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.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council -  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.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council -  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.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council -  Open Session on the Role of Women in Conflict Prevention and Post Conflict Peace building

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 19 March, 2019

Tomorrow (19 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will have an open session on‘The Role of Women in Conflict Prevention and Post Conflict Peace Building: the Contributions of Women Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Returnees’.

During this session, it is expected that Bineta Diop, the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security will brief the PSC. The PSC Chair of the month, Catherine Mwangi Ambassador of Kenya and Smail Chergui, the Commissioner for Peace and Security, are also expected to make a statement. UNHCR representative will also makean intervention. Refugees are expected to share their experiences as well.

The main focus as indicated in the concept note is to highlight the role of women’s participation in prevention, mediation and peace building efforts by particularly focusing on the experiences of displaced and refugee women. The session makes linkage to the annual 2019 AU theme on Refugees, IDPs and Returnees. Over a third of the world’s forcibly displaced persons are found in Africa, including some 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Conflicts account for more than two-third of the humanitarian crises inducing internal displacement and refugee flows.

While it is known that displacement and refugee flows in Africa disproportionately affect women and children, it remains unclear how far policy and humanitarian responses are informed by this fact. Additionally, despite being the primary victims of combined effects of political and humanitarian crises, women continue to be excluded from having effective role in the policy and humanitarian response decision-making processes and in the peace agreement negotiations and mediations.This session offers the opportunity for the effective integration of women in the AU activities on the theme of the year.

The PSC at its 600 meeting highlighted the violence experienced by women and their exclusion from peace efforts by particularly making reference to the ‘low levels of participation of women in a variety of official roles in formal peace processes and political settlements, weak support to women’s economic recovery and empowerment in post-conflict settings’. Hence finding long-term solutions to conflicts requires addressing the multiple obstacles faced by women and facilitating their meaningful participation at all levels of peace processes.

This open session will build on the previous PSC session on women, peace and security held in October 2018. It is to be recalled that at that session the PSC underscored ‘the importance of including women in decision-making positions and in all stages of peace processes.’ There is also the need for supporting grassroots and community centered peacebuilding processes informed by the perspectives and needs of the primary affected populations, which improve ownership and effectiveness of peace processes. Ensuring that voices of displaced populations are considered in decision making will contribute towards a more responsive and sustainable peace process as well as post-conflict reconstruction.

The 2019 focus of the AU theme of the year has presented the opportunity to renew efforts to advocate for the increased respect of displaced women’s rights. Most particularly, it serves as the occasion to raise critical issues around the experience of women and to systematically enhance their participation in peacebuilding processes and in efforts to address the plight of IDPs and refugees.

As indicated in the AUC report ‘Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa’, published by the office of the Special Envoy in 2016, the continent has demonstrated leadership by establishing extensive body of instruments and policies which are relevant to the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda including the Protocol to the African Union Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA). And more specifically the AU Commission has put efforts towards opertionalizing the UN Security Council resolution 1325. There is however poor implementation of these standards. To date only 25 countries have developed national action plans of the UNSC resolution 1325. Women’s representation in the legislature, the security sector and peacekeeping keeping forces and mediation remains low.

With the aim of enhancing implementation and monitoring the office of the Special Envoy has developed the Continental Results Framework (CRF) for Monitoring and Reporting on the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The CRF was adopted in May 2018 by the PSC and was launched last month.The intervention by the Special Envoy may provide an overview of the framework in line with the pillars of the UNSCR 1325 namely prevention, protection, participation, relief and recovery focusing on the conditions of displaced and refugee women.

The concept note indicates that the outcome of the session is to mainstream the experiences of refugee and IDP women and girls in AU’s relevant policy process. In line with this objective the session may examine how the experiences of refugees and IDPs can be used to inform policy making in the AU, including the PSC. In terms of the return or local integration or resettlement of IDPs or refugees, the issues that this session could address include the safety, dignity and consent of displaced women, which should be at the core of any intervention towards durable solutions. The efforts towards sustainable peace and recovery cannot be disassociated from programs geared towards addressing the specific violations experienced by displaced women.
In humanitarian context particularly in protracted crises, displacement is often times cyclical. This exposes the overwhelming majority of displaced women to a continuous state of vulnerability. Hence, prolonged crises necessitate long term intervention that enhances displaced women’s resilience and their role in decision making processes. In line with the objectives of durable solutions, lifesaving assistance and protection should be further complemented by a support that is more empowering and that increases displaced women’s self-sufficiency, which will positively enhance their decision making role.

