Date: 7 March 2016
Topic: Covering the period 10 December 2015 to 7 March 2016, the report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate and summarizes key political and security developments and regional and international events related to Afghanistan.
Women, Peace and Security
In pursuant of Resolution 2210 (2015), the Secretary-General report provides an update on developments in Afghanistan and the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate. The number of WPS references continues to decrease (from seven to six references) since the previous report (S/2015/942), both in terms of quantity and scope. References to women focus on the participation aspects of the WPS agenda; however, there is only a slight imbalance between women’s participation and protection issues in the report. In addition, the Observation section contains no reference to women. Unfortunately, there are several WPS issues highlighted in the mandate for which the report fails to provide sufficient information or analysis. Despite the recognition of a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which has caused more civilian casualties than the same period in 2015 (S/2016/218, para. 12, 24), the report does not offer any analysis on the gender dynamics of the conflict itself, including sex-disaggregated data, and overall, is largely gender blind, missing key opportunities to identify women’s protection and participation concerns in Afghanistan’s deteriorating security environment.
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
Protection of Civilians
The report does not provide analysis of either the gender dimensions of the security situation, or the ways in which the protection responses are responding to gender-specific needs. The report notes an overall increase in the level of security incidents during the reporting period, with 22,634 security incidents recorded, representing a 3 percent increase as compared with 2014 (S/2016/218, para. 12). In addition, the report cites the 2015 annual report of UNAMA findings, which documented 11,002 civilian casualties throughout the year of 2015, representing the highest number of civilian casualties recorded by UNAMA since 2009 (S/2016/218, para. 24). The provision of this data is positive, but there should be sex and age-disaggregated data provided for all statistical points to better represent the demographic distribution of conflict-related casualties and the gendered impact of armed conflict. The report also fails to provide any information on incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Although “Annex IV” contains a benchmark indicator of supporting legal and policy measures to combat sexual violence against women and girls (S/2016/218, Annex IV p. 29), the report does not provide any information about the rate of SGBV occurrence and/or the protection measures, including assistance UNAMA, provided. In addition, the report misses an important opportunity to provide any information on women’s protection concerns within the larger framework of protection of civilians, including any information on UNAMA’s mandated assistance to Afghan security forces.
Security Sector Reform
This report misses an opportunity to provide any information on the gender dimensions of security sector reform. The report mentions that the Government of Afghanistan introduced the practice of community-based policing among the Afghan National Police (S/2016/218, para. 36), but it does not provide any information on whether women’s protection needs are being taken into consideration, or whether women are or will participate in the policy consultation of the community-based policing or the police training. At a minimum, the report should have called on the Government of Afghanistan to ensure accountability for those employed in community-based policing, including through an effective vetting process in order to exclude from the security sector those who have perpetrated or are responsible for acts of sexual violence (SCR 2106 (2013), OP 16(b)). In addition, Resolution 2210 (2015) stresses the importance of an “ethnically balanced and women-inclusive Afghan security forces” (S/RES/2210 (2015), OP. 24) and acknowledges the commitment of the Ministry of Interior and Afghan National Police to develop and implement their “gender integration strategy,” including increasing recruitment, retention, and training for women in police forces (S/2016/218, para. 26). However, the report fails to provide any update on these mandate components as well as to discuss women’s participation within security sector reform in Afghanistan.
Demilitarization and Arms Management
The report does not provide any gender analysis of the impact of the flow and proliferation arms and/or how UNAMA assistance to disarmament in Afghanistan has engaged or aided Afghan women. Citing UNAMA’s 2015 annual report, the report attributes 4 percent of civilian casualties in 2015 to explosive remnants of war (S/2016/218, para. 24); however, without sex-disaggregated data on civilian casualties, it is unclear how many women have lost their lives as the result of explosives. In addition, the report also notes that despite mine action partners, coordinated by the UN, clearance of 78 minefields and 4 battlefields in the fourth quarter of 2015, approximately 4,305 minefields and battlefields remain, affecting 1,615 communities across 260 districts in Afghanistan, but provides no analysis on the gender dimensions of mine-clearing and women’s protection in Afghanistan (S/2016/218, para. 45). Further, the risk education and disposal teams were deployed to northern and north-eastern Afghanistan to provide risk education and process the disposal of the explosive weapons in these regions (S/2016/218, para. 45), but the report provides no evidence to strengthen women’s participation in these awareness activities. Overall, the report misses an opportunity to provide information on the situation of women in relation to UNAMA’s assistance to arms management and disarmament.
