rape, sexual exploitation and abuse, conflict-related sexual violence, forced marriage, sexual assault, sexual slavery, and sexual and gender based violence. Alleged perpetrators include anti-bakala, former Seleka, CAR state authorities, international actors (including MINUSCA personnel), armed groups, and LRA elements. Reports of incidents committed by the latter, including abduction and sexual violence, increased during the reporting period (S/2016/305, para. 28). MINUSCA documented human rights violations and, in some instances, partnered with other UN entities to report and record, including UNICEF (S/2016/305, para. 32) and OHCHR (S/2015/305, para. 29).

MINUSCA documented 269 new incidents of violations of human rights committed against 915 victims, including 18 incidents of human rights violations and abuses related to allegations of witchcraft that affected mainly women and children (S/2016/305, para. 27). A separate report detailed human rights violations against civilians, including 17 who had been injured, raped or subjected to other forms of sexual violence or other abuses (S/2015/305, para. 29). It was also reported that 375 girls were separated from anti-bakala and Révolution et justice armed militias, and all of the children are receiving psychosocial and rehabilitation support from an INGO (S/2016/305, para. 33). Additionally, 24 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse were recorded by MINUSCA against its personnel, that included data on the perpetrator’s nationalities (S/2016/305, para. 60). The Secretary-General was “deeply disturbed” by the allegations despite the “transparent, victim-driven approach” to address these cases (S/2016/305, para. 74) that include prevention and mitigation measures such as training and community awareness campaigns, and involvement by senior leadership, uniformed personnel, UN Country team, and an inter-agency/interdepartmental working group at UN Headquarters (S/2015/305, para. 61).

Data on sexual violence in conflict was referenced throughout the report, but there is also one subsection titled “Conflict-related sexual violence” that notes how these violations are underreported. 39 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were registered by MINUSCA and nearly all of the 49 survivors were female (30 women and 18 girls) and 11 of those cases (8 women and several girls) await full investigation and verification. Additionally, a breakdown of the violations and alleged perpetrators was reported: 33 cases concern rape and 6 cases concern attempted rape, forced marriage and/or sexual assault by former Seleka, anti-bakala and LRA elements. Conflict-related sexual violence is included, among other things, in the operational and situational awareness system established by MINUSCA “to enhance information gathering and build a database on incidents and key events” (S/2016/305, para.17).

These references could be improved by including analysis of the situation for women, in particular protection concerns regarding continued underreporting of conflict-related sexual violence and why witchcraft accusations and abuses are targeted at women and children (S/2016/305, para. 31). These references could be further improved by consistently reporting data in a way that enables agency, specifically, using the term “survivor” instead of “victim.” Furthermore, the report could have made efforts to reference violations in a more straightforward manner, and an enhancement would be to include an appendix, containing a breakdown of crimes against women, including sex and age disaggregated data, a list of perpetrators, and the violations committed. The report should have also referenced survivors’ access to health care, psychosocial support, legal assistance, socioeconomic reintegration services and justice, while ensuring survivors are treated with dignity (S/RES/1888 (2009), OP. 6, 13).

The report missed an opportunity to bring clarity to women’s participation and involvement in design and implementation processes of any sort. These include the aforementioned MINUSCA-established response systems and mitigating measures, civilian protection mechanisms and responses to human rights violations (S/2016/305, para. 20, 30, 34), the collection and investigation of human rights violations in the LRA-affected area of Bria (S/2016/305, para. 20), the community protection plans (S/2016/305, para. 26), and reconciliation efforts (S/2016/305, para. 14, 15). The Secretary-General specifically urged the full participation of women in the latter processes in the observation section of the report (S/2016/305, para. 71).

Electoral assistance

Legislative elections took place during the reporting period and preparations for the presidential elections continued. Of the 30 presidential candidates, one woman was in the running and of the 1,643 legislative candidates, 175 were women (S/2016/305, para. 6). Only one woman was elected in the first round of legislative elections and only five were admitted to the second (S/2016/305, para. 10).

These references could have been improved if they included analysis of the decline in elected women officials, in particular, a discussion about obstacles facing women seeking public office, and plans to overcome them.  Future reporting and mandates should consider adopting language from WPS resolutions, particularly Resolution 2122, which stresses that when conducting post-conflict electoral processes, it is important for member states to ensure women’s full and equal participation in all phases of electoral processes (S/RES/2122 (2013), OP.8).

Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation

The situation for women in the CAR can be improved if the WPS agenda is applied in several contexts, including protection from violence, which would contribute to resilience against armed non-state elements, and empowerment.

To address the ongoing and underreported sexual violence, the Security Council should prioritize increasing the number of women personnel deployed in the CAR and increasing the number of women public officials in the CAR. WPS events should be held to discuss the challenges, barriers, opportunities and trends for all women, including those in public office or seeking it, and should be designed, hosted and directed by women. The presence of women personnel can encourage women in local communities to report acts of sexual violence, and women and children affected by armed conflict can feel more secure working with women in peacekeeping missions (S/RES/1960 (201), PP. 16, S/RES/1888 (2009), PP. 15). Considering the absence of gender analysis in this report, future mandates and UN deployment should include Gender Advisers, who have a distinct role in ensuring that gender perspectives are mainstreamed, by all mission elements, in policies, planning and implementation, and can strengthen institutional safeguards against impunity through measures that address sexual violence in conflict situations (S/RES/2106 (2013), OP. 8, 18).

Given the presence of multiple armed non-state elements and their reportedly increasing violent attacks, women should be meaningfully and equally participating in resilience-building measures, and the design and implementation of protection measures for women. Furthermore, UN peacekeeping missions should assess the human rights violations and abuses of women in armed conflict and post-conflict situations, and should address the security threats and protection challenges faced by women and girls in these settings (S/RES/2122 (2013), OP. 5).

Finally, there is no indication of women’s inclusion in the projects on income generation, social cohesion, early recovery and rehabilitation in Bangui and Boeing, or the “rapid-impact” and income gathering projects for youth and vulnerable groups (S/2016/305, para. 14, 15). It is paramount that MINUSCA, the UN and the CAR recognize and take concrete steps to include women in these projects in order to enable women’s political, economic and social empowerment, which should be central to the long-term efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict (S/RES/2106, PP. 5), and greatly contributes to the stabilization of societies emerging from armed conflict (S/2016/305, para. 14, 15).