Date: 9 March 2016
Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region, covering the time period since the last report of 22 September 2015.
Women, Peace and Security
This report by the Secretary-General gives an account of major political, security, human rights and humanitarian developments in the region, as well as on the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation framework. As in the previous report, the focus is on the participation pillar of the WPS agenda, reporting on “ways to facilitate genuine dialogue between civil society, women, youth and leaders at local, national and regional levels to promote peace, stability and development;” on the Special Envoy’s attempt to strengthen collaboration with regional organizations and “promote women, youth and civil society;” and on projects under the Great Lakes Initiative aimed at “improving social protection for vulnerable groups, including women.” However, women’s participation concerns are far from being mainstreamed throughout the report, given that most relevant references are in one section on the promotion of “women, youth and civil society organizations.” The consideration of WPS-related concerns could, further, have been stronger by not conflating women and youth, in only four paragraphs which focus on their concerns. These two groups face very different challenges, which deserve to be discussed separately and in greater detail. The most substantial mention of women’s protection concerns refers to the establishment of a regional strategic framework in support of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, which includes a pillar on SGBV.
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
In reporting on the stalled political dialogue in DRC, which has been met with criticism by opposition groups and civil society, and on the Special Envoy’s meetings with “representatives of the presidential majority, opposition leaders, faith/based organizations, civil society, members of the Security Council, other members of the diplomatic corps and Framework signatories” in DRC as well as on the Burundian political process, the report completely fails to provide an account of women’s participation in these processes and meetings.
Ensuring women’s participation in all decision-making processes is crucial as only a gender-balanced view on the deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situation on the ground can ensure that the varying needs of women, men, girls and boys are adequately addressed.
References to sexual violence, as mentioned in the section on human rights and judicial cooperation, could have been much more comprehensive by drawing attention to its pervasiveness and explicitly stating that SGBV is a weapon of war and a grave human rights violation, which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. Ideally, the report would have outlined whether there are cross-border strategies in place to address SGBV and hold perpetrators accountable.
In considering durable solutions for the refugee and IDP crisis in the countries of Burundi, DRC and South Sudan, the report does not reflect the specific humanitarian and security challenges that displaced women face, including the prevalence of SGBV at IDP sites and in refugee camps. In reporting on the dire humanitarian situation in the region, the report, further, could have detailed whether gender-sensitive needs assessments have been or will be conducted to ensure that humanitarian assistance is effectively tailored to the varying needs of women, men, girls and boy.
International cooperation and coordination
Similar to the section on political processes, the report does not provide any information on whether women representatives and women’s civil society organizations were included among the “various regional stakeholders” that the team of International Envoys and Representatives for the Great Lakes Region met and consulted with during their visits. Ideally, the report would have given more consideration to the role international cooperation can play in advancing women’s engagement in various projects, such as those suggested by the Great Lakes Initiative, including addressing forced displacement, improving social protection and access to health services, enhancing food security and supporting DDR programming.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Future reports by the Secretary-General must reflect the Security Council’s commitment to the WPS agenda and provide updates on the implementation of gender-sensitive programming on both participation and security concerns. Applying a gender lens throughout the report will ensure that all genders are adequately represented and that their particular needs in the volatile security, political and humanitarian situation are being met. More precisely, future reports should discuss the participation and influence of local women’s civil society organizations, as well as the Women’s Platform for the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, in greater detail to ensure women’s full and equal participation in all decision-making processes. Moreover, rather than confining gender considerations to the section on the promotion of “women, youth and civil society organizations,” they should be mainstreamed throughout the report, including discussions on political and electoral processes, the humanitarian and refugee situation, international coordination and cooperation, and the disarmament and disbandment of non-state armed groups. Given that various militias and armed groups continue to be the main source of insecurity in the region, the role of women in the design and implementation of comprehensive, cross-border DDR strategies remains of utmost importance, particularly to ensure that reintegration strategies are responsive to the needs of women ex-combatants and women associated with armed groups.