Ministerial High-Level Meeting on Women, Peace and Security in Africa

Ministerial High-Level Meeting on Women, Peace and Security in Africa

Date | 22 March 2024

Tomorrow (23 March), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene a ministerial high-level seminar on women, peace and security (WPS), with a specific focus on women’s participation and leadership in peace processes in Africa.

Peya Mushelega, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of Namibia and Chairperson of the PSC for the month will deliver opening remarks followed by Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS). Bineta Diop, Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on WPS and Hanna Tetteh, UN Secretary General Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa are expected to brief the Council on the progress made in the implementation of WPS Agenda in line with the relevant instruments of the AU and UN. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative of United Nations (UN) Secretary-General to the AU and Head of UN Office to AU (UNOAU) and representative of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are expected to make statements on the strategic objectives of the ministerial high-level PSC meeting. Other participants expected to contribute to the discussions include Shirley Botchwey, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of the Republic of Ghana and PSC member; Liberata Mulamula, Steering Committee of African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) and Member of the FemWise-Africa Network; Effie Owour, Co-Chair of FemWise-Africa and Member of the AU Panel of the Wise; Mpule Kgetsi, African Youth Ambassador for Peace for Southern Africa and Renata Dalaqua, Head of Programme of Gender and Disarmament of UN Institute for Disarmament Research. Of particular significance is also the on the ground experience from women peace builders from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan.

Being convened within the framework of international women’s day on the occasion of which the PSC annually convenes a meeting during the month of March, tomorrow’s meeting, organised as a high-level ministerial seminar, is aimed at highlighting the 20th anniversary of the operationalization and official launch of PSC by taking stock of women’s participation and leadership in peace processes in Africa. The last time the PSC discussed the WPS agenda at its 1187th meeting, the AU Special Envoy for WPS was requested to conduct a comprehensive review of the status of women’s involvement in peace processes and to propose recommendations for enhancing women’s engagement in this respect. Tomorrow’s ministerial session accordingly fits into and presents opportunity for discussing the work that the Special Envoy is undertaking in this respect.

As emphasised in the various outcome documents of PSC’s sessions on this topic, women, who continue to be disproportionately impacted by armed conflicts and other forms of threats to peace security in the continent, are yet to be proportionately and meaningfully involved in decision-making and peace processes. This is despite the encouraging policy and normative level work that has been done by the AU, various Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) and member states.

At the continental level for example, the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and specifically the articulation under Article 10 of the Protocol granting women the ‘right to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace’ and imposing responsibility on member states to ‘take all appropriate measures to ensure the increased participation of women in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding’ has been a critical step. The institutionalisation of WPS as an agenda item of the PSC, the appointment of the AU Special Envoy for WPS, the establishment of FemWise-Africa, and the adoption of the Continental Results Framework (CRF) for tracking implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on WPS by member states constitute key milestones and institutional processes towards ensuring women’s involvement in peace processes.

At the regional level as well, some RECs/RMs have adopted Regional Action Plans (RAPs) for the realisation of WPS agenda and are in engaged in promoting the WPS through the adoption and implementation of National Action Plans (NAPs) by member states across their respective regions. Further to the development of NAPs by 34 countries as of December 2023, a number of member states have also taken the necessary steps for implementing their NAPs through the enactment of relevant policies.

Despite these efforts and achievements, most of the work done for the realisation of WPS agenda in Africa, particularly the meaningful participation of women in peace process remains restricted largely to the adoption of norms and principles. In terms of expanding the representation and participation of women in peace processes at various levels nationally and continentally, the progress remains far from satisfactory. This is not however for lack of women activism and mobilization for peace. Various women-led initiatives, particularly at the grassroots level, play a significant role in advancing conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding through the deployment of community focused dialogues, advocacy, joint calls for ceasefires, identification of women’s priorities and specific experiences in conflict settings and other critical contributions. Yet, the lack of their formal involvement suggests that the formal (track 1 peace processes) and similar platforms lack the flexibility and the tools to tap into and establish close working arrangements that ensure the channelling of the work of women groups at local levels into the formal processes. Indeed, it is not uncommon for local level women groups and movements to accuse such track 1 diplomacy processes for their elitism and hence exclusionary mode of organization and operation. Thus, such women-led peace initiatives in the so-called ‘informal arena’ do not get to have their members and engagements to directly shape policy and decision-making on matters relevant to continental peace and security, in the ‘formal’ settings.

“Despite these efforts and achievements, most of the work done for the realisation of WPS agenda in Africa, particularly the meaningful participation of women in peace process remains restricted largely to the adoption of norms and principles.”

“Yet, the lack of their formal involvement suggests that the formal (track 1 peace processes) and similar platforms lack the flexibility and the tools to tap into and establish close working arrangements that ensure the channelling of the work of women groups at local levels into the formal processes. Indeed, it is not uncommon for local level women groups and movements to accuse such track 1 diplomacy processes for their elitism and hence exclusionary mode of organization and operation.”

In terms of areas of peace processes for women participation, one important aspect of peace processes in which women are glaringly missing is in peace negotiations and mediation. In recent years, various peace talks and negotiations were initiated in a number of countries across the continent including in countries such as South Sudan and Ethiopia, and in the ongoing peace processes for Sudan such as on ceasefire, women’s role and participation was mostly lacking despite the fact that women have faced the brunt of conflicts and instability disproportionally. Regardless of their experience, involvement of women at the formal negotiation tables and in mediation processes in these and other African countries has been largely underwhelming, if not virtually missing.

Another key area within the scope of peace processes with respect to which women continue to be insufficiently engaged and involved in is the deployment of AU-led peace support operations and UN peacekeeping missions. Despite the existing rich normative framework for enhancing women’s increased participation in the deployment of AU-led peace support operations, practice clearly demonstrates that gender is yet to be effectively mainstreamed in the recruitment and employment of female troop members deployed within this framework. Primarily, this is an issue to be tracked to troop contributing countries who need to set up gender quotas and take the necessary measures to increase enrolment of women troop members in various ranks. At the AU level, there is also need for developing specific guidelines to encourage recruitment of women personnel by troop contributing countries.

In UN peacekeeping missions deployed in Africa, some progress has been made in ensuring gender parity in the deployment of troops. While the experiences of women peacekeepers and their unique contributions to bridge cultural barriers in specific settings is a key practice demonstrating the critical nature of women’s engagement in such capacity, UN peacekeeping missions also continue to confront challenges mainly associated with insufficient enrolment of women in national military and police forces, patriarchal perceptions of the roles of women and the absence of family-friendly policies, according to the 2018-2028 UN Peacekeeping Gender Parity Strategy.

Tomorrow’s ministerial high-level PSC meeting offers an opportunity to take stock of the various bottlenecks that continue to hamper representation and effective participation of women and chart avenues for addressing them. As the foregoing discussion illustrate, these challenges canvased during the 4th High-Level Africa Forum on Women, Peace and Security held at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa last December include ‘a broader and more deeply ingrained resistance to women’s participation, limitations within the existing framework of peace processes, isolated approaches that primarily focus on women’s security in conflict situations, and a failure to recognize the continuum of violence that women face in both peace and conflict contexts.’

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s meeting is a Communiqué. The PSC is expected to welcome the milestones achieved in the implementation of WPS in Africa since its establishment and most notably since it institutionalized WPS as a standing agenda in 2010. Noting the remaining work that needs to be done for the full realisation of UNSCR 1325 and WPS agenda in the continent, the PSC may underscore the need to enhance at the continental, regional and local levels, the meaningful participation and representation of women throughout all aspects of conflict prevention and resolution as well as peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. To this end, the PSC may call on the AU and its member states to create more flexible and women friendly mode of organization and operation of formal peace/political processes in order to effectively tap into women mobilization and work at the informal or grassroots levels.  The PSC may also call on the AU and its member states to establish systems and incentives that facilitate the recruitment and appointment of women in the political, diplomatic and security fields as the foundation for expanding the pool that would increase women’s representation and participation including in leadership roles in national, regional and continental peace processes. It may call on the AU, through the office of the Special Envoy for WPS and the Fem-Wise, to upscale efforts for enhanced engagement of women in peace processes including in the deployment of preventive diplomacy, mediation and in peacekeeping missions as well as peace support operations.


Briefing by the Panel of the Wise, FemWise and WiseYouth on their activities in Africa

Briefing by the Panel of the Wise, FemWise and WiseYouth on their activities in Africa

Date | 12 March 2024

Tomorrow (13 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1204th session to receive a briefing by the Panel of the Wise and its subsidiary bodies, FemWise and WiseYouth, on their activities in Africa.

