Date: 22 June 2016
Topic: This report comprises findings of and recommendations from the strategic review of United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) pursuant to Resolution 2281 (2016), designed to adapt MINUSCA to a post-transition stabilization environment and enable peacebuilding efforts.
Women, Peace and Security Introduction
The end of the two-year political transition period in the Central African Republic (CAR) was marked by elections held in late 2015 and early 2016 and the swearing in of President Faustin Archange Touadera. Consequently, a strategic review mission for MINUSCA convened to adapt the mission to the new political climate. The mission team met with stakeholders which included, among others, the President, Cabinet Members, civil society and women’s groups (S/2016/565, para. 4). As a result of that mission, MINUSCA’s principal strategic objective has been defined as reducing the presence of armed groups in the CAR. To that end, the present report recommends a “flexible three-pronged approach” (S/2015/565,, para. 33) and each prong incorporates the WPS agenda to some degree. Overall, this report has twelve references to the WPS agenda and is focused on women’s participation, which is mentioned nine times (S/2015/565, para. 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 48, 49), and refers to protection three times (S/2016/565, para. 4, 18, 35, 37, 38, 39, 40, 42, 49). This is the first strategic review mission report of MINUSCA.
Demilitarization and arms management
Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation (DDR/R) is one of the five areas of priority identified by the President of the CAR. Over 2,800 combatants, 413 of which are women, have enrolled in MINUSCA’s “pre-DDR/R” program, which will be initiated pending the start of the national program (S/2016/565, para. 18).
This reference could have been improved had it detailed provisions for women and whether or not dependents of combatants would be included in any of the projects. Reintegration is a delicate and critical aspect of peacebuilding and stabilization efforts and women should be included in all levels of design and implementation. The report could have included ensuring women’s full participation and protection in DDR/R processes, as per Resolution 2122 (2013) (S/RES/2122 (2013), OP. 4). Future reporting and mandates should include more details regarding planning of mechanisms for DDR/R processes, which, to be most effective, should be developed in consultation with local women and women-led organizations (S/RES/1820 (2008), OP. 10).
Human rights, women and peace and security, and children and armed conflict
This mandate component is primarily addressed in one section containing one paragraph, titled: “Human rights, including conflict-related sexual violence and grave violations against children.” In light of continued reports of impunity for human rights violations and abuses, including conflict-related sexual violence, which is a major concern and is underreported, the report highlighted that a draft law establishing a national institution for human rights is pending consideration by the Government. Additionally, the report notes that since 2013 serious abuses against persons accused of witchcraft, mostly older persons, women and children, have been increasing (S/2016/565, para. 15). Furthermore, in the observations section of the report, the Secretary-General details his outrage at continued reports of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) particularly by international forces and MINUSCA personnel (S/2016/545, para. 71).
These references could benefit from 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 being increasingly reported. The report contained no section on or discussion of women, peace and security but sequestered sexual violence in conflict to only three sentences in the same paragraph as children in armed groups and human rights violations. This diminishes the agency of survivors, stigmatizes sexual violence and delegitimizes reporting these abuses. Future reporting should not be exclusionary in its treatment of SEA or conflict-related sexual violence but should encompass all survivors, of all genders and ages. Finally, the report should have 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).
Recommendations of the strategic review
The minimum condition for MINUSCA to pull out is avoiding a relapse into conflict following withdrawal of UN forces. To this end, the report identifies objectives linked to several aspects of stability: socioeconomic recovery, development, political process and institution building, security and the protection of civilians, human rights, and justice (S/2016/565, para. 30). Overall, the strategic objective is to “support the sustainable reduction of the presence of armed groups through a comprehensive approach” (S/2016/565, para. 32). Women were completely absent from this critical section that broadly defines the approach and priorities, but should have been included to ensure that their participation, empowerment and concerns will be incorporated and addressed in the planning for future of the country.
Supporting the political process, as well as accountable, inclusive and transparent governance and the sustained extension of responsible State authority.
In the context of this approach, MINUSCA is recommended to include the WPS agenda in nearly all relevant activities. In politics, the report recommends MINUSCA pay particular attention to supporting the engagement of women and young people in political decision-making processes and continue to support the State’s effectiveness in responding to local needs, which includes promoting principles of gender sensitivity and equality (S/2016/565, para. 35, 37). For police and prison officers, a joint process by MINUSCA, UN-Women and UNDP to refurbish the police and gendarmerie and recruit 500 new members, will take into account necessities of recruiting women in full compliance with the human rights due diligence policy (S/2016/565, para. 38). The overhaul of prison officers focuses on gender-responsive selection and training of new officers and will take into account necessities of separating detainees by age and gender (S/2016/565, para. 40). In judicial measures, the report recommends national judicial actors be deployed in priority areas to enable basic justice services and ensure services are available to women and children (S/2016/565, para. 39).
