Analysis of the Statement by the President of the Security Council on West Africa / Sahel (January 2018)


Presidential statement S/PRST/2018/3 is issued in response to the Report of the Secretary-General (S/2017/1104), expressing progress regarding the ongoing United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel [UNOWAS] activities focused on conflict prevention, mediation and good offices. In the statement, the Council reiterates the need for increased regional and international cooperation and welcomes regional efforts to address terrorism and transnational crime.

The statement contains four references to the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda, focused on gender mainstreaming and women’s participation in peace, political, and security sector reform processes. The Council expresses support for UNOWAS’ work in the promotion of women’s participation, stressing the mission’s important role in conflict prevention and resolution processes. These additions build upon previous references to women’s participation and affirm the importance of civil society organizations in peacebuilding dialogues. [1]S/PRST/2017/4 para. 5

In contrast to the previous Presidential Statement S/PRST/2017/2, this statement did contain dedicated references to civil society organizations and enhanced previous language on women’s participation, calling for more women in senior government positions at all levels. However, in keeping with past presidential statements, this statement did not contain references to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA), women’s protection, women’s rights, or gender equality. The consistent lack of a gender lens in discussions of civilian protection further underscores the disconnect between WPS peacekeeping mandate provisions and WPS considerations as a cross-cutting issue.

Women, Peace and Security

The statement contains references to key women, peace, and security (WPS) issues in the context of women’s participation in peace, political, and security sector reform processes. The statement maintained previous references to promoting gender mainstreaming in UNOWAS activities, noting the need for increased support and resources to strengthen such initiatives. [2]S/PRST/2018/3 para. 1 Positively, this presidential statement does include references to civil society, language that was noticeably absent in previous UNOWAS presidential statements. [3]S/PRST/2017/1 & S/PRST/2017/2 In its recognition of positive developments in several West African countries, the Security Council highlights the inclusion and continued engagement of civil society as national stakeholders in discussions on tolerance and inclusivity at the regional and sub-regional levels. [4] S/PRST/2018/3 para. 2

This statement contains three references to women’s participation, underscoring their inclusion in political processes, conflict prevention, and security sector reform (SSR). [5]S/PRST/2018/3 paras. 3, 4, and 12 (respectively) These references are an improvement from the previous statement (PSRT/2017/2), which contained only one reference that called upon UNOWAS to promote women’s participation in peace, political, and security reform processes. [6]S/PRST/2017/2 para. 6

The Security Council urges increased collaboration amongst national stakeholders in facilitating “peaceful, transparent, and credible elections”, noting that a level playing field involves fostering women’s participation and increasing the number of women in senior government positions. [7]S/PRST/2018/3 paras. 3 While this language is a positive change, this reference can be improved by accounting for women’s protection and safety prior to and throughout all election processes, to ensure fair voting as well as to ensure protection from potential threats of violence and intimidation for women candidates, as outlined WPS Resolution 2122 (2013). [8]S/RES/2122 (2013), OP 8

The statement also emphasizes women’s “important role” in conflict prevention and post-conflict situations, citing WPS Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 2242 (2015). [9] S/PRST/2018/3 paras. 4 While this reference is a positive addition, future presidential statements should explicitly discuss women’s role with reference to women’s “full and equal participation” and encourage enhanced regional coordination in accordance with mandated tasks and Security Council resolution 2242 (2015). Further, this reference can be improved by calling for consultations with women’s groups and women’s organizations as per Resolutions 1889 (2009). [10]S/RES/1889 (2009), OP 1

Further, this statement calls upon regional Member States to increase the number of women in SSR and national bodies, particularly within the context of civilian protection to prevent human rights abuses and to enhance capacity of national human rights mechanisms. [11]S/PRST/2018/3 para. 12 While increased representation of women in SSR and in all peacekeeping and political processes is important, it is essential to note that gender parity is not gender equality. Going forward, the Council should underscore that increasing overall representation and participation will only be strengthened with normative frameworks that value women and prioritize their empowerment through political participation, economic independence, and physical protection; eventually leading to more equitable gender dynamics.