It is anticipated that the session makes reference to the ongoing commemorative events of the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention and the 2009 AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (the Kampala Convention). The discussion may elaborate on how the two instruments and the WPS agenda can mutually reinforce one another in ensuring that peace processes are informed by the needs of refugee and displaced women and explicitly aim at addressing their plights.

The expected outcome is a press statement. The Council may welcome the recently launched CRF and may call on member states and RECs to provide the necessary data and information for the completion of the annual report produced by the office of the Special Envoy. The statement may underscore the importance of UNSCR 1325 national and regional action plans. It may also address issues related to the systematic integration ofthe needs and perspectives of women refugees and IDPs in conflict management and peacebuilding processes as well as humanitarian action. The PSC may call for the use of indicators that ensure the inclusion of women in all these efforts and underscore the need for renewed efforts in removing the obstacles that impede women’s full participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council -  Open Session on Sexual Violence in Armed conflicts in Africa

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 23 July, 2019

Tomorrow (23 July) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold the second open session of the month. on sexual violence in armed conflicts in Africa.
During the session, The Special Envoy of the AU Commission Chairperson on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC) Pramila Pattern are expected to deliver their presentations.

It is expected that the briefings will highlight the current state of and patters of acts of sexual violence in armed conflicts in Africa. Also of interest in the briefing by Diop would be the impact of sexual violence on women and girls as principal targets of such violence and on affected families and communities in general. As the issue of ‘conflict related sexual violence’ has been a standing agenda of the UN Security Council (UNSC) since 2010, the SRSG, Pattern, may additionally share the experience of the UN in dealing with sexual violence following its elevation on the UNSC’s agenda to a threat to security and an impediment to the restoration of peace through resolution 1820. The presentation may also address the AU-UN collaboration on response to conflict-related sexual violence that was formally established following the 2014 Framework of Cooperation between the AUC and the Office of the SRSG-SVC.

It is to be recalled that women and peace and security has been a standing agenda of the PSC since March 2010 when PSC held its first session dedicated to women and children in conflict in Africa. At its 223rd session the PSC made a decision to devote an annual open session, to the theme of women and children and other vulnerable groups in armed conflicts.

Since 2010 the PSC has passed a number of decisions on violence against women in conflict however there is still a need for a systematic follow up mechanism. Cognizant of this and in an effort of ensuring the implementation of existing decisions, the PSC at its 757th open session held in 2018 made a request to the ‘AU Commission to prepare evaluation reports on the implementation of its previous decisions on women and children in armed conflicts to enable Council to determine further steps to address any challenges’. The PSC further agreed to dedicate that the subsequent open session on women and children in violent conflict situations taking place in 2019 to ‘be devoted to consideration of the report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the status of implementation of its previous decisions on the plight of women and children in violent conflict situations’, although this did not materialize this year.

During the same session the Council has also ‘recommended the convening of an extraordinary AU Summit dedicated to the plight of women and children in armed conflicts, in order to give it the highest level of political attention that it deserves’. Despite the lack of implementation of the very decision that provides steps for strengthened follow up mechanisms; there are also opportunities in taking these commitments forward. The AU has declared 2020 as the year of silencing the guns and it also marks the final year of the AU Decade for Women. The year provides an opportunity to assess and reflect on the decade and to mobilize political support in elevating the issue at the highest level including by targeting the annual open session.
While the agenda on women and peace and security has been a standing agenda of the PSC since 2010, it is for the first time that the PSC focuses on sexual violence in armed conflicts. Such a focus will allow the PSC to adopt appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and responding to the serious violations inflicted on targets of sexual violence.

