At the quarterly debate on UNAMA, Council members must call on Afghanistan to ensure that human rights, especially of women and girls, are not traded off in the pursuit of other interests, such as security and reconciliation talks with the Taliban and armed groups. Important human rights gains made in recent years could be lost amid growing economic challenges and increasing instability. There are serious concerns that attacks against human rights defenders (HRDs), and in particular women human rights defenders (WHRDs), will increase with anticipated increasing insecurity across the country. Afghan WHRDs are on the frontline of advancing the WPS agenda at country level, and must be recognized as agents of change who play a fundamental role in shaping the future of Afghanistan. In their statements, Council members should call on Afghanistan to:
- Ensure an enabling environment for WHRDs, including by publically recognizing their important work of promoting and protecting women’s rights and of countering prejudices. Take concrete steps to ensure that all allegations of threats or attacks against WHRDs reported to government authorities are fully and impartially investigated and perpetrators are held to account, and that this is monitored effectively by the Ministry of Interior.
- Ensure that all prosecutions of perpetrators of violence against WHRDs use appropriate legislation in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty.
- Build the capability of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and its provincial counterparts, the departments of women’s affairs, to respond effectively to WHRDs at risk throughout the country, including by establishing a mechanism to monitor violence against WHRDs; providing temporary shelter; and assisting with temporary or permanent relocation to another part of the country.
- Extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs to visit Afghanistan.
- Increase representation of women at all decision-making levels, and effectively include women in national and sub-national peacebuilding efforts, to ensure that the pursuit of reconciliation does not further undermine women’s rights.
In its discussions, the Security Council should consider expanding the listing criteria in the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, to include abductions, which would be an important step to enhancing the international community’s ability to protect girls and hold perpetrators accountable.
In its discussion of the expected report and mandate renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), the Council should include a provision in the mandate that requests the mission take fully into account gender as a cross-cutting issue throughout its mandate, as well as has robust gender expertise by appointing gender advisers (SCR 2106, OP 8; SCR 2122, OP 4). Further, in the context of forthcoming elections, the Council should ensure that UNOCI has the mandate to provide electoral assistance, including by actively engaging with international, national and local partners in supporting, through technical, financial and other means, the full, effective and equal participation of women at all levels as voters, candidates and in the design and management of electoral processes. Further, given the ongoing challenges related to accountability and national reconciliation, women and women’s civil society organizations should continue to be engaged by the mission, and a gender perspective should be applied to all relevant activities, including any efforts to address the continuing impunity for sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, the Council should inquire into progress made as to women’s participation in DDR programs, including the socio-economic factors affecting female ex-combatants and associates of ex-combatants. The Security Council should also promote women’s full participation and protection in security sector and judicial sector reform, as well as land reform, per SCR 2122 (OP 4).
The Security Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Hybrid Operation mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The Council should expand the current provisions in the mandate related to women, peace and security (SCR 2113, OPs 8, 25) by strengthening language concerning women and civil society’s participation in processes to implement peace agreements and in the establishment of security arrangements and transitional justice mechanisms. Further, the Council should call for the full and rapid implementation of the mandate, including through the deployment of qualified WPAs. It is crucial for UNAMID to incorporate a gender lens when assisting the large number internally displaced persons, including in its provision of services to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The Council should express concern at the suspension by the Sudanese government of humanitarian activities earlier this year and call for unfettered access to areas of Darfur affected by conflict to AU, UNAMID and humanitarian organizations. Finally, the Council should to provide greater support to the ICC prosecutor by addressing Sudan’s lack of cooperation with the court.
In its renewal of the mandate for the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the Council should continue to consider gender as a crosscutting issue, as articulated in SCR 2100 (OP 25), which is necessary for the successful implementation of MINUSMA’s entire mandate and key for eventual peace and stability in Mali. Further, the Council should ensure that the mission retains all relevant provisions in the existing mandate, related to women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution efforts; as well as protection for women’s rights and efforts to combat human rights violations. Finally, efforts to track and measure progress in Mali should include gender-specific benchmarks and analysis, and as per SCR 1889 (OP 9), the Council should ensure that women’s empowerment is factored into funding disbursement and post-conflict activities.
In Nigeria, reports of increasing attacks by Boko Haram continue. Women and girls, who have been abducted, are subjected to forced conversion, forced marriage, rape, forced impregnation and other forms of abuse. Some of the abducted women and girls have been forced to participate in military operations, including as suicide bombers. Despite efforts by the government, Nigerian security forces have failed to stop abductions from occurring or rescue those still captured. Further, authorities have failed to adequately investigate killings and abductions, bring suspected perpetrators to justice or prevent further attacks. To date, there has been no formal process to determine the total number of women and girls that have been kidnapped. Security forces have also failed to take all feasible legal precautions to protect the civilian population in their military operations against Boko Haram. Those able to escape or rescued have received little or no assistance and very few have returned home. Abusive behavior by government security forces has been a contributory factor for the radicalization of the region. A more determined commitment to uphold human rights standards would help marginalize and weaken the extremists and create more favorable conditions for peace, reconciliation and development, not least for women and girls. In its consideration of the situation in Nigeria, the Council should encourage the government to:
- Establish comprehensive justice strategies, ensuring investigation, reporting and reparation provisions, in line with international humanitarian and human rights law and in compliance with ethical and safety guidelines. The Nigerian government must ensure that abuses by Boko Haram as well as by Nigerian government forces have to be investigated and those responsible held accountable.
- In coordination with local entities, provide non-discriminatory medical care and psycho-social services, counseling, opportunities for education and livelihoods to former captives, including the full range of sexual and reproductive services required by their condition such as the safe termination of pregnancy. Former captives should also be ensured privacy and a safe reintegration into their families and communities.
- Ensure women’s full and equal participation in all peace and security negotiations, including grassroots organizations and allocate financing and resources to promote the implementation of the SCR 1325 (2000) national action plan.
In its regular work across all agenda items, the Security Council should ensure that all country reports and mandate renewals evaluate the level of protection and promotion of women’s human rights, as per SCRs 1325, 1820 (OP 9), 1888 (OP 11), 1889 (OP 5), 1960 (OPs 6, 13), 2106 (OPs 5, 6), and 2122 (OP 2(d)). Member States should inquire about any lack of such reporting.