Missed Opportunities

Despite the positive additions, this statement presents many missed opportunities for the inclusion of WPS as a cross-cutting issue. References are framed solely within the context of participation and various sections of the statement lack gender-sensitive language, particularly in discussions of protection of civilians. Notably, the statement lacks references to the implementation of the WPS Agenda broadly, and is particularly silent on issues of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The lack of WPS language on sexual violence and clarity on women’s protection is especially noteworthy as it reflects the lack of concrete language in the mission’s mandated WPS provisions. [12]S/2016/1128-S/2016/1129 Function 1.3

Gender Mainstreaming

Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in conflict prevention and management activities are crucial components of the UNOWAS mandate. The reference to gender mainstreaming in this statement is broad, contained within a larger paragraph on regional cooperation, conflict prevention, good governance, rule of law, and humanitarian access and assistance. Further, the language remained unchanged from previous Presidential Statements S/PRST/2017/10 and S/PRST/2017/2. Future presidential statements should have more robust and process-oriented language on gender mainstreaming, framed within the context of UNOWAS activities, mandated tasks, or regional cooperation among the West Africa and Sahel coalition. Providing a more robust description of how gender mainstreaming will be carried out is a necessary step that can better ensure such activities are prioritized within the mission and in future Security Council mandate renewals (upcoming in December 2018).

Protection of Civilians

In this statement, the Council expresses growing concern at the persistent situation in West Africa and the Sahel region. The statement focuses on the increased incidence of violence and crime, noting continued threats of terrorism, transnational organized crime, maritime piracy, and human and arms trafficking. [13]S/PRST/2018/3 para. 10 – 15 References to protection of civilians are framed within the context of crime and violence, emphasizing that civilians are the primary victims of terrorist acts by Boko Haram, JNIM, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL), and Ansarul Islam in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions. Future presidential statements should expand language on protection of civilians, emphasizing the disproportionate impact of terrorism and violence on women and girls, and should include language regarding the radicalization, deradicalization, and reintegration of women, both those formerly involved in terrorist organizations as well as those victims threatened or abducted as per Security Council Resolutions 2242 (2015). [14]S/RES/2242 (2015), OPs. 11 and 13 Future statements should also call for enhanced monitoring of violence against women, along with accompanying sex and age-disaggregated data, in accordance with the WPS Security Council Resolutions 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), and 2242 (2015). [15]S/RES/1889 (2009), OP 6; S/RES/1960 (2010), OP 8; S/RES/2106 (2013), OPs. 1, 5-6; S/RES/2242 (2015), OP 12 Further, additional language is needed to promote women’s participation in the prevention mechanisms that address sexual violence human rights abuses per Security Council resolutions 2106 (2013), 2212 (2013), and 2242 (2015). [16]Reference in need of improvement: S/PRST/2018/3 para. 14; WPS Resolutions: S/RES/2106 (2013), OP 1, 5-6, 10-11; S/RES/2212 (2013), OPs. 1, 2(C), 3; … Continue reading

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

This presidential statement did not contain any reference to sexual and gender-based violence or other forms of physical violence against women; references to violence were broadly discussed. This missing component demonstrates a lack of prioritization and a failure to integrate a gender lens in regards to the discussion of women’s protection in the Sahel region. Going forward, the Security Council should modify language on violence to include a gender lense in its discussion of human rights abuses and violations, noting that sexual violence, when used as a tactic of war, constitutes a war crime per Security Council Resolutions 2106 (2013), 2242 (2015), and CEDAW General Recommendation 35. [17]Reference in need of improvement: S/PRST/2018/3 para. 10; WPS Resolutions: S/RES/2106 (2013) OP 12 and S/RES/2242 (2015) Further, new language should reflect the impact of armed conflict and terrorism on the lives of women and girls, specifically how this leads to various forms of insecurity. Such language is essential to emphasize the conditions and protections that should be afforded to women in light of the numerous threats and forms of violence in the region as per Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), and 2242 (2015). [18]S/RES/1325 (2000), OP 10; S/RES/1820 (2008), OPs. 1-4, 10; S/RES/1888 (2009), OPs. 1-3, 8(b-c), 12, 17, 23; S/RES/1960 (2010), OPs. 1-3, 5, 8, 13-14; … Continue reading