Following opening remarks by Ambassador Emilia Mkusa, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Namibia to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for March 2024, Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is expected to make a statement.  Prof. Babacar Kante, Chairperson of the Panel of the Wise is also expected to deliver a briefing to the PSC.

The meeting which was initially planned for 19 March 2024, is being convened in accordance with PSC’s decision during its 665th meeting in March 2017, in which it requested for quarterly briefings from the Panel of the Wise. The last convening of the PSC on the Panel of Wise was in May 2023 at its 1152nd session which focused on the Report of the Panel of the Wise on its mission to the Republic of Chad. Prior to that, PSC convened it’s 1142nd session on 3 March 2023, but no outcome document was released.

Prior to the 1142nd session, there was no session with the Panel for most of the years since 2017. Thus, despite the expectation for this engagement to be regular, the meetings have not been regular and are yet to be fully institutionalised. This has affected the harmonisation and collaboration between the two organs around the role of the Panel on conflict prevention, including preventive diplomacy. Tomorrow’s session accordingly presents the opportunity for discussing on how to maintain the momentum and institutionalize the regularity of engagement.

The session is also expected to discuss on the work of the Panel of the Wise and its subsidiary mechanisms (PanWise, FemWise-Africa and WiseYouth) from the period 1 March 2023 to 1 March 2024. An area that is expected to receive particular attention in the Panel’s briefing is its efforts to assist countries in political transitions. On the situation in Chad, the Panel undertook a fact-finding mission to the country in May 2023 to evaluate Chad’s political and security situation in accordance with a November 2022 decision of the PSC. The Panel also undertook a mission to the Central African Republic. The field mission, in which the outcome was discussed during PSC’s 1157th session, sought to evaluate the political and security situation, assess the progress of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR-CAR) and suggested strategies to support the country in achieving peace, reconciliation and democracy. Regarding South Sudan, the Panel undertook a mission to the country in December 2023 to evaluate the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS). The mission also aimed to assess advancements and challenges in the political, security, humanitarian and financial aspects crucial for South Sudan’s peace and stability.

Considering that this year is a critical year in the transition process in Chad, it would be of interest for the PSC to reflect on how the Panel follows up on issues identified from its mission to Chad including on the issue of candidacy of the members of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) of Chad, for elections. It is worth recalling in this respect that AU rules and PSC’s decision itself made it clear that TMC members are barred from standing for elections. Yet, earlier this month the transitional President, despite his earlier assurances, announced that he would run for elections. No doubt coming against the background of the failure of the PSC to sanction Chad for military coup, this development constitutes a test for the PSC’s credibility.

In terms of South Sudan, which finds itself at the most delicate stage of its transitional process, it would also be of interest for the PSC to hear from the Panel on its assessment of the situation and importantly on how the Panel can have sustained role for addressing disagreements that may arise on how to manage this phase of the transition including the lack of progress in key transitional tasks necessary for holding elections.

Another area of the Panel’s work that tomorrow’s session is expected to focus on concerns the Panel’s role in dealing with election related crises including its participation in election observation and electoral preventive diplomacy missions. Through its involvement in crucial Election Observation and electoral Preventive Diplomacy missions, the Panel is expected to brief the PSC on its engagement in recent pre-, during and post-election processes in several member states in 2023. The Panel carried out election observation and preventive diplomacy missions in Nigeria (February 2023), Sierra Leone  (June 2023), Zimbabwe (August 2023), the Liberian presidential election (October 2023), the DRC (December 2023) as well as the 2024 Comoros Presidential elections.

In this context, an issue that may be of interest for PSC members is how these efforts by the Panel will and can contribute to the PSC’s ongoing engagement in these countries and the work of the various mechanisms of the AU dealing with these country situations.

Regarding the subsidiary organs of the Panel of the Wise, these are mechanism that contribute to its mission of conflict prevention, management and resolution. During the 25th Statutory Meeting, held on 12 and 13 May 2023, the Panel members assessed the advancements made by the Subsidiary Mechanisms, the PanWise Network, FemWise-Africa and WiseYouth and underscored the importance of enhancing the efficiency of decision-making and governance structures within these mechanisms. Tomorrow’s meeting is expected to provide the PSC an update on these subsidiary bodies of the Panel, particularly regarding the revitalization of the PanWise Network, which was proposed in 2022, as well as the 8th PanWise Network Retreat which was held from 7 – 8 December 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda, under the theme “Enhancing Electoral Preventive Diplomacy during Elections: Best Practices and Lessons Learnt.”

Furthermore, the PSC is likely to get an update on the operationalization of the FemWise-Africa Network and how members of FemWise are being deployed in various AU peace and security processes. In this context, it is expected that the briefing will highlight, among others, the involvement of the FemWise-Africa Network in AU-led election processes, including through deployments to Election Observation Missions (EOMs) and Preventive Diplomacy Missions (PDMs). In addition, the Panel is expected to brief the Council on the activities of the WiseYouth. As recalled, the establishment of the WiseYouth Network came into being through a decision made during the 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in February 2022 (Assembly/AU/Dec.815(XXXV)). The network’s purpose is to strategically engage youth in preventive diplomacy, mediation and dialogue across the African continent. Following the Consultative Meeting with all Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the Regional Mechanisms (RMs), the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the G5-Sahel, held on 31 August to 1 September 2023 in Bujumbura, Burundi, whereby the Operational Modalities and Terms of Reference for Members of the Network were finalized and validated, tomorrow’s meeting is expected to get an update on the process of launching an Open Call for Applications for the 1st Cohort of the WiseYouth Network which is expected to happen in 2024.

Finally, the session is expected to have a discussion on the challenges the Panel faces and propose recommendations. These are expected to include the issues on quick deployment to situations in areas not yet on PSC’s agenda; coordination challenges with RECs and RMs; absence of post-mission follow-up mechanisms and the challenge of political will to systematically and consistently include women and youth as equal stakeholders in all high-level peace processes.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. The PSC may commend the Panel of the Wise for the activities that the Panel undertook during the reporting period including the missions to countries in transition and the electoral preventive diplomacy missions. It may welcome the progress made with respect to FemWise and WiseYouth. The PSC may call for enhanced coordination, and joint deployments by the AU-RECs/RMs during elections. It may also take note of the 2nd Joint Annual Retreat of the African Peer Review (APR) Panel of Eminent Persons and the AU Panel of the Wise, held on December 10-11 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa and welcome the adoption of the Framework of Cooperation. It may underline the importance of reinvigorating early warning and conflict prevention by working closely with the Panel. It may further underline the importance of enhancing coordination with the Panel in supporting complex transitions, sustaining peace in fragile contexts and ensuring early action to deescalate looming crises. To this end the PSC may reiterate its previous decision and call for the institutionalization of conflict prevention and preventive deployment briefing by the Panel of the Wise. The PSC may also request that the AU Commission continues its support for the Panel including, in working together with the Panel to address the challenges it faces.


Commemoration of the 23rd Anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 on WPS

Commemoration of the 23rd Anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 on WPS

Date | 16 November 2023

Tomorrow (17 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene an open session in commemoration of the 23rd anniversary of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). The session, which will constitute PSC’s 1187th meeting, is expected to focus on women’s participation in peace processes, drawing specifically on the experiences and contributions of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan.

Following opening remarks by Abdi Mahamoud Eybe, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Djibouti to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of November 2023, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), is expected to deliver a statement. Bineta Diop, Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on WPS is expected to brief the PSC. Maxime Houinato, UN Women Regional Director for East and Southern Africa Region (ESARO) and interim Regional Director for West and Central Africa Region (WCARO) will be making a statement. A representative of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the AU will also be participating in the session. Statements are also expected to be presented by Jeane Rugendabanga Namburo, Coordinator, SOS-Information Juridique Multisectorielle (SOS-IJM), Bukavu, South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo; Claudine Tsongo Mbalamya, Coordinator, Dynamique des Femmes Juristes (DFJ), Goma, North Kivu; Ilham Osman, Executive Director of the Sudanese Organisation for Research and Development (SORD); and Samar Abushama, young peacebuilder, gender equality advocate, and a member of the Peace for Sudan platform.

