posted on Mon 12 Oct 2015 4:57 PM
Open Debate and Draft Resolution on Women, Peace and Security

On Tuesday (13 October), Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, will preside over the annual debate on women, peace and security. The Secretary-General and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, will brief. Two civil society representatives will also participate: Yanar Mohammed, who is president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and Julienne Lusenge, who heads Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral—a coalition of 40 women’s organisations in the eastern DRC. After a week of difficult negotiations, members are still trying to resolve final issues on a draft resolution that includes practical actions to improve implementation of the women, peace and security agenda which they are hoping to put to a vote tomorrow. It went under silence procedure Sunday night (11 October) but Nigeria and Russia broke silence this morning, and at press time the draft had not been put in blue yet.

The Open Debate
Spain circulated a concept note asking member states to focus their interventions on how the international community can better deliver on women, peace and security commitments that are still unfulfilled, 15 years after the adoption of resolution 1325 (S/2015/749). The debate will also serve as the Council’s High-Level Review on the implementation of resolution 1325, which it committed to do in October 2013 when it adopted resolution 2122. It will provide a forum for Council members and member states to reflect on the recommendations emanating from the 2015 Global Study on women, peace and security and the Secretary-General’s 17 September report on the issue (S/2015/716).

Council members expect the Secretary-General to highlight how women and girls face different risks in conflict situations and are less likely than men and boys to have access to their rights. He is also expected to report that the Global Study—like the two other independent reviews carried out in 2015 on peace operations and the peacebuilding architecture—found that women and girls face challenges in having their voices heard and needs addressed in conflict-afflicted situations at the global, regional and national levels. All three reviews underlined that the nature of warfare is changing. It is characterised by blatant violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, involvement by a growing number of armed non-state actors, the spread of violent extremism and a brutal wave of organised violence that has led to record-setting levels of long-term displacement lasting, on average, two decades. Regarding displacement, the Secretary-General is also likely to highlight that developing gender-sensitive humanitarian response plans will be a central goal of the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016.

UN Women’s Executive Director is expected to brief on the findings of the Global Study on implementation of resolution 1325 that was requested by the Council two years ago in resolution 2122. The Global Study identified five key areas for achieving the implementation of resolution 1325: (1) making women’s participation and leadership part of the core of peace and security efforts; (2) protecting the human rights of girls and women during and after conflict, especially in the context of emerging threats; (3) ensuring gender-responsive planning and accountability; (4) strengthening the UN’s gender architecture and expertise; and (5) financing the women, peace and security agenda. Council members will be interested in hearing more about how the Council, the UN system and member states can take concrete steps to overcome the implementation deficit of the women, peace and security agenda.

During the debate, it is likely that there will be broad acknowledgement that the Security Council has played an important role in establishing the normative framework of the women, peace and security agenda over the past 15 years, but that there is significant work remaining in order to implement the agenda.

The Draft Resolution
The UK, penholder on women, peace and security, along with Spain, president of the Council in October, drafted a resolution to address the implementation gap through practical action in several areas: countering violent extremism and terrorism, improving the Council’s own working methods, and taking up gender recommendations made by the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and the Global Study.

The negotiations over the past week on the draft resolution were challenging, and by last Friday (9 October) were taken up to permanent representative-level among Russia, Spain and the UK. The difficult negotiations were a result of an ambitious draft text that laid out several new initiatives with very little time to negotiate. Negotiations began on the heels of the General Assembly’s High-Level week and negotiating time was further compressed when the date of the debate was changed from 23 October to 13 October. (Some member states have noted that this date change has also negatively impacted the visibility of the Global Study.)

The Council has not adopted a resolution on women, peace and security since 2013, leaving dynamics on this issue largely untested for two years. However, familiar divisions quickly re-emerged during negotiations. The most difficult issues included operational language in the resolution related to the convening of an informal expert group of the Council on women, peace and security; improving how gender is incorporated into the Council’s sanctions regimes; language describing an improved gender architecture in the UN system; sexual exploitation and abuse; and how the women, peace and security agenda should be integrated into strategies to counter violent extremist and terrorism. It seems that Nigeria may also have issues with how to reference the Global Study.

It seems Russia and China resisted many elements of the draft resolution which they interpreted as an expansion of the women, peace and security agenda, for example into the counter-terrorism framework, or which they perceived as infringing on state sovereignty or the competencies of other parts of the UN system. Apparently the US neither strongly criticised nor supported some of the more difficult issues related to Council working methods and the UN’s gender architecture.

The draft resolution that was put under silence on Sunday night reflected many of the recommendations from the Secretary-General’s report on how the UN system could improve its implementation of resolution 1325. Regarding peacekeeping—where the Security Council has a direct oversight role—the draft calls for improving gender-responsive peace operations, including through greater cooperation between the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Department of Political Affairs and UN Women. It also urges the Secretary-General to integrate gender expertise within mission staffing structures and specify performance indicators related to gender in the compacts between the Secretary-General and heads of missions. Finally, the draft addresses the need to have a better gender balance in UN military and police contingents. Russia expressed concern about the Council being so specific in the draft resolution on management issues that were the purview of the Secretariat. However, the penholders of this draft, Spain and the UK, argued it was important for the Council to signal its support of these measures as they were important tools that could enhance the UN’s accountability regarding the women, peace and security agenda.

The draft welcomes the proposal by the Secretary-General to keep the Council regularly informed of developments regarding sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. It seems that China, Russia and Venezuela thought it was important to include a reference to other foreign troops in the paragraph on sexual exploitation and abuse. France, whose troops have been accused of sexual exploitation in the Central African Republic, resisted the suggestion, but the draft under silence does make reference to “non-UN forces”.

Regarding the Security Council, it seems that one of the contentious issues in the draft was reference to an informal experts group on women, peace and security. Apparently, Russia was not opposed to the actual convening of such a group since the practice exists for other thematic issues, such as for protection of civilians. Instead its concern was having such an informal group explicitly recognised in a resolution. It is unclear if Russia was comfortable with the formulation in the text that went under silence which stated the intention of the Council to convene meetings of relevant Security Council experts as part of an informal experts group “to facilitate the Council’s approach to women, peace and security”. Apparently, China and the US also had concerns about convening an informal experts group, but, unlike Russia, they did not clearly articulate the reasons for their hesitancy.

Other controversial issues included expressing the intention to invite women’s civil society to brief the Council on country-specific issues, which at press time apparently continued to be a concern for Russia, and agreeing to language that would signal how far the Council was willing to integrate gender into the work of the UN’s counter-terrorism framework.