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Women, Peace and Security in the Sahel Region Briefing

Tomorrow morning (10 July), the Security Council will hold a briefing on ‘Women, Peace and Security in the Sahel region” under the agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa”, chaired by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop are expected to brief. Members are expected to make statements following the briefings. No outcome is envisaged at this point.

Mohammed and Diop, together with Wallström, were part of a high-level, joint UN-AU delegation that just completed a visit to the region, focusing on peace, security and development issues, with women’s participation at their centre. They are scheduled to return today (9 July). Mohammed participated in the 31st AU Summit in Nouakchott (Mauritania) on 1-2 July, after which the UN-AU delegation started their trip in South Sudan from 3 to 4 July. Wallström joined for the Chad (5-6 July) and Niger (7-8 July) legs of the trip; the briefers are expected to focus on these two parts of the visit.

Other participants on different legs of the trip included: the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten; and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, Bience Gawanas, among several other senior UN and AU officials.

Mohammed and Diop made a similar joint visit to Nigeria and the DRC last July with Mlambo-Ngcuka and Patten, which was the focus of a Council briefing in August 2017 (S/PV.8022).

Tomorrow, they will have the opportunity to share the information and impressions they gleaned with regard to women’s leadership in the prevention of conflicts and their inclusion in processes addressing environmental, humanitarian and development challenges. In Chad, they met with President Idriss Déby, ministers, local leaders, the Multinational Joint Task Force (a regional counter-terrorism operation), the UN country team, civil society representatives (including female survivors of violence of the terrorist group Boko Haram), female religious leaders who work to counter narratives of violent extremism, and fisherwomen in Bol in the Lac region. In Niger, Mohammed, Diop, Wallström and other members of the delegation met with President Mahamadou Issoufou, traditional leaders, leaders of women’s groups such as the African Women Leaders Network, and representatives of UNDP. They also visited a women’s health centre.

With the visit providing the basis for the discussion, key issues likely to be raised during tomorrow’s session will be how the interrelated crises in the Sahel have affected women and girls with particular intensity, including their livelihoods; the prevention of violent extremism; the importance of women’s meaningful participation in political, peace and security, and sustainable development processes; and issues related to the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS).

Mohammed has led UN efforts to improve implementation of the UNISS, including the recent development of a support plan for the strategy to trigger investment in the region, launched during the AU Summit in Nouakchott on 30 June. The “recalibration” of the UN’s Sahel strategy and support plan focus on priority areas for implementation, including empowering women and youth, cross-border cooperation, conflict prevention and sustaining peace, inclusive economic growth, and climate action and renewable energy.

According to Sweden’s background note for the briefing, additional issues that could be discussed include: how the Council and the UN can promote the role of women as agents for positive change in the transition from stabilisation to long-term peacebuilding and development; how the UN can more effectively address the root causes of the crisis; and how the UN and AU can better cooperate, including possible examples and lessons learned from past cooperation.

Sweden, as co-chair (together with Peru) of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security (IEG) and Council president in July, believes that women’s issues are peace and security issues. It maintains that the women, peace and security agenda should not be treated as a thematic issue unrelated to the Council’s main responsibility to maintain international peace and security but rather as an integral part of the Council’s country-specific work. This approach resonates with the participants on the joint Sahel trip.

Several other members share Sweden’s view that there are interlinkages between women’s issues and international peace and security that require the Council’s attention. During tomorrow’s meeting, they may underscore that women’s empowerment cannot be seen as a separate issue from the long-term peaceful development of the Sahel.

Some Council members tend to be less supportive of the inclusion of thematic issues on the Council’s agenda—notably China and Russia, who regularly do not attend IEG meetings. It is expected that their statements will focus less on women’s participation in peacebuilding and more on issues such as development, political stability and countering terrorism in the region.

Women’s issues have featured in the Council’s engagement in the Sahel region. For example, in resolution 2349 (2017), the Council recognised the importance of women’s empowerment and political participation in promoting peace and security in the Lake Chad Basin region. The IEG recently met on Mali and the Sahel in order to contribute recommendations ahead of Mohammed and Diop’s mission. In addition, Council members recently received the first note from the UN Secretariat on the link between gender and Boko Haram, elaborating how the terrorist groups exploits gender inequalities and stereotypes in their activities.

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