Since institutionalising WPS as part of its annual agenda item in line with the decision of its 223rd session held in 2010, the PSC has regularized the convening of annual meetings to the commemoration of UNSC resolution 1325. In addition to serving as a platform for following up on the status of implementation of resolution 1325 in Africa, these meetings have served the PSC to reflect on a range of issues that affect women in conflict and crisis settings. At its 1144th meeting which was the last time the PSC met to deliberate on the theme, it underscored the imperative for women’s meaningful participation and involvement in peace processes including preventive diplomacy, mediation, conflict management and post-conflict reconstruction and development. Tomorrow’s session, with its focus on women’s engagement in peace processes, offers the chance for the PSC to be briefed on some of the progressive examples from experiences of some member states as well as challenges being faced in realising women’s meaningful involvement in the various stages of conflict management and resolution, in line with resolution 1325.

As UNSC resolution 1325 marks the 23rd year since its adoption in 2000, women continue to experience unique and disproportionate challenges that bar the full realisation of their right to equal participation in matters of relevance to public decision-making and governance. Despite making significant headway in the achievement of the goals of the WPS agenda in Africa including availing women the space to be involved meaningfully in peace processes, the AU, relevant regional economic communities and regional mechanisms (RECs/RMs) as well as member states are yet to attain the desired level of integration of women representatives in various peacekeeping operations, in peace negotiation and mediation missions and in the appointment of peace envoys.

This year also marks the 20th anniversary of AU’s Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). Maputo Protocol, under Article 10 provides for the right of women to participate in the promotion and maintenance of peace and charges states parties to the Protocol with the responsibility of putting in place all the appropriate measures to enable women’s increased participation in decision-making processes including in structures relevant for ‘conflict prevention, management and resolution at local, national, regional, continental and international levels’. Tomorrow’s session hence also affords the opportunity to reflect on the level of implementation of the Maputo Protocol by states parties, with a specific focus on efforts made towards the full realisation of Article 10.

Notwithstanding the considerable challenges, including the lack of gender inclusive formal avenues that present women the opportunity to actively contribute to peace efforts, women in a number of conflict affected African countries have proven to be critical players in the management and resolution of crises. The mobilisation of women movements in Sudan since the outbreak of conflict on 15 April 2023 between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is one of the more recent examples of the important efforts deployed by women’s groups.

Tomorrow’s session will be significant in not only discussing the current state of the WPS agenda at a normative and policy levels but also importantly to interrogate the WPS agenda in the context of specific conflict settings. In this respect, the fact that the session is envisaged to focus on specific cases of Sudan and DRC and most importantly to have grass root women groups share their perspectives based on their lived experiences from these conflict settings is commendable.

At the grassroots level, women groups and women-led movements in Sudan are contributing significantly including through documentation of violations and abuses of human rights and through social media and advocacy campaigns that engage hundreds of women advocates and human rights activists. In addition to increasing global awareness about the intensity of the war in Sudan and amplifying the voice of civilians caught in the crossfires, these women-led initiatives are playing a critical role in the area of monitoring and reporting. For instance, initiatives such as the Ceasefire Initiative in Darfur and the Youth Citizen Observers Network have been noteworthy for de-escalation efforts and ceasefire monitoring. With the massive humanitarian crisis resulting from the war, women movements in Sudan such as the South Red Sea Organization Initiative are also substantially contributing towards mitigating of the humanitarian crisis by providing support and basic assistance to displaced people.

Although there have been some efforts by the AU, through the office of the Special Envoy for WPS and the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise) to support Sudanese women’s engagement in ongoing political dialogues, grassroots level women initiatives in Sudan are to a large extent excluded from important negotiation efforts deployed by prominent actors including the United States and Saudi Arabia. On the part of the AU and the PSC in particular, the approach taken on Sudan’s file seems to also have fallen short of actively consulting with and involving women groups that are currently mobilised as first responders, including through invitations to brief the PSC during its dedicated sessions on the situation in Sudan. Regular engagement by the PSC, particularly with a focus on providing the platform for women activists and organizations in particular, would have opened the policy space to Sudanese women and granted the proper recognition to their efforts and contributions to the political process. It would have also enabled the PSC to become the platform for ventilating civilian particularly women voices in addition to enabling it to regularly track developments through constant engagement with these women groups that have direct or indirect presence on the ground.

In the case of the DRC, various local and partner supported initiatives aim to empower women with the objective of advancing their meaningful participation in peace-related decision-making processes. Since DRC’s adoption of a National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of UNSC resolution 1325 in 2018, there have also been encouraging progress in the engagement of women in peacebuilding and governance processes. Women-led peace dialogues have in different occasions afforded the stage to promote gender integration and female leadership in politics and to advance active involvement of women in electoral processes.

The AU Special Envoy on WPS also conducted a field peace advocacy mission to the DRC in August 2023, along with the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) and the FemWise. Focusing on boosting peace efforts and strengthening approaches for resolution of the conflict in eastern DRC and also having regard to the upcoming general elections, the delegation led by the Special Envoy made a call for an inclusive peace process that ensures women’s participation and leadership.

In both countries – Sudan and DRC – women and girls constitute a prepondering portion of people affected by the ongoing conflicts. Women and girls that are displaced due to the conflicts in these two countries face not only the ordinary impacts of displacement, but also the added risks of and exposure to sexual abuse and violence. In Sudan, reports indicate that as of 02 November 2023, there have been over 50 incidents of sexual violence linked to ongoing hostilities, impacting at least 105 victims, out of which 86 are women and 18 are children (and one man).

In eastern DRC, the surge in conflict continues to drive up incidences of sexual violence against displaced women and girls. Since the conflict with the March 23 Movement (M23) re-emerged in 2022, reports have indicated an average of 70 sexual assault victims visiting clinics in displacement camps nearby Goma, on a daily basis. While Sudan and DRC merely exemplify the realities of women in conflict settings, women caught in crisis in other countries across the continent also continue to face similar fate. Yet, despite the more pronounced impacts of conflicts on women, women remain largely excluded from key conflict resolution efforts and peacebuilding initiatives. The consequence of such approach goes far beyond failure to effectively implement UNSC resolution 1325, as it also carries grave implications for the success and sustainability of peace processes.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is either a Communiqué or a Press Statement. The PSC is expected to welcome efforts made by the AU Commission, through the office of the Special Envoy for WPS, to advance implementation of UNSC resolution 1325, including through the development of the Continental Results Framework (CRF) and close engagement with member states to adopt and implement NAPs. The PSC may commend the AU Special Envoy for WPS as well as the FemWise and AWLN for the efforts deployed in support of women in Sudan and the DRC. It may further take note of and express concern over the increasing victimisation of women and girls in conflict settings, particularly in Sudan and DRC and urge all conflicting parties to respect human rights, abide by relevant international norms on conduct of hostilities and bring perpetrators of sexual violence and abuses to justice. The PSC is also expected to underscore the importance of women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and call on the AU Commission, RECs/RMs and member states to redouble their efforts in this regard. The PSC may commend the women representatives for bringing to the PSC the views and perspectives of women affected by conflict in the specific conflict settings of DRC and Sudan. The PSC may also commend the advocacy work of that the AU Special Envoy and request the Envoy to work on an annual report that documents and provides analysis on WPS in the various conflict and crises situations, including those the PSC is seized with as critical tool for also putting conflict parties on notice about their actions that are being monitored. The PSC may encourage the various peace efforts by the AU and RECs/RMs to ensure that they have not only women representatives but also, they have regular and dedicated engagement with women groups from the conflict setting for which those peace processes are designed.


Open Session on Women, Peace and Security in the context of the AU theme of the year for 2023

Open Session on Women, Peace and Security in the context of the AU theme of the year for 2023

Date | 14 March 2023

Tomorrow (14 March), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1144th meeting which will be committed to its annual open session on women, peace and security (WPS). In line with AU’s theme for the year 2023 – acceleration of implementing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) –, it is expected that the session will pay particular attention to integration of WPS agenda in the implementation of the AfCFTA. This session is also convened at the time of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women (Maputo Protocol).

Following opening remarks by Innocent Eugene Shiyo, Permanent Representative of Tanzania and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of March, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. It is expected to pay homage to the contribution of women and AU Commission’s work on WPS.  Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on WPS, is also expected to brief the PSC. Representatives of United Nations (UN) Office to the AU (UNOAU) and UN Women may also make statements.

