Analysis of Report of the Secretary-General on South Sudan (March 2017)

By Emma Ogg

The current report provides an update on the situation in South Sudan and the implementation of the UNMISS mandate, including recommendations on ways to increase efficiency. This report reverses the trend of decreasing references to the women, peace and security agenda in UNMISS reporting in 2016. Report S/2017/224 includes references to women or gender in almost all sections, with a total of 19 mentions. The report does, however, continue to focus heavily on the women’s protection aspects of the women, peace and security agenda, specifically sexual and gender-based violence, in line with the updated UNMISS mandate in resolution 2327 (2016).

Components of the Mandate and Other

Protection of Civilians

Much of the report focuses on the deteriorating security situation in many parts of South Sudan and its impact on protection of civilians. The report opens its section on the security situation by highlighting that “mass displacement has…increased the incidence of sexual violence by militias, armed youth and elements of security forces.”[1]S/2017/224 para. 11 While the fact that this reference does not only mention sexual violence as part of a list of human rights violations and instead shifts the focus and stigma to the perpetrators is positive, the report could have gone further to provide more information on the context and analysis on the situation for women. In situational reporting, the report mentions that internally displaced persons said SPLA soldiers were responsible for “sexually assaulting” women in Western Equatoria.[2]S/2017/224 para. 14 It does not, however, provide any information on efforts to prevent sexual violence or the need to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare and psychosocial support to survivors, as per resolution 2106 (2013) OP. 19. The report also does not consider sexual violence against men, children, and those not identifying with the gender binary. The report, furthermore, mentions, in reporting on violence in Kajo Keji, that “one woman [was] raped,” and the town now “consists largely of the elderly, women and children.”[3]S/2017/224 para. 12 Given the widespread nature of sexual violence in South Sudan, it is highly unlikely that only one woman was raped. Since access may have been an issue in the ability to systematically report on trends and patterns of sexual violence, UNMISS should have engaged with “civil society organizations, health-care service providers, and women’s groups to enhance data collection,” as per resolution 1960 (2010) OP. 8. The report, also, could have been stronger by analyzing why reporting on sexual violence might be low, including stigma and lack of accessible, gender-sensitive reporting mechanisms. Further, the report should have also provided an analysis of what the impact of living in a place where the main populations are women, the elderly, and children is on women’s security, including their freedom of movement, and why women are choosing to stay in their town. Despite an improvement from recent reports on South Sudan and UNMISS in its women, peace and security content, the report still focuses on sexual violence at the expense of addressing the broad array of “security threats and protection challenges faced by women and girls,” as per resolution 2122 (2013) OP. 5.

Outside protection of civilians sites, UMISS conducted patrols to “prevent sexual and gender-based violence.”[4]S/2017/224 para. 30 Although the report notes meetings with civil society organizations as part of the consultative process, it fails to include if women’s civil society organizations and women participated in the design of the patrols to ensure they are meeting women’s unique security concerns, including sexual and gender-based violence, as per resolution 1820 (2008) OP. 10. [5]S/2017/224 para. 30 Within protection of civilians sites, the report notes that 117 women were detained in relation to “security incidents.”[6]S/2017/224 para. 28 The report does not provide any other information on why the women were detained or the unique concerns and needs women in detention have. In the same paragraph, the report discusses community efforts to ensure the protection of civilians sites remain civilian in character, including “inclusive community representation.”[7]S/2017/224 para. 28 The report fails to include women’s participation and representation, including women’s civil society organizations, in line with resolution 1889 (2009) OP. 10.

Positively, the report considers participation as part of protection efforts, specifically, “protection through dialogue and political engagement.”[8]S/2017/224 para. 26 As part of its first tier of protection, UNMISS held workshops on “social cohesion, reconciliation and conflict management,” in which 1,300 women participated.[9]S/2017/224 para. 26 Women’s representatives from communities and protection of civilians cites also participated.[10]S/2017/224 para. 26 However, the data provided on women’s participation shows that only approximately 40% of participants were women and there was no data on how many of those participants were representatives from women’s civil society organizations. The report could have been stronger by including more contextual data on women’s participation to ensure it was representative. The report also should have reported on women participated in the design and implementation of the workshops to ensure they addressed women’s needs and concerns. Additionally, the report identified “high bride prices” in Western Lakes as a root cause of conflict.[11]S/2017/224 para. 26 While the inclusion of a clearly gendered cause was positive, it was in the context of a “forum for state legislator,” with no indication if women participated in the forum or its design.[12]S/2017/224 para. 26 The report also fails to consider how the forum addressed women’s concerns relating to bride prices and marriage, including their empowerment and decision-making capacity.