As documented in the annual reports of the UN Secretary-General on the subject, despite major progress made in terms of norm development and the level of attention given to the issue, sexual violence in armed conflicts remains to be prevalent in a wide range of conflict settings. The 2018 report of the Secretary-General pointed out that the rise or resurgence of conflict and violent extremism, with the ensuing proliferation of arms, mass displacement and collapse of the rule of law, has also triggered patterns of sexual violence. This has been evident in Africa in various conflict settings including in the context of the spread of insecurity to new regions of the Central African Republic, the surge in violence in Ituri, the three Kasai provinces, North and South Kivu and Tanganyika in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in continuing incidents of conflicts in South Sudan in 2017.

Sexual violence is not committed merely as an isolated act of individual combatants. In many of the conflict settings, it is also employed as a tactic of war, terrorism, torture and repression. As documented in the report of the AU Commission of Inquiry for South Sudan, women’s body was made the battle ground for the rival armed groups in the South Sudan civil war. In those cases, to varying degrees, the strategic nature of sexual violence was evident in the selective targeting of victims from specific ethnic, religious or political groups, mirroring the fault lines of the wider conflict or crisis.

Instead of being a mere reflection of the situation of conflict, sexual violence rather manifests existing patters of gender relations in the society and hence mirrors the political, socio-cultural and economic position of women and girls in society. It is thus pointed out in the AUCISS report that sexual violence was also a result of existing discriminatory practices affecting women and girls including in particular harmful customary practices such as patriarchy, child marriages, abduction of girls, bride wealth, polygamy and wife inheritance.

The pervasive nature of sexual violence in armed conflicts in Africa, its strategic use by conflict parties and the grave consequences it entails on targets of such violence and their families require that the AU adopts strategies for the prevention and monitoring of sexual violence in conflicts and for taking remedial measures to cater for victims of violence including the provision of medical and psycho-social services and access to justice for holding perpetrators accountable. Also critical is the participation of women in peace processes and post‐conflict reconstruction and development programmes, which remains utterly inadequate.

The session may also address the role of peacekeeping troops in preventing and responding to sexual violence as part of their role in protection of civilians. Particularly it may look into member states and Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) accountability and adherence to the AU Policy on Conduct and Discipline for AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs) and the AU Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse for PSOs adopted in December 2018 by the PSC.

The UN has addressed the issue of sexual violence in conflict through the Secretary General annual reports to the UNSC. The 2019 report observes the continued intrumentalization of sexual violence as strategy of conflict targeting women and girls. It is widely used as a tool of repression, control, terror, forced displacement as well as to seize land and other resources. Sexual violence also features prominently in political or election-related violence. The report also makes reference to the concerning linkage between sexual violence, trafficking and terrorism and how sexual violence has been utilized in advancing extremist ideology. Of particular concern noted in the report, which is of interest in the context of the trend of expansion of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa, is how radicalization and violent extremism have increasingly contributed to the expansion of discriminatory gender norms that further weaken already vulnerable status of women and girls.

Most recently the UN Security Council has passed resolution 2467 on combatting sexual violence in conflict in April 2019. The UNSC recognized the need for a survivor-centered approach in preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.

As indicated in the concept note the expected outcome of the session is a joint communiqué, although in practice open sessions are followed by press statements. The PSC may task the AU Commission to submit a report on sexual violence in Africa 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. It may call on member states in conflict situations as well as those emerging from conflict to put in place measures that ensure that security forces do not perpetrate sexual violence and that they are held accountable when found responsible for such violence. It may also urge TCCs and PSOs to adhere to existing policies and normative frameworks in protection of civilians particularly from sexual violence.


Insights on the Peace & Security Council -  Continental Results Framework on Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa

Women, Peace & Security

Date | 15 May, 2018

Tomorrow (16 May) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold its session on the Continental Results Framework (CRF) for Monitoring and Reporting on the Implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Africa. In its last two meetings on women, peace and security (in 2017), the PSC called for the finalization and presentation of the CRF for its consideration. It is expected that the first report on this framework will be presented to the PSC.

During this session, Bineta Diop, the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU)Commission for Women, Peace and Security, is set to provide the briefing to the PSC on the theme and the report. Smaïl Chergui, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security, is expected to make a statement. Others expected to participate in this session include the African members of the UN Security Council (A3), representatives of Regional Economic Communities (RECs)/Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and the UN.