Since its 223rd session convened on 30 March 2010 when it decided to hold annual open sessions dedicated to the WPS theme, the PSC has institutionalised its session dedicated to WPS agenda in Africa. The last time the PSC held a session on WPS, the 1109th session committed to commemoration of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on WPS (S/RES/1325), the focus was on the persisting challenge faced in the fight against sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) in conflict and crisis settings. One of the key outcomes of the session was PSC’s request to the AU Special Envoy to ‘establish a forum for knowledge sharing amongst the AU Member States and partners to leverage experience, lessons learnt and good practices in addressing sexual violence against women in conflicts and crises’. While the follow up and report on action taken in this regard is expected to take place in the session of the PSC on WPS focusing on 1325 later in the year, tomorrow’s session may address it by drawing attention to the ways in which the integration of WPS within the AfCFTA implementation also enhances protection of women and girls from SGBV.

Estimates indicate that between 70% and 80% of African informal cross-border traders are women. The engagement of women in informal cross-border trading not only advances women’s empowerment, but also significantly contributes to poverty reduction in the continent by presenting women the opportunity for income generation. However, women cross border traders operate their businesses under serious risks to their person and property. This is particularly the case in border areas in fragile and conflict affected territories.

The result of the lack of targeted protection measures particularly for informal traders means not only that women traders are subject to various kinds of risks but their societies are deprived of the opportunity to benefit from the full scale of the socio-economic contributions of women cross border trade. In various regions of the continent, women cross border traders face challenges emanating from the absence of proper regulatory frameworks that govern their activities. Studies indicate for example, women cross border traders in the west African region experience multitude of challenges and insecurities due to the informal nature of their trading activities. Although the regional economic bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) provides the proper platform for facilitating protected free trade in the region, this platform caters to formal sectors of trade while those engaged in informal cross border trade largely remain marginalised. Representing about 60% of informal traders in the region, women hence bear the brunt of the absence of policies that regulate their trading practices. The same is true for women informal traders in the East African Community (EAC) region, 90% of which are estimated to rely on cross border trade as their only source of income.

Due to the informal nature of their activities, women engaged in cross border trade are excluded from accessing information related to customs and border regulations. They also do not benefit from initiatives aimed at enhancing inter-state trade at national and regional levels, including in the form of access to profitable markets and credit services. In addition, the lack of sufficient awareness and uncertainties about border procedures among women informal traders exposes them to corrupt practices and manipulation.

One good example of an activity women in cross border trading are largely engaged in is Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM). In Africa, it is estimated that no less than 40% to 50% of the workforce engaged in ASM is comprised of women. Due to deeply rooted misconceptions of gender roles and constrictive legal standards that are influenced by oppressive cultural norms, women engaged in ASM are often left behind in accessing relevant equipment, technology and institutional support key for a successful engagement in the sector. As a result, majority of these women are forced to pursue informal routes for trading in mines and minerals across borders. Not only does this expose women to multi-layered risks, it also imposes an economic disadvantage to states by facilitating illegal smuggling of mines outside of their borders.

Worse still, women cross border traders in conflict and post-conflict settings face even more serious violations that range from verbal abuse, to physical harm and sexual violence. Regulatory vacuums that result due to the situation of insecurity and instability in such settings leave women vulnerable to gender specific risks and exploitations. For instance, a 2022 report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) indicates that at the Goma border post between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, not only are women cross border traders subjected to indecent searches by male inspectors, but are also raped after confiscation of their goods. Poor infrastructure and absence of state presence in the northern parts of DRC also subject women cross border traders to travel long distances in insecure settings, exposing them to varying forms of sexual violence and even murder according to the report.

In the context of displacement, women living in refugee camps are also largely engaged in informal trade activities. Due to the way refugee camps are often established and the general form in which populations fleeing conflicts and instability in their country of origin tend to settle in border areas of neighbouring states, such areas often end up being hot spots for intense informal cross border trade. However, women refugees engaged in informal trade in such settings operate not only under major financial and infrastructural constraints as well as restrictions to their movements, they also conduct their business under the constant fear of being discovered by border control police provided that their informal trade is treated as illegal activity.

It is in the light of these realities that the integration of WPS in the implementation of the AfCFTA becomes a critical point of discussion for the PSC within the framework of its annual engagement on the WPS agenda. The AfCFTA Agreement already envisages under Article 27, the commitment of states parties to improve ‘the export capacity of both formal and informal service suppliers, with particular attention to micro, small and medium size women and youth service suppliers’. The Agreement further recognises the importance of gender equality in order to attain sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development as well as structural transformation of states parties. This focus on the provision of regulatory protection to women cross border traders in the informal sectors also enables border communities and trading societies to harvest the full scale of the socio-economic contributions of women’s cross border economic and trade activities.

The AfCFTA, when fully operational, also presents multiple practical opportunities for women involved in informal cross border trade. These include the free movement of persons and goods as well as the reduction of burdensome trading costs through the elimination of tariffs for intra-Africa trade, among others. Hence, the AfCFTA framework already provides critical entry points for integration of women rights and WPS. The implementation of AfCFTA in a manner that takes into consideration the specific concerns of women engaged in cross border trading, particularly in conflict and crisis settings, largely depends on the level of commitment and political will of relevant policy actors. Tomorrow’s session hence serves the PSC to urge all relevant stakeholders to factor in the importance of both gender equality and the WPS agenda for the full realisation of the objectives of the AfCFTA in its implementation.

The outcome of tomorrow’s session is expected to be a Communiqué. The PSC is expected to emphasise the importance of integrating WPS into the implementation of the AfCFTA. It may emphasis how such integration helps to enhance regulatory protection to women cross border traders as a measure to foster both their equal participation in trade and their important contributions to Africa’s economy. It may recall Aspiration 6 of Agenda 2063 which calls for ‘an Africa, whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth’ to emphasise the centrality of women’s full inclusion and involvement in the AfCFTA. It may further call on AU member states to take their commitments to gender equality and implementation of WPS agenda into consideration in the development of their national policies on implementation of the AfCFTA for the enhancement of cross border trade. The PSC may also note the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Maputo Protocol, urge states parties to the protocol to ensure its full implementation and call on member states that have not yet ratified the instrument to do so. The PSC may request the Special Envoy on WPS to work with the AfCFTA Secretariat and the PAPS Department both to undertake activities that document and popularise the cross border trade activities of women including those in fragile and conflict affected territories and to outline targeted proposals on how the WPS can be meaningfully integrated in the processes and implementation of the AfCFTA as part of the AU theme of the year for protection of women (informal) traders and harnessing of the contributions of their trade activities to the socio-economic advancement of their families, communities and societies.


Open Session on the Commemoration of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security

Open Session on the Commemoration of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security

Date | 03 October 2022

Tomorrow (3 October), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold its 1109th session on the Commemoration of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). This year’s commemorative session is expected to be an in-person meeting.

Following opening remarks of the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the AU and Chairperson of the PSC for the month, Mohamed Arrouchi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye is expected to deliver a statement. The PSC is also expected to receive a briefing from the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten, and UN Women Special Representative to AUC and ECA Awa Ndiaye Seck. The Coordinator of the Moroccan Network of Women Mediators Frida Jaidi, the representatives from the European Union (EU) and the League of Arab States (LAS) are also expected to deliver statements.

The last time Council convened a session in commemoration of resolution 1325 was at its 1052nd meeting of 29 November 2021. The session focused on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the WPS agenda and it served to draw attention to the ‘disproportionate adverse socio-economic impact on women and girls resulting from the COVID-19 containment measures being implemented by Member States’.

Tomorrow’s session marks the 22nd anniversary of the UN Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on WPS and will have a specific focus on the protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict. The prevalent perpetration of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) in the various conflict settings on the continent including the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war makes UNSCR 1325 particularly important. Indeed, in the session that will feature the work of Patten is expected to highlight the scale of this problem currently. According to the 2021 United Nations Secretary-General report on CRSV, countries across Africa reported the highest number of CRSV cases worldwide. In Central African Republic (CAR) alone, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) verified cases of CRSV affecting 379 women and 327 girls, representing a doubling in the number of reported cases compared with the previous year 2020. The report also highlighted the pervasiveness of CRSV in the war in Northern Ethiopia. Similarly, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) documented 1,016 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 544 women, 459 girls, 7 boys and 6 men.

Women and girls are also victims of acts of terrorism. Terrorist groups, deliberately target women through acts of sexual and gender-based violence – such as rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage – as a means of achieving tactical, strategic and ideological aims. Many terrorist groups encroach on women’s human rights and impede their socioeconomic development, including by restricting their movement. Women in Africa are also facing gender-specific difficulties when attempting to access justice and seeking remedies as victims of terrorism. The Lake Chad basin, in 2021, recorded the greatest ever number of individuals defected from Boko Haram-affiliated and splinter groups including abducted women and children. This particular case highlights the importance of socioeconomic reintegration support. In Mali and Burkina Faso, groups such as Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Jama‘a Nusrat ul-Islamwa al-Muslimin have exploited local grievances, thereby deepening cycles of violence, which include CRSV.