Within the UNMISS mission, the report notes that “the arrival of an UNMISS Military Gender Adviser enhances the gender expertise of the Mission’s military component and its readiness to respond to sexual and gender-based violence cases.”[13]S/2017/224 para. 50 The report, however, fails to include any information on if the Gender Adviser has the necessary resources, capacity, and access to fulfill their mandate and ensure their overall effectiveness, in line with resolution 2106 (2013) OP. 7. Additionally, UNMISS “trained 47 Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism officers,” including 6 women, on “gender, sexual and gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence.”[14]S/2017/224 para. 50 The report could have been stronger by including if women participated in the design of the training and how the training will help all the officers, including those who are female, carry out their job responsibilities and respond to and prevent sexual and gender-based violence.

 

Humanitarian Assistance

The report considers the severe humanitarian situation, including displacement and famine. The section on humanitarian assistance begins by noting that the majority of people who have left South Sudan for Uganda are “women and children.”[15]S/2017/224 para. 20 The report fails to expand on or analyze the situation for displaced women, including their protection concerns and what displaced women are doing to support the peace process. Furthermore, the report does not consider “the particular needs of women and girls” in the design of refugee camps and settlements, as per resolution 1325 (2000) OP. 12. Additionally, by conflating women and children, the report fails to consider the unique needs and concerns of each group, as well as women’s agency.  The report includes statistics on women’s participation in an UNMISS/UN Cares program to educate people, including those displaced, on HIV/Aids and sex-disaggregated data on cholera and kala-azar cases.[16]S/2017/224 para. 22 The report does not address the factors behind the disproportionately high infection rates of women, including gender roles in which women are expected to care for those who are already sick. The report also does not consider if the HIV/Aids education programs addressed women’s needs and concerns, if the women who attended were representative of displaced women and women in South Sudan, and if the program considered women’s empowerment in decision-making regarding sexual health.  In line with resolution 2242 (2015) OP. 16 and the Global Study on the Implementation of Resolution 1325 (2000), the report should have also considered women’s “meaningful participation in design, implementation and provision of [broader] humanitarian assistance.”

 

Support to military and police for stability and security and Security sector reform

The report mentions UNMISS work with the South Sudan National Police Service, including trainings. As of the writing of the report, 4 women out of 66 senior police officers had already undergone training and an additional 216 women out of a remaining 1,121 officers will be trained on the UNMISS curriculum.[17]S/2017/224 para. 45 All together, the 220 women exceeds the 10% threshold for women’s participation in the police force, of those participating in the training, which is important in security sector reform. The report, however, fails to consider the unique support these women may require to fully participate as security sector personnel, as per resolution 2106 (2013) OP. 16(b). The report, additionally, fails to include women’s participation in the design of the training program to ensure policing policies and capacity meet women’s needs and also address women police officers’ unique concerns. The report also mentions that police officers are being vetted using the “human rights due diligence policy,” but the report should go further to state that perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence will be excluded from the police force, in line with resolution 2106 (2013) OP. 16(b).[18]S/2017/224 para. 45 This is especially important, given the January 2017 report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which listed police officers among the groups responsible for sexual violence, including rape and gang rape, in the July 2016 violence in Juba.[19]http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SS/ReportJuba16Jan2017.pdf

Despite this positive mention of women’s participation in the security sector, the report fails to “mainstream gender considerations in order to ensure gender-responsive security sector reform processes,” as per resolution 2122 (2013) OP. 10. Nor does it include women’s civil society organizations’ participation in security sector reform to ensure women’s protection concerns are integrated across all processes, in line with resolution 1820 (2008) OP. 10.