The CRF was developed following the Council’s 476th meeting, which urged ‘the AU Commission, through the coordination of the Office of the Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security to formulate a Continental Results Framework to monitor the implementation by AU Member States and other relevant stakeholders of the various instruments and other commitments on women, peace and security in Africa.’ The presentation of the continental results framework duringtomorrow’s session comes following the 21 November 2017 session of the PSC emphasizing the need for ‘the finalization of the Continental Results Framework for monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Africa for consideration by Council, as soon as possible’.

The objectives of this session, as highlighted in the summary the PSC program of work for this session are ‘to encourage AU member states to renew their commitment and to elaborate national action plans on the implementation of Resolution 1325.’ The session also aims to achieve collaboration with RECs/RMs to harness mechanisms to monitor and report on the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, to enhance partnership with CSOs and Centers of Excellence to support the implementation of the CRF, and perhaps importantly to sensitize member states in the derive for monitoring and reporting on the theme.

The statement from Smaïl Chergui is expected to welcome the framework as an important instrument for tracking progress in the women, peace and security agenda. While various measures have been taken over the years as part of the women, peace and security theme, the statement would make particular mention to recent initiatives notably the establishment of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation (FemWise-Africa). It is also expected to highlight the contribution of PSD to the elaboration of the CRF and how the CRF complements all these existing mechanisms and importantly how it helps in addressing existing gaps and challenges in implementing the women, peace and security agenda.

In her briefing, Diop is expected to inform the PSC on the development of the continental framework and the constituent elements of the framework. As a framework to monitor progress made by member states on their commitments, the CRF avails to member states a set of indicators for reporting on their gender commitments to the various reporting mechanisms. Various stakeholders including states, RECs/RMs, AU bodies and civil society would through this framework have useful tool not only for identifying what is working and the progress being made but also in understanding and targeting existing gaps and challenges in implementing the agenda. Other issues that the briefing might touch on include the important role and contribution that various actors bring in advancing the cause of this agenda, including in the elaboration of the framework. These role players include not only state-centered ones such as regional and continental intergovernmental bodies and national state actors but also non-state actors such as women’s groups and research and training institutions.

Beyond presenting the elaboration of the CRF and introducing the framework itself, the report on the continental results framework would be of interest for understanding how the framework works and how states could use the framework both for assessing their performance and reporting on their progress in implementing their commitments. Through canvasing the progress made in terms of measures adopted at national, regional and continental levels and existing challenges, the report also helps in putting in perspective the CRF. The report would also be useful in drawing attention to the importance of statistical data, analysis and research on measures taken and on the state of women with respect to the various indicators as well as the funding for the women, peace and security agenda.

From the perspective of the PSC, the CRF will be seen through the prism of its role and its follow up on its standing thematic agenda on women, peace and security. Indeed, since its establishment as a standing thematic agenda of the PSC at its 223rd meeting, ‘women, peace and security’ has become institutionalized. As the report and the intervention from PSD would highlight, apart from featuring on the PSC agenda annually, the theme has over the past few years been anchored institutionally around the Office of the Special Envoy of the Chairperson on Women, Peace and Security and the PSD’s Gender and Peace and Security Program. Member states and RECs/RMs would in particular be keen to be informed how the CRF would be used, including the benchmarks for undertaking the assessment and preparation of reports on performance. Also of interest is what expectations and role this framework sets for national, regional and continental actors in terms of assessing their performance and reporting on the implementation of the commitments of states on women, peace and security. PSC members would also like to hear about coordination and collaboration with various relevant actors, such as the Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Women and international actors most notably relevant UN bodies.

The expected outcome of this session is a communiqué. PSC is expected to welcome this framework and call on member states, RECs/RMs and civil society to support the use and implementation of the framework in making assessment and preparing national reports on progress made. The PSC would also call on member states to put in place national implementation mechanisms and the institutionalization of gender analysis and mainstreaming in national, regional and continental policies and programs. Other themes to receive attention in the outcome of the PSC session include the strategies to be followed in operationalizing the CRF including the promotion of national measures, coordination between all regional, continental and national processes and the provision of support for states’ assessment and reporting endeavors.