While these are positive inclusions of WPS, the report recommendations could have been stronger had they included language contained in WPS resolutions. Specifically, given that SEA and SGBV are issues in the CAR discussed throughout the report, Resolution 1888 (2009) is pertinent. It states that survivors of sexual violence should have access to health care, psychosocial support, legal assistance, socioeconomic reintegration services, justice, and are to be treated with dignity (S/RES/1888 (2009), OP. 6, 13). Furthermore, a missed opportunity is the absence of specific gender experts and/or advisers alongside other experts that will be deployed to professionalize police, judicial penitentiary and territorial administration officers to ensure that all programs and responses in these areas are gender-sensitive and address women’s concerns (S/2016/565, para. 36). As recognized in Resolution 2016 (2013), gender advisors have a distinct role in ensuring that gender perspectives are mainstreamed, by all mission elements, in policies, planning and implementation. Deploying gender advisors ensures comprehensive training of all relevant peacekeeping and civilian personnel, and can strengthen institutional safeguards against impunity through measures that address sexual violence in conflict situations (S/RES/2106 (2013), OP. 8, 18).
Enhancing the security environment, including by supporting the implementation of the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation programme, community violence reduction projects and security sector reform
The report recommends that the strategy for voluntary disarmament of ex-combatants be comprehensively gender-sensitive and gender-responsive and that MINUSCA should use this strategy to enable implementation of the national DDR/R program and community violence reduction projects (S/2016/565, para. 42).
This reference could have been better, if it had specified what constitutes gender-sensitive and gender-responsive strategy. At minimum, it should have indicated presence of concrete measures, or plans to create them, to ensure that women will be included at all stages and at an early stage in the design and implementation phases of the DDR/R program. Without including these steps, the recommended strategy risks being sidelined. The report could have included concrete measures such as consulting with women and women-led organizations to develop effective mechanisms for providing protection from violence in, among other things, all disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes, and in justice and security sector reform efforts assisted by the United Nations (S/RES/1820 (2008), OP.10). Furthermore, women should be effectively participating in addressing sexual violence concerns in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. This includes establishing protection mechanisms for women in cantonment sites, civilians who live in close proximity to them, and in communities of return. Trauma and reintegration support should be offered to women formerly associated with armed groups and female ex-combatants (S/RES/2106 (2013), OP. 16.a). Overall, the section missed an opportunity to discuss women’s involvement in security and defense sector reforms outside of DDR/R (S/2016/565, para. 44).
Assisting the Government in combating impunity and promoting and protecting human rights, as well as promoting reconciliation
According to the report’s recommendations, MINUSCA’s efforts to end human rights violations would continue through monitoring, investigating and reporting on violations, including conflict-related sexual violence, in order to inform dialogue and advocacy and fight impunity (S/2016/565, para. 48). Components of MINUSCA-supported reconciliation initiatives would be designed through consultations with broad cross-sections of society, including civil society and women’s groups (S/2016/565, para. 49). The report states that a comprehensive approach is needed for successful reconciliation, therefore the report recommends that MINUSCA advocate for transitional justice processes to address the legacy of human rights violations, including conflict-related sexual violence and violations committed against women and children (S/2016/565, para. 49).
Ideal Asks for WPS transformation
The recommended inclusion of the WPS agenda in the initiatives discussed above are a positive start and, if implemented, could potentially change the situation for women in the CAR. However, women’s concerns could be further incorporated to UN activities in the CAR particularly in the context of security and humanitarian concerns. Given the delicate security situation and strategic goal of reducing armed groups in the CAR, the report should have recognized that terrorism and violent extremism have differential impacts on the human rights of women and girls, including in the context of health, education and participation in public life, and that women and girls are often targeted directly by terrorist groups (S/RES,1325 (2000), PP.4, S/RES/2242 (2015), PP. 14). The recommendations for the new mandate should, additionally, have noted the changing global context of peace and security, in particular violent extremism and terrorism and the Security Council’s intention to increase attention to women, peace and security as a cross-cutting issue, as per Resolution 2242 (2015) (S/RES/2242 (2015), PP. 13). Furthermore, empowerment through participation and leadership of women and women’s organizations in developing strategies and interventions to counter terrorism and violent extremism, is core to the United Nation’s strategy and responses to prevent violent extremism and should have been included in the report. In this regard, funding should be committed to projects which address gender dimensions and women’s empowerment (S/RES/2242 (2015), OP. 13).
Furthermore, Women and women’s groups should be included or consulted in SSR at all levels, including design and implementation to enhance sustainable peace in the CAR (S/RES/1820 (2008), OP. 10; S/RES/1888 (2009), PP. 8, 12, 15; S/RES/2106 (2013), OP.16.b; S/RES/2122 (2013), OP. 10). The report recommendations missed an opportunity to address a specific security sector weakness: the absence of a dedicated civilian oversight authority to regulate weapons and ammunition management, which reportedly contributed to the illicit flow of weapons (S/2016/565, para. 20). Women should be empowered through capacity-building efforts to fully and meaningfully participate in the design and implementation of efforts related to the prevention, combating and eradication of the illicit transfer and the destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons, as per Resolutions 2122 (2013) and 2242 (2015) (S/RES/2122 (2013), OP. 14 and S/RES/2242, OP. 15).
Finally, in the CAR, at the time of reporting, half of the population had humanitarian needs, about one fifth of the population remained displaced and more than 418,000 are displaced internally (S/2016/565, para. 16, 17). Future reporting should take into account how refugees and internally displaced civilians, particularly women, are targeted by combatants and armed elements and the impacts on durable peace and reconciliation, as per Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1889 (2009). Furthermore, all recommendations on displacement should take into account the particular needs of women and girls in refugee camps and settlements (S/RES/1325 (2000), PP. 4, OP. 12, S/RES/1889 (2009) PP. 12, OP. 12).