There are no references to women in the humanitarian section of the report. The report does not provide analysis of either the gender dimensions of the humanitarian situation, or the ways in which the humanitarian response, including emergency responses and contingency planning, are responding to gender-specific needs. The report notes that the humanitarian situation deteriorated in 2015 due to intensified conflict-induced displacement over a wider area and an increasingly difficult operating environment for humanitarian actors (S/2016/218, para. 41). However, the report fails to provide any analysis on how the worsening humanitarian situation affects women, particularly female internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees. In addition, the report fails to provide any information on whether women have access to gender-sensitive aid, particularly in the provision of medical care, ongoing psychosocial counselling and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, as mandated by SCR 2122 (2013). At a minimum, the report should provide sex-disaggregated data on refugees and IDPs and all others receiving aid. Overall, the report misses an opportunity to advocate for the gender-sensitive provision of aid and the inclusion of civil society, including women’s organization, in the design, implementation, and monitoring of humanitarian assistance.
The report provides some information and analysis on the particular ways in which women’s rights are being violated, but does not provide a comprehensive gender analysis of the human rights situation. During the period from December 2015 to January 2016, the report notes a series of high-profile attacks, targeting mainly civilians, resulted in the known death of at least two women (S/2016/218, para. 25). However, the report misses an opportunity to provide any gender analysis in its discussion of other human rights violations, including attacks by the Taliban and other armed extremists groups.
The report also details efforts by the Government of Afghanistan and the mission to promote and protect women’s human rights. In specific, the report notes that the Government of Afghanistan finalized plans to implement the National Action Plan for Security Council Resolution 1325 (NAP 1325) (S/2016/218, para. 29). In addition, UNAMA trained 1,527 people, including 901 women, regarding the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) (S/2016/218, para. 29). Further, the report cites UNAMA’s support to outreach activities, in cooperation with national institutions and civil society, during the annual Activism against Gender-based Violence Campaign, held from 25 November to 10 December (S/2016/218, para. 31). Although the inclusion of this information is positive, the report should detail the outcomes of each engagement by UNAMA as well as the specifics for the implementation of the Afghan national action plan on 1325 (2000), with particular emphasis on how women’s organizations will be engaged in the process.
Rule of Law and Judicial Matters
The portion of the report reviewing the activities of the Government of Afghanistan in the rule of law provides a narrative summary detailing the ways in which the Government of Afghanistan is working to strengthen access to judicial redress. Although the provides some information on women’s access to legal services, the report does not provide a comprehensive gender analysis of the situation of women in the judicial sector or information on women’s increased participation in leadership positions of the judiciary. In specific, the report notes that the Government of Afghanistan launched an emergency fund for the medical treatment of women victims of violence and funded six additional violence against women prosecution units, the establishment of which brings the total number of such units to 26 across the country (S/2016/218, para. 30). In addition, the report notes women are receiving legal aid services in addition to medical care at the twenty-three women protection centres currently in operation in Afghanistan to serve survivors of domestic violence. In regards to the mission, the report cites UNAMA provided technical assistance to the Government at a conference on gender-responsive law reform held in Kabul (S/2016/218, para. 30). Despite the positive inclusion of these activities, the report should have provided information on the number of women that have received legal aid services from prosecution and protection units. In addition, the references to UNAMA could have been improved if it provided any information on whether women or women civil society organizations participated in the conference or any other judicial reform process. Overall, the report misses an opportunity to provide a status update on the implementation of the Elimination of the Violence Against Women Law, despite Security Council request of UNAMA to assist and to report on the Government of Afghanistan progress with its implementation (S/RES/2210 (2015), OP. 43). At a minimum, the report should have stressed the need for continued efforts to address obstacles Stress the need for continued efforts to address obstacles in women’s access to justice in Afghanistan, including through gender responsive legal and judicial reforms (S/RES/2122 (2013), OP 10).