In some contexts, women disproportionately experience internal displacement as a result of terrorist threats, and lose access to livelihoods owing to terrorist attacks. Migrant and refugee women and girls in conflict-affected areas, particularly those held in detention facilities, continue to face heightened risks of sexual violence in Libya. Furthermore, across diverse contexts, women and girls suffer ongoing attacks and threats of sexual violence which also impede their livelihood activities. In CAR, women and girls engaged in agriculture, gathering firewood or returning home to retrieve essential items after displacement, were raped and in some cases abducted and held by armed groups.

Indeed, UNSC Resolution 1325 recognizes that conflict affects women differently and that addressing the needs, views and participation of women would provide a positive peace dividend. It emphasizes the protection of women, their meaningful participation in peace and security processes, and the need for an increased role of women in preventing and resolving conflict. To date, Resolution 1325 was followed by nine other resolutions namely 1820 (2008), 1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019), and 2493 (2019), establishing a broad spectrum of norms which came to form the WPS agenda. Its transformative potential lies on conflict-related sexual violence by recognizing the need for a survivor-centered approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.

For the AU, implementing the WPS agenda is particularly imperative to achieve the goals set in ‘Agenda 2063’ and as well as the ‘Silencing the Guns’ initiative. Further, the adoption of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) in July 2003 was a historical milestone in the realization of the rights of women in Africa. The Protocol commits State Parties, among others, to adopt specific measures to combat violence against women, whether in public or private spaces, and to prohibit harmful practices which negatively affect the human rights of women and girls. Explicit mention of violence against women is made in Article 4, which deals with the rights to life, integrity and security of the person.

The AU Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse for Peace Support Operations (PSOs) is another key instrument which contributes to the realization of WPS agenda by providing key guidance to personnel of AU PSOs on acts that constitute sexual exploitation and abuse, the duty of personnel to prevent and report such acts as well as consequences of such acts – which can range from disciplinary measures and termination of contracts with the AU to criminal prosecution.

Likewise, UNSCR 1325 is a critical instrument in Africa considering not only the prevalence of conflict related sexual violence but also steps that have been taken by member states and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in developing national action plans (NAPs) and Regional Action Plans (RAPs). To date, in Africa, more than 30 countries have developed NAPs and about five RECs namely the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have also adopted RAPs for the implementation of resolution 1325.

Correspondingly, the AU through its Special Envoy office has launched a 10 years Continental Results Framework (CRF) for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the WPS Agenda in Africa. The Framework aims at ensuring that members deliver on commitments made through the various instruments that have been adopted. In this regard, in line with the CRF aspiration and the PSC’s previous request at its 887th session held on 17 October 2019, tomorrow’s session serves as an opportunity to receive a briefing from Diop on the state of implementation of the WPS agenda in respect to CRSV. In her briefing, Diop may also provide update on the follow up to the outcome of the 1052nd session of the PSC, which requested her to develop a template for a mechanism for reporting on the implementation of WPS agenda by the member states and the RECs/RMs, and to take into consideration the CRF.

Despite receiving wide recognition, the implementation of what resolution 1325 envisions remains uneven on the continent. As the 22nd year anniversary approaches, women and girls continue to be victims of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence, during armed conflicts and in post-conflict settings. In this regard, the PSC in its several meetings including at its 461st, 491st, 555th, 757th sessions echoed a clear message that sexual violence in situations of armed conflict will not be tolerated. The PSC also convened a dedicated session – the 862nd session held on 23 July 2019 – on the theme: “Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts in Africa” and further agreed to dedicate an annual open session to CRSV, which will serve as an annual forum for taking stock of progress made and challenges faced in the efforts aimed at ending sexual violence in armed conflicts in Africa.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. PSC is expected to express grave concern about the prevalence of CRSV in various conflict settings and reiterate its condemnation of the use of sexual violence and rape as weapon of war. The PSC may also call for the need for documenting and reporting CRSV as part of the monitoring of conflict situations it is seized with and other crisis situations and underscore the obligations of conflict parties to abide by Resolution 1325, and in this regard, express its support for mechanisms for investigation of CRSV in conflict settings on the continent. It is expected that Council also commends where progress has been made around the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325. Council may call on member states to adopt NAPs and make the necessary budgetary allocation and put in place robust protection and monitoring mechanisms. The PSC may reiterate its previous decisions on the need for survivor-centered responses and states obligations to provide the necessary support to survivors. It may also further call for the increase of the number of women in the security sector as well as in peace processes. The PSC may task the AU Commission to enhance its data collection and reporting on sexual violence with specific recommendations on the strategies for prevention, monitoring and remedying sexual violence, including its due consideration in the conflict prevention, management, resolution and post-conflict rebuilding initiatives.


Open Session on Urbanisation, Women, Peace and Security Nexus

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 08 February, 2022

Tomorrow (8 February) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1063rd session on ‘Urbanization, Women, Peace and Security in Africa’. The meeting will be held at ministerial level.

Following the opening remarks of Raychelle Omamo, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Kenya and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of February 2022, Bankole Adeoye, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security is expected to make a statement. Bineta Diop – AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security and President of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS), Maimunah Mohd Sharif – the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat) and Mabigue Ngom – Senior Advisor to the Executive Director and Director of the UNFPA Representation Office to AU and UNECA are expected to deliver presentations.

The session is convened as part of PSC’s standing theme on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). However it is for the first time that the PSC is considering the WPS agenda in relation to urbanization. In this context the session is expected to reflect on the effects of urbanization on the safety and wellbeing of women. Urbanization is often times associated with development, notably both Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 recognize urbanization as a driver of sustainable growth and transformation. However, there is also an increasing trend of instability due to the lack of proper management and planning of urbanization and urban spaces.

Africa is urbanizing rapidly. The rate of urbanization is projected to reach 60% in 2050. Similarly urban population in the continent is expected to triple in the coming decades. However rapid and unplanned urbanization has led to the formation of informal settlements, the expansion of slums as well as insecurity in these spaces. Urban violence in Africa has spiked to 41% in the second decade of 2000 despite the fact that Africa’s urbanization has remained limited as compared to other parts of the world. The adverse effects of urbanization have been particularly grave on women. Gender inequality and the lack of protection mechanisms has particularly exposed women to specific sets of challenges. Women are particularly affected by growing urban insecurity and its consequences in the form of sexual and gender based violence and forced eviction. Discriminatory inheritance laws and legal limitations over women’s land ownership has led to their arbitrary eviction and displacement. These legal gaps and the lack of protection of women’s basic human rights has deprived their access to livelihood and compelled them to live in a perpetual cycle of economic dependence and uncertainty .

Governments are grappling with managing the rising expectations of citizens that emanate from rapid urbanization and delayed socio-economic transformation that is expected to uplift people from poverty. The unmet expectations of people have contributed to growing frustration and particularly the youth have expressed their discontent through protest and even riots demanding for better socio-economic opportunities and prospect.

The other aspect of instability related to urbanization is the increasing trend of conflicts taking place in cities. Warfare in the continent is increasingly taking an urban dimension. Fighting and terrorist attacks are taking place in populated cities and targeting civilian population. In addition to the violence which women experience in times of conflicts, the destruction of vital infrastructure deprives their access to life saving and health care services, which is already weak in pre-conflict period. Women also constitute the majority of displaced population. Hence creating another layer of complexity for women in urban humanitarian settings.

According to the concept note, the open session aims to provide a platform for participants to discuss, highlight and explore the nexus between urbanization and women, peace and security in Africa. It also aims to explore the role that sustainable urbanization and effective cities and local governments can play in preventing the escalation of conflicts and preventing humanitarian crisis. The session is based on the need to examine the current situation of women across urban spaces and cities in the continent particularly in relation to peace and stability. Hence this session with a distinctive theme on urbanization and its impact on women is crucial to broaden the WPS agenda to also integrate emerging challenges related to the unique insecurities experienced by women in cities. Hence, the PSC may outline key policy recommendations and approaches to link the implementation of the WPS agenda with urbanization and conflicts in urban settings.