 

Demilitarization and arms management

The report does not report extensively on demilitarization and arms management. From the numerous descriptions of violence, there is an inference of a militarized situation. The only mention of arms management is a brief mention of demining transportation infrastructure and removing small arms ammunition.[20]S/2017/224 para. 44 The report entirely misses the opportunity to consider women’s empowerment and participation “in the design and implementation of efforts related to the prevention, combating and eradication of the illicit transfer, and the destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms and light weapons,” as per resolution 2242 (2015) OP. 15. Additionally, the report fails to provide a gendered analysis of the impact of small arms and light weapons and militarized societies. The report also does not consider women’s participation in demining activities and how the demining process has impacted women’s mobility and, in the case of infrastructure used to deliver humanitarian supplies, the impact on the availability and accessibility of gendered humanitarian assistance, including sexual and reproductive healthcare and psychosocial support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

 

Human rights, women and peace and security, and children and armed conflict

The report highlights the difficulties UNMISS has in reporting on and verifying human rights violations, including those against women, due to restrictions on its movement and access to certain areas.[21]S/2017/224 para. 32 These restrictions impact UNMISS’s ability to monitor and verify “conflict-related sexual violence including rape and gang-rape,” among other human rights abuses.[22]S/2017/224 para. 32 In spite of these challenges, the human rights section reports on “conflict-related sexual violence” and rape of an “unconfirmed number of women” in Central Equatoria by the SPLA.[23]S/2017/224 para. 35 The SPLA also “raped women” in Western Equatoria[24]S/2017/224 para. 36 and shot and killed a woman in Upper Nile.[25]S/2017/224 para. 37 Additionally, the National Security Service detained two women civil servants, but their fate was not clear from the report.[26]S/2017/224 para. 40 Although access issues may be leading to increased reporting on the SPLA, the report should have considered the context of sexual and gender-based violence and all human rights violations against women in South Sudan, including that the nature of the conflict means that the SPLA in Opposition is almost certainly perpetrating human rights abuses against women.

The report names both the SPLA and SPLA in Opposition as perpetrators of violations against children, with sex-disaggregated data on the number of girls and boys affected.[27]S/2017/224 para. 41 Sexual violence against girls was also listed as recurrent violation, 9% of those reported.[28]S/2017/224 para. 41

The report’s consideration of human rights has similar weaknesses and gaps to its reporting on protection of civilians. Reporting on human rights violations against women and girls focuses exclusively on sexual and gender-based violence, without considering other abuses of their rights, acknowledging the need to address impunity, or incorporate the participation pillar of the women, peace and security agenda, especially in actions women and women’s civil society organizations are taking to prevent and respond to human rights violations. Since the widespread and systematic nature of sexual violence has been well documented, the report’s failure to consider ending impunity and holding perpetrators accountable, as per resolution 1820 (2008) OP. 4, is particularly egregious. Both thematic areas human rights and protection of civilians reporting also fail to implement the call in resolution 1960 (2010) OP. 8 to overcome issues of access by engaging with systematically report on trends and patterns of sexual violence, UNMISS should have engaged with “civil society organizations, health-care service providers, and women’s groups to enhance data collection.” Such data collection would allow for the reporting of the context for sexual and gender-based violence. Further, the report fails to consider the need to provide comprehensive healthcare and psychosocial support to survivors, as per resolution 2242 (2015) OP. 16.

The report closes by noting “conflict-related sexual violence including rape and gang-rape” as part of a list of human rights abuses in the observations section.[29]S/2017/224 para. 55 While the inclusion of sexual and gender-based violence in the observations section is a step up from previous UNMISS reports, as it is the section that most impacts the mission moving forward, once again sexual violence was listed as part of a litany of human rights abuses that does nothing to shift the focus and blame onto the perpetrators. Additionally, the observations section makes no recommendations on how to improve the issues with reporting on sexual and gender-based violence.

 

Rule of law

The report notes general “lawlessness” and challenges in administering justice, but fails to provide a gender lens or analysis.[30]S/2017/224 para. 18 At a minimum, the report should have acknowledged gendered barriers and impact of weak or non-gender sensitive rule of law systems, as per resolution 1889 (2009). The report entirely misses the opportunity to “address obstacles in women’s access to justice in conflict and post-conflict settings, including through gender responsive legal, judicial and security sector reform and other mechanisms,” in accordance with resolution 2122 (2013) OP. 10. Reporting on justice and rule of law efforts fails to consider the importance of addressing “the full range of violations and abuses of women’s human rights, and the differentiated impacts on women and girls of these violations and abuses,” in line with resolution 2122 (2013). Furthermore, UNMISS fails to implement the call in resolutions 1820 (2008) OP. 10 and 2122 (2013) OP. 10 to mainstream gender considerations through consultations with women’s civil society organizations in order to ensure gender-responsive legal, judicial and transitional justice mechanisms.