Political Process and Electoral Assistance
The report does not provide any gender analysis of the political sector, but there is one reference to women’s participation in which the report notes the number of female governors was reduced from two to one (S/2016/218, para. 6). The report misses an opportunity to discuss why the number of women governors has decreased and whether or not it is indicative of larger challenges to women in the political sector, particularly with regard to how target killing of female officials affects women’s participation in the political sphere (S/RES/2210 (2015), PP. 28). In addition, UNAMA is specifically mandated to assist women’s participation and monitor the gender implications of the implementation of political, peace and reconciliation processes (S/RES/2210 (2015), OP. 16); the report misses an opportunity to detail UNAMA’s support to Afghan women in this regard.
Although the report only has 6 references to women, the Annex contains numerous references to women, particularly with regard to the indicators of progress in human rights. In the Annex, the report mentions the establishment of 82 women police councils across the country to mentor and support the educational and training needs of women police (S/2016/218, Annex I, p. 18). With regard to governance and institution-building, the Annex cites the Government of Afghanistan’s approved a gender quota, which reserves 25 percent of seats in provincial and district councils for women on 6 September 2015 (S/2016/218, Annex III, p. 21). Other mentions to women include civil society’s participation in the vulnerability-to-corruption assessment, capacity-building training seminars to civil servants, including 1,118 women, and UNAMA’s support for improving the standard of health services to prisoners, particularly the standards for female prisoners (S/2016/218, Annex III, p. 22, 24, 26).
In addition, the Annex details UNAMA’s support to promote and protect women’s human rights, including through training sessions, assisting the development of a confidential and comprehensive complaint mechanism for survivors of sexual violence, supporting the Government’s report on the status of implementation of the law on the elimination of violence against women, and supporting the third phase of the Afghan People’s Dialogue on Peace initiative, etc (S/2016/218, Annex IV, p. 29-33). In particular, the Annex notes an advocacy Committee on Bacha Bazi, led by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, jointly with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNAMA, drafted legislation to prohibit and criminalize bacha bazi (S/2016/218, Annex IV, p. 33). Other mentions in the Annex include women’s economic empowerment program (S/2016/218, Annex V, p. 35), civil society’s participation (S/2016/218, Annex VII & VIII, p. 42, 45), and the population of drug users in Afghanistan (S/2016/218, Annex VIII, p. 43). UNAMA’s support for improving the standard of health services to prisoners, particularly the standards for as regards female prisoners.
The inclusion of this information on the situation of women in the Annex may explain why the references to women have decreased in the report. Although UNAMA’s support and monitoring of the progress of promoting women’s rights in Afghanistan is positive, indicators on WPS issues are highly concentrated in the human rights section, suggesting that gender and WPS issues are still not considered as a cross-cutting issue in all activities of the mission (S/2016/218, Annex Annex III, p. 22, 24, 26).
Future report must advocate for the protection of women in Afghanistan, particularly in or when seeking leadership positions, and provide a comprehensive gender analysis of the security situation, including instances of sexual and gender-based violence and targeted attacks against women. It is critical that reports mainstream gender as a cross-cutting issue, providing a minimum sex-disaggregated data on the humanitarian, security, judicial, and political situation. Future reports should be prepared in regular consultation with women’s civil society and should seek out their assessments of the Government of Afghanistan, with assistance from UNAMA, efforts to prevent and prosecute violence and discrimination against women. In addition, future reporting must advocate for women’s full participation in all efforts peace and political processes, including future peace talks with the Taliban.