Tomorrow’s session is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of investing in infrastructure to support the continent’s inclusive development that is also able to address the underlying root causes of inequalities. In this aspect the nexus between peace and development is crucial in the prevention of conflicts and the creation of peaceful societies. During its 1055th session PSC has underlined the importance of ‘creating inclusive societies and ensuring participation of women and youth in decision making processes related to peace, security and development’ . Hence gender equality and the empowerment of women remain fundamental components of sustainable peace and development.

The expected outcome is a communique. The PSC may urge member states to ratify, domesticate and implement relevant international and regional frameworks on the urban agenda. The Council may also reiterate its call to Member States to adopt national action plans (NAPs) for the proper implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 for members that have not yet done so and reflect in the NAPs mechanisms to advance the rights and protection of women in urban settings. The council may also urge for the development of the guidelines on mainstreaming women peace and security issues in the urban development and planning policies. The PSC may reiterate its previous call for member states to collect disaggregated data including impacts of urbanization to ensure that women’s needs and experiences in fragile context inform policies. PSC may urge members states to address the safety and security of women and adopt policies that secure their ownership to land and resources to ensure the eventual realization of their economic independence. The PSC may also note the increasingly urban nature of crises, and the need to adapt the approaches to peace support operations that can respond to these specific challenges.


Open Session on Implementation and Commemoration of UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 29 November, 2021

Tomorrow (29 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1052nd session, which will be an open session to commemorate United Nations (UN) Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and discuss its implementation in Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the AU, Mohamed Omar Gad, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. Presentations are also expected from Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on WPS; Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) and Head of UN Office to the AU (UNOAU); Head of Egyptian National Council of Women; a representative of FEMWISE and Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Director of the Women International Peace Centre (WIPC).

Tomorrow’s session is expected to focus on the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 in Africa. It is to be recalled that at its 918th session, the PSC raised concern over the pandemic’s impacts on peace and security efforts in the continent. At its 951st session where the PSC commemorated the 20th anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1325 and followed up on its implementation in Africa, it also specifically emphasised how Covid-19 has negatively impacted the realisation of the WPS agenda by exacerbating pre-existing challenges including vulnerabilities to human rights abuses and sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), particularly in the context of armed conflicts. Even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, major security challenges threatened many parts of Africa. Terrorism and violent extremism, intercommunal violence, as well as socio-political tensions were already on an upsurge, deteriorating economies and causing serious humanitarian crises across the continent.

Women, already experiencing various forms of discrimination, violence and inequalities during the pre-pandemic period, are now confronted with these challenges disproportionately. As highlighted in a study conducted by UN Women, despite being excessively affected by the pandemic, women in multiple African countries are either unrepresented or underrepresented in decision-making processes related to Covid-19 response. This demonstrates the entrenched marginalisation of women in the policymaking sphere, a prominent challenge to the full realisation of UNSC Resolution 1325.

In addition to the pandemic’s immediate effect on women, its socio-economic impacts are also likely to impose more long-term challenges. With majority of employed women in Africa working in the informal sector, more uncertainty and unpredictability is introduced to their livelihoods as a result of the pandemic. Not only will this disempower women, it also curtails their effective contributions to the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, a main tenet of the WPS agenda and core pillar of UNSC Resolution 1325.

Another challenge to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325, which has emerged due to Covid-19 pandemic, is the possibility of budget cuts for funding the WPS agenda and non-governmental institutions promoting and advancing it. As a result of various governments’ decisions to invest more on measures aimed at containing the pandemic and the reprioritisations of initiatives to make more budgets available to respond to the public health emergency, there is concern that the WPS agenda may not receive the policy attention it deserves. While such decisions may be justified in light of the spread and impact of Covid-19, this may also risk undermining the gains made so far in advancing the WPS agenda. More importantly, the development of response mechanisms, which fail to integrate the WPS agenda, could disregard women’s experiences and their specific needs, particularly in the context of conflicts. Women have also been at the frontlines responding to the pandemic and playing instrumental role in times of crisis.

In addition to reflecting on the impacts of Covid-19 on realisation of UNSC Resolution 1325, tomorrow’s session also presents Council the option to discuss updates on Member States’ implementation of the resolution. It is to be recalled that at the 25th AU Summit convened in June 2015, Member States decided to develop, implement and report on national and regional action plans for the implementation of the resolution. Since then, 30 AU States have adopted national action plans, while six regional economic communities (RECs) have adopted regional action plans, according to a 2020 report of the AU Special Envoy on WPS. In addition to the possible adoption of national and regional action plans by more Member States and RECs, AU’s Special Envoy on WPS may update Council on the progresses and challenges in the implementation of the WPS agenda, particularly in the context of Covid-19 pandemic, in those Member States and regions where national and regional action plans have already been adopted.

At Council’s 951st session one of the main achievements noted with regards to implementing the WPS agenda in Africa was the Second Report on the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa, using the Continental Results Framework (CRF) adopted by the Peace and Security Council in May 2018. The framework is aimed at monitoring implementation of various commitments made by AU Member States, relevant to WPS. One of the significant contributions of the CRF is that its monitoring and assessment of implementation is based on indicators, which are tailored to African context and AU policies including Agenda 2063 specifically aspiration number 6 and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). Accordingly, it looks into socio-economic threats, political factors, and emerging security threats such as terrorism and violent extremism through the lens of WPS. It is important therefore to employ the CRF to assess the impacts of Covid-19, which not only qualifies as an emerging threat to peace and security on the continent, but also poses socio-economic threats.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement. Council may commend the progress made around the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325. The PSC may also highlight the need to address challenges that affect the vital role of women in peace processes. Council may call on Member States as well as relevant regional and international actors to ensure that all measures adopted in response to the Covid-19 pay particular attention to the needs and experience of women. It may emphasise the importance of continued support to the WPS agenda and appeal to relevant actors to ensure that the necessary funds for its implementation are not reduced due to the pandemic. It may also call on Member States and RECs which have not yet adopted national and regional action plans for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 to do so and to mobilize necessary funds for its implementation. Member States may also be urged to ensure compliance with legal commitments relevant for the implementation of WPS agenda. The PSC may reiterate its previous request to the Commission to prepare the report that evaluates the implementation of its previous decisions to undertake a stocktaking exercise and to assess the level of implementation of the WPS agenda.


Ministerial Level Meeting on ‘Women, Peace, Culture and Gender Inclusivity in Africa’

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 22 March, 2021

Tomorrow (22 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 987th session at a ministerial level. The agenda of this virtual open session is ‘women, peace, culture and gender inclusivity in Africa’. The session is convened in line with PSC’s annual indicative programme and in the context of its previous decisions that it shall hold open sessions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, in March of each year.

Cabinet Secretary Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, Raychelle Awuor Omamo, is expected to make the opening remarks as the Chairperson of the PSC at ministerial level for March 2021. The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, and the Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Amira Elfadil Mohammed, are also scheduled to make statements. Respective Chairs of the eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs) will also be making statements. Presentations are also expected from Madam Bineta Diop, AU Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security, and the representative of UN Women.

This is the first time that the PSC convenes a ministerial level meeting since it decided to have the women, peace and security (WPS) theme as a standing agenda item in 2010. The convening of this session at ministerial level also signifies the importance that Kenya attaches to this theme. According to Council’s information note, the overall objective of the session is to provide an open platform for discussing how to build a “gender-inclusive culture of peace in Africa”.

Such framing of tomorrow’s session agenda is in part inspired by the AU theme of the year – “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. In part, it is also a recognition that deeply ingrained social and cultural views remain to be major course of the challenges that women and girls continue to face, as exemplified by the unprecedented spike in gender-based violence during the COVID19 pandemic in many countries on the continent. It is worth recalling Council’s request at its 951st meeting for Member States to take measures that could ensure the protection of women and girls who suffered violence due to covid-19 related abuses. The upcoming session presents the opportunity for Council to follow up on steps taken by Member States to ensure justice and fight impunity in this regard.

Tomorrow’s session thus serves as a platform for critical reflection on addressing the challenges for gender inclusivity in the realm of peace and security and the ways for advancing gender-inclusive culture of peace in Africa. One major source of impediment for gender inclusivity is the persistence of the association of politics and power with masculinity. Despite encouraging developments in representation of women in politics, in much of Africa politics, fuelled by the persistence of the association of politics and power with masculinity, remains dominated by men, who are often much older than the average age in Africa. In this context, the way politics is organised and mobilised as well as the continuing hold of patriarchal conceptions of power not only allows the persistence of women’s inequality but also enables cultural traits of domination and violence in society but also inhibits gender inclusivity. The resultant absence or weakness of gender- inclusive culture of peace both exposes women and girls to domination and violence even in times of relative peace and makes them vulnerable to becoming targets of violence in conflict situations.