 

Support to State institutions and Political and electoral processes

The report mentions the South Sudan peace process several times in varying sections and contexts. It opens by highlighting progress on a technical committee to establish a reconciliation commission, although the implementation of the peace agreement has stalled.[31]S/2017/224 para. 2 The reference mentions that “the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare” has representatives on the committee, alongside civil society organizations.[32]S/2017/224 para. 2 The report fails to consider, however, if there are any women representatives, including from women’s civil society organizations, and if the representatives from the Ministry are meaningful participants in the process and can promote women’s rights and empowerment. The report does not implement the call in resolution 1889 (2009) OP. 1 to “improve women’s participation during all stages of peace processes, particularly in conflict resolution, post-conflict planning and peacebuilding, including by enhancing their engagement in political and economic decision-making at early stages of recovery processes, through inter alia promoting women’s leadership and capacity to engage in aid management and planning, supporting women’s organizations, and countering negative societal attitudes about women’s capacity to participate equally.” Additionally, the report should have mentioned how the reconciliation process is going to ensure accountability for human rights violations against women, including sexual and gender-based violence, as per resolutions 1325 (2000) OP. 11 and 2122 (2013) OP. 12. Any process should consult local women’s views on sexual violence in conflict resolution discussions, in accordance with resolution 1820 (2008) OP. 3

 

International cooperation and coordination

The report mentions international cooperation several times in relation to the peace process. All of these mentions, unfortunately, are completely gender-blind. Despite initiatives for “grass-roots consultations, followed by regional peace conferences” with the participation of civil society and religious leaders, the report fails to consider women’s participation, including women’s civil society organizations.[33]S/2017/224 para. 3, 6 As per resolution 1889 (2009) OP. 1, women should participate“during all stages of peace processes, particularly in conflict resolution, post-conflict planning and peacebuilding, including by enhancing their engagement in political and economic decision-making at early stages of recovery processes, through inter alia promoting women’s leadership and capacity to engage in aid management and planning, supporting women’s organizations, and countering negative societal attitudes about women’s capacity to participate equally.” The report also misses the opportunity to “encourage the meaningful participation of [women’s] civil society organizations at international and regional peace and security meetings… including donor conferences to help ensure gender considerations are integrated in the development, prioritization, coordination, and implementation of policies and programmes,” in line with resolution 2242 (2015) OP. 1.

 

Civilian-military coordination and Public Information

UNMISS conducted a public awareness campaign on “zero tolerance of sexual and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence.”[34]S/2017/224 para. 31 From the report, it is unknown if women, including women’s civil society organizations, participated in the design and implementation of the campaign to ensure it addressed women’s needs and concerns, including women’s empowerment and engaging with men and boys. UNMISS also led a campaign as part of the 16 Days Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women entitled “from peace at home to peace in South Sudan,” with “community watch groups, religious leaders and school teachers, whose perspectives influence gender relations and behaviour patterns of community members.”[35]S/2017/224 para. 31 While the contextual view of sexual violence from the familial to conflict level and the involvement of many different actors is positive, the report fails to include if women, including representational women’s civil society organizations, participated in the design and the campaign itself. There is also no information on if women’s empowerment and decision-making capacity within the family and community was considered as part of the “gender relations and behaviour patterns of community members.”[36]S/2017/224 para. 31 Finally, for the Global Open Day for Women and Peace, UNMISS held a women’s peace forum, with similar future regional events being planned, with women’s leaders.[37]S/2017/224 para. 31 The report does not provide any information on the accessibility of the event for women and what the outcomes of the dialogue were. It would have been helpful if the report included how women participated in the design of the dialogue, the dialogue itself, and how the dialogue with “UN leadership” will change the UN’s response in South Sudan to better respond to women’s concerns.[38]S/2017/224 para. 31

Similar to issues in the report’s consideration of protection of civilians efforts, the report identified “women leaders” among those who attended a regional dialogue in Yei on civil-military relations but fails to provide additional information about their participation in the design of the dialogue or if their participation was representative.[39]S/2017/224 para. 26 Overall, the report fails to consider women’s participation in all peace processes and UN work, in line with resolution 2106 (2013) OP. 5.

 

Other

The report makes an additional reference to the fact that UNMISS continues “to implement the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse pursuant to his report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (A/69/779).”[40]S/2017/224 para. 50The report misses the opportunity, however, to note if vetting, pre-deployment training, and “swift and thorough investigations” of alleged abuse is part of the implementation, as per resolution 2242 (2015) OP. 9.

References

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