Beyond the realm of politics, there remain harmful cultural practices that severely impede gender equality and the participation of women and girls in other areas of social and public life of society as well. Among these practices that Commissioner Mohammed is expected to highlight include child marriage and female genital mutilation. It is to be recalled that the PSC in its 789th session lamented that child marriage, which disproportionately affects girls with very negative effects on their personal growth, health, education and other opportunities, constitutes serious violation of human rights and Africa has the highest levels of child marriage with 4 out of every 10 girls in Africa married before the age of 18. Without properly addressing the underlying causes of women’s oppression which are usually embedded in such cultural practices, it will not be possible to ensure women’s effective contribution to peace and security and the overall development of their communities.

As highlighted in the concept note for tomorrow’s session, such harmful cultural practices and conditions of violence against women and girls become particularly acute in times of crises and conflicts. Accordingly, in times of crises and conflicts, gender based and sexual violence becomes a major source of threat to women and girls. Against this background, tomorrow’s session also serves to revisit PSC’s previous pronouncements condemning the use of sexual violence as an instrument of war, which continues to be reported in various conflict situations.

In the face of the persistence of the foregoing challenges, the theme of the year as framed for purposes of tomorrow’s session can serve to shed light on the adverse consequences of these challenges not only on the ability of women and girls to live and aspire for a life free from the burdens of harmful cultural practices and threats of violence but also the social and economic costs to society.

Considering some of the positive experiences in the inclusion of women in the political, social and economic realms, it would be of interest for members of the PSC to highlight the use of the arts and culture as levers for the promotion of gender-inclusive culture of peace in Africa, In this respect, one measure that can easily be pursued is the inclusion of the promotion of gender-inclusive culture of peace in the activities that the AU and AU member states relating to the theme of the year. It may also interest Council to reflect on the role of African women both in preserving and maintaining African cultural heritages and in promoting positive social changes, with a view to enhance their active role in the use of African indigenous knowledge and traditions for prevention and early-warning as well as for peaceful settlement of disputes.

In order to draw lessons from good practices relating to WPS, Council may also note some successful efforts such as the utilisation of one-stop centres during the conflict in South Sudan; the use of DNA testing for identifying perpetrators and victims of violence against women in Rwanda; and the creation of “peace huts” where women contribute to elections through discussion in Liberia. The session is also expected to offer the opportunity for RECs to share their sub-regional experiences regarding culture and women’s rights, particularly as it relates to peace and security and development.

In terms of inclusion of women in peace processes, past PSC sessions on WPS have repeatedly emphasised the importance of integrating women and girls into peace and security initiatives, in a systematic and sustainable manner. The need for inclusion of women in national defence and security forces, as well as their deployment in peace support operations has also been emphasised at various PSC meetings. One of the crucial points raised at PSC’s 951st session was the importance of increasing women’s participation in AU peacekeeping missions and peace support operations as well as in all AU initiatives including the AU Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (AUPCRD) Centre.

Tomorrow’s session presents an opportunity to discuss further mechanisms through which increased representation of women in peace support operations as well as in prevention, mediation and peace-making initiatives could be realised. Ensuring that women assume leadership positions at various levels of decision- making at the national level is essential, as a pool from which women can be recruited. Additionally, there is a need for the creation of gender sensitive conditions of work in peacekeeping operations and in mediation and peace negotiation as critical measure for attracting women and ensuring their effective participation in these processes. Peace agreements and other peace supporting initiatives should also have components that are cognizant of and address the disproportionate impacts of conflicts on women. One example is the assignment of explicit mandate for peace support operations or mechanisms such as the AU Special Envoy, for monitoring, tracking, documenting, analysing and reporting on SGBV as basis for designing evidence-based responses for addressing the disproportionate impact of conflicts for women and girls.

The PSC is expected to issue an outcome document, although the form that the outcome takes was not known at the time of going for publication. It is expected to call on the AU and AU member states to ensure that the activities on the AU are designed to promote gender inclusive culture of peace and enhance delivery on women’s rights to and participation in peace processes in Africa. In terms of addressing harmful cultural practices, the PSC may call on AU member states to take targeted measures and to this end use the requirements of the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa. As part of the promotion of gender-inclusive culture of peace, the PSC may also call on the AU and AU member states to address patriarchal conceptions and practices of politics and power, including by making the women agenda as a priority policy issue in the social, economic and governance realms and supporting women rights groups. Related to this is the need to address, sexual and gender-based violence in conflict situations and the need in this respect for the PSC to task the Special Envoy to report on such violence and
implement its decision from the 862nd session to dedicate an annual open session to conflict- related sexual violence. Council may also reiterate its call on Member States which have not yet done so, to adopt national action plans (NAPs) for the proper implementation of UNSC Res1325/2000 and its decision from its 833rd session calling for the urgent development of guidelines on mainstreaming the experiences of women and girls, particularly those in the refugee and IDP camps, in the AU policies, strategies, processes and initiatives relating to conflict prevention and resolution. It may also call on AU member states to ensure the representation of women at various levels of decision-making and women’s participation in electoral processes as a basis for enhancing their enhanced participation in peace processes.


Open VCT Session on the Implementation and Commemoration of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 5 October, 2020

Tomorrow (5 October), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to convene an open session on the implementation and commemoration of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1325. The session is expected to take place under the theme ‘20 Years of Resolution 1325: An Opportunity to Scale up Women’s Actions for Silencing the Guns in Africa’.

Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, is scheduled to make a statement. The PSC is also expected to receive a briefing from the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop and the representative of UN Women. Others expected to address the PSC include the Minister for Women and Human Rights Development of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Dega Yasin, and the Chairperson of FEMWISE.

This would be the first VTC session to be fully open since the PSC started operating virtually since April 2020. The PSC will receive statements from participants of the session.

Tomorrow’s session serves as an opportunity to take stoke of the 20 years journey of this landmark resolution. The objectives of the session as set out in the concept note are: assess the challenges and opportunities for the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa in the 20 years of 1325, analyse the socio-economic and financial impact of COVID19 on women and girls particularly in the context of armed conflict situations, recognize the role of women and women-led organizations in Silencing the Guns and Building Peace in Africa, provide space for African women organizations and women leaders in the area of peace and security to advocate for enhanced delivery on the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda.

Apart from its recognition of the differentiated impact of conflict on women and girls, an important feature of UNSC Resolution 1325 is its emphasis on the vital role women play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. It underscores the importance of women’s full involvement and equal participation in all efforts made for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. It is expected that presenters will highlight the role of Resolution 1325 in raising the profile of the women, peace and security agenda and serving as catalyst for advocacy and institutional and policy changes. Despite the achievements registered, serious challenges remain. Chief among these are the disproportionate impact of conflicts on women including the deliberate use of abductions and sexual violence against women and the slow pace of progress in the level of representation and participation of women in peace processes.

In this context the session may address the challenges around the limited involvement of women in peace processes, mediation and their absence in leadership positions. As a recent UN Women analysis pointed out, despite two decades of advocacy, analysis and policy measures, women’s inclusion in formal, high-level mediation processes has long been difficult to achieve. Although women’s participation in peace process increases sustainability of peace, in the past 20 years women constituted only 3 per cent of mediators and only 4 per cent of signatories in major peace processes. It is also important to note that beyond increasing the number of women, it is crucial to ensure their active, meaningful and direct engagement in peace process, including in positions of influence. Another issue concerns the provision of effective accountability and legal redress for violations inflicted on women.

One of the mechanisms to track the implementation of Resolution 1325 has been through the adoption of National Action Plans (NAPs) by governments and it may be an issue of major importance that could be noted by the PSC. As indicated by the Special Envoy about 30 African Member States have now adopted NAPs and six Regional Economic Communities have adopted Regional Action Plans. Despite the adoption and wide recognition attributed to Resolution 1325 both globally and in Africa, implementation of its provisions is still lacking. Many Member States are still yet to allocate sufficient budget for the implementation of the resolution and NAPs (in case of those countries that have already adopted NAPs).

It is to be recalled that at its 887th session in 2019, the PSC received a report from Diop on the implementation of the WPS agenda in Africa based on the Continental Results Framework (CRF), which was adopted by the PSC in May 2018. It is expected that in her briefing Diop is expected to provide update on the follow up to the outcome of the 887th session of the PSC, which requested her to undertake consultations with member states.

It would be of importance for the PSC to also note that 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of PSC’s decision at its 223rd session to make WPS a standing thematic agenda of its annual program of work. Beyond the commemorative sessions of Resolution 1325 which the PSC usually convenes in October, the Council has been holding regular open sessions on women in armed conflicts since March 2010 following Assembly decision Assembly/AU/Dec.275(XIV). Tomorrow’s session accordingly offers an opportunity for reflecting on the evolution of the WPS agenda in the work of the PSC. In this respect, some of the notable achievements registered include the appointment of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, the establishment of the Gender Peace and Security Program and the launch of FemWise.

With regards to the 2020 AU theme and women’s contribution to the full realisation of– “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development”, those delivering briefings, most notably, Diop are expected to highlight the role that women have played in mobilizing action for conflict prevention, management and resolution in various conflict settings and the contribution of the convenings and solidarity missions that focused on peace processes. Also, of interest in this context is the intervention from Yasin in terms of the concrete experience of women and their role in peace efforts at the national level in the context of the situation in Somalia. It would also be interesting for the PSC to reflect on how the full implementation of the WPS agenda in Africa could advance the achievement of the AU theme of the year.

In light of the current global COVID-19 pandemic, tomorrow’s session may draw attention to the impact of the pandemic on women in conflict situations. Of particular concern is the consequences on women of the adverse impacts of COVID19. Women are disproportionately affected from its negative impacts on peace processes and on social and political stability and from its role in exacerbating existing drivers and causes of conflicts and in disrupting access to protection measures in conflict settings including humanitarian assistance.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement. The PSC could highlight the various advances made in the implementation of resolution 1325 in enhancing the role of women, introducing policy and institutional measures, the role of women organizations and awareness. It could also expression appreciation to the progress made in institutionalizing the WPS agenda in the work of the PSC and the AU. Despite these, it could also note that there are still critical areas that require further work. It may underscore the critical role of increasing the active and direct role of women in peace processes and decision-making. The PSC could call on Member States to adopt 1325 NAPs and allocate sufficient budget for the implementation of the plans. It may call on Member States to strengthen their accountability and justice mechanisms to allow effective investigation and justice for sexual violence committed against women and girls. The PSC may reiterate its previous request to the Commission to prepare the report that evaluates the implementation of its previous decisions to undertake a stocktaking exercise and to assess the level of implementation. In order to consolidate the WPS agenda within the PSC, it may encourage the Special Envoy and the AU Commission to enhance coordination of various AU institutions and programs working on this theme.


Open session on the commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325

Women, Peace & Security

Date | October 17, 2019

Tomorrow (October 17) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold an open session commemorating the 19th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The session is expected to take place under the theme ‘the Role of Women in Social Changes and Peace Building: Time for Recognition – Commemoration of the UNSC Resolution 1325’.

Apart from the remark of Liberia as Chair of the PSC, the Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui is expected to deliver the opening remarks. The AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop is expected to make a presentation. Women representatives from Sudan are also expected to address the PSC. The United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU) is also expected to participate.

Over the years, the Council has held annual commemorative sessions focusing on a number of issues in line with UNSC resolution 1325. The October 2018 session has paid particular attention to the role of women in conflict prevention and peace building at community level. During this year’s commemoration, the Office of the Special Envoy is expected to submit its first report on the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. The report is expected to provide an overall assessment on the level of progress made based on the reports received from member states by utilizing the Continental Results Framework adopted in May 2018.

Resolution 1325 remains a critical instrument to advance the women’s participation and their protection in conflict situation. Despite receiving wide recognition, the implementation of what the resolution envisions remains uneven on the continent. To date, in Africa, twenty-five countries have adopted National Action Plans (NAPs) and five Regional Economic Communities/Mechanisms (REC/REMs) namely the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community, International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) have also adopted regional action plans (RAPs). The AU through its Special Envoy office has launched a 10 years Continental Results Framework (CRF) for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa. The Framework aims at ensuring that Members deliver on commitments made through the various instruments that have been adopted.

While these are important milestones in the implementation process, there remain major gaps. Some member states that have adopted national action plans are yet to follow up with sufficient budgetary allocation and dedicated institutional bodies to ensure adequate monitoring structures. Diop is expected to point out that out of the ‘25 Member States that have adopted NAPs on the implementation of Women, Peace and Security Agenda, only eight have achieved the 30% women representation in parliaments.’ Also to be highlighted in the Special Envoy’s presentation to the PSC is the inadequate progress in the representation of women in African peace processes, illustrated by the fact that ‘the proportion of women in AMISOM remains at 3%.’
Following the launch of the of the CRF and in preparation towards the upcoming 20th anniversary of the UNSC resolution 1325 a consultative meeting aimed at enhancing women leadership in peace processes and advancing the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda was organized by the office of the Special Envoy 29 May 2019. The consultation called for the increased number of NAPs possibly to 2/3 of the AU membership by October 2020. It would be of interest to member states of the PSC to know further on the proposed strategy for achieving such target and update on other aspects of the outcome of the meeting.

The presentation by the Special Envoy may also highlight the various engagements held during the course of the year and may brief the Council and participants on the High-Level Solidarity Mission of African Women Leaders to support the Women of Sudan, who played leadership role in the civilian protest process that precipitated the transition in Sudan. Tomorrow’s session is expected to extensively deliberate on the case of Sudan and the role of women’s participation in the transition process and in the long-term political trajectory of the country. The intervention by women representatives from Sudan is expected to provide an in-depth discussion on the role that women played, the gains made and the challenges in their effective participation and role in the political transition and in the wider public life of Sudan.

Women’s participation in consolidating peace processes would be of interest to the PSC particularly in relation to recently brokered and on-going peace processes in South Sudan, CAR and Sudan. In this respect, issues of particular significance include whether and the gender lens is used in conflict analysis, in the planning and implementation of peace processes and in monitoring and reviewing AU’s interventions.

The PSC has held regular sessions on the women, peace and security agenda. In addition to the commemoration of the anniversary of resolution 1325, the PSC has institutionalized women, peace and security as a standing thematic agenda of the PSC since March 2010. Moreover, in addition to the two standing sessions in the course of the year, the PSC in its 862nd meeting in July 2019 held a dedicated session mainly focusing on sexual violence in armed conflicts. The Council ‘agreed to dedicate an annual open session to conflict-related sexual violence, which will serve as an annual forum for taking stock of progress made and challenges faced in the efforts aimed at ending sexual violence in armed conflicts in Africa’.

In assessing progress in respect of Resolution 1325 and the AU women and peace and security agenda, it is of particular importance for the PSC to consider what benchmarks, tools and mechanisms are put in place to systematically integrate gender in its engagements and in AU’s role across the conflict cycle. In terms of the gender architecture of the AU, it would also be of interest for the PSC to know whether and how the various gender related entities and projects within the AU system coordinate, such as in reporting under the Maputo Protocol and the annual report under the CRF of the Special Envoy.

During this month, the Security Council is scheduled to hold its annual open debate on women, peace and security under South Africa’s presidency. The UN Secretary-General is also expected to present his annual report on women, peace and security for 2019.

The 2018 report of the Secretary-General highlighted the underrepresentation of women in peaceful resolution of conflicts, it points out that between 1990 and 2017, women constituted only 2 per cent of mediators and 8 per cent of negotiators. Women also remain underrepresented in disarmament efforts although they are primary victims by violence resulting from illicit possession and circulation of arms. The report addressed issues related to women’s access to basic services, justice and security, which are most of the time disrupted in conflict situations. Challenges around discriminatory laws that prevent women from enjoying their rights and access to justice may also be of interest to PSC members and participants.

The expected outcome is a press statement. The Council may call on member states to adopt NAPs and make the necessary budgetary allocation and put in place robust monitoring mechanisms. Leading up to the milestone marking the 20th anniversary of resolution 1325 in 2020, the PSC could request that the women and peace and security agenda receives particular attention in the AU’s theme of the year for 2020 ‘Silencing the Guns’. Also, of importance is the need for enhanced synergy and coordination with the UN system and for giving particular attention to the needs of young women. The PSC could also commend the AU Special Envoy for the consolidated report and may call on all member states for continued reporting on the implementation of 1325 by utilizing the CRF. The PSC could also encourage Sudan to continue its efforts in bringing women to position of leadership throughout the transition period and beyond and may urge other countries to follow the examples of countries that achieved high level of progress by showing high level political will.