Executive Director statement Security Council briefing on CAR

Statement of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, at a Security Council Briefing on Central African Republic, 24 June 2014, New York.


[Check against delivery]

Mister President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I thank the President of the Council for inviting me to brief you today on my recent mission to the Central African Republic.

One month ago I visited Bangui on a joint mission with the Special Envoy of the African Union on Women, Peace and Security.

Our dual presence strengthened the coordination and standing of the mission, as well as the potential for joint UN and AU follow-up action.

In the Central African Republic, we met with the President, the Prime Minister, key ministers and government officials, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and head of UN Stabilization Mission, the African Union chair special representative and head of MISCA, the UN Country Team, the Technical Follow-Up Committee on the crisis in the Central African Republic, the High-Level Women’s Advisory Group, 17 civil society organizations, 16 women’s organizations, religious leaders and many internally displaced people.

We received so much support from the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, the head of MISCA, and their teams, for which I am grateful.

Our goals were to give visibility to the plight of women and girls, ensure that gender issues are addressed from the outset in the newly established UN mission, and to promote women’s participation and leadership in local reconciliation, national dialogues, transitional justice, and upcoming elections.  

Mister President, what we saw and heard was terrifying. 

In displacement camps all over the country, including the one we visited, people seek shelter under plastic covers or even pieces of cloth in inhumane conditions, surrounded by dirty puddles of stagnant water and garbage, vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

The international community has received numerous reports of rape, sexual slavery, and other violations perpetrated by armed actors.

These reports were confirmed last December by a UN fact-finding mission led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and supported by UN Women.

This violence has taken place in house-to-house searches, unauthorized road blocks, military camps, and as part of sectarian violence.

We learned that girls are frequently subjected to forced marriage. Many have become pregnant, miscarried, or contracted sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

There is a great need for medical and psychosocial support in IDP sites, 90 per cent of which lack services for survivors of gender-based violence.

The very few services that are available assist hundreds of victims of rape every month.

Mr. President, there are an untold number of pregnant women who do not have access to basic reproductive and obstetric care.

This is a matter of life and death in a country where a woman’s risk of maternal death is already 140 times higher than in developed countries.

What I heard over and over again from women was that security and rule of law, healthcare, food, and schools were the country’s greatest needs.

Almost two-thirds of schools remained closed, and hundreds of thousands of children are growing up without an education.

Neighbouring countries are struggling to provide adequate support to tens of thousands of refugees.
Cameroon now hosts approximately 100,000 newly arrived refugees, of whom 84 per cent are women and children who arrive after travelling for many days or weeks, and are often sick and traumatized.

They arrive to find one nurse and less than a few dozen hygiene and medical kits to assist thousands.

These alarming and distressing facts are important to highlight because – as of today – less than one-third of the humanitarian appeal has been funded by the international community. 

Mister President, today I call for the urgent and full funding of the appeal. I also call your attention to a very different side of the Central African Republic.

Against the odds, many people – including women from all walks of life – are organizing to survive and prosper.
Youth asked for support to lead in rehabilitating their peers who have been affected by the violence.

Women leaders from across religious and social divides are clear in their resolve to bridge their differences and build a better future for their country.

They are organized and full of plans, ideas, and courage.
They especially asked for support to engage women in economic activity, psychosocial support, and to restore the education system.

Mister President, I urge members of the Security Council to support the women of the Central African Republic, and to implement the gender equality recommendations issued by the UN electoral needs assessment mission.

The success of reconciliation initiatives, upcoming elections, and national recovery depends upon women’s leadership and participation.

Priority should be given to special temporary measures and quotas for women’s representation, and MINUSCA protection and security for women’s participation in the elections.

Stronger action must be taken to protect civilians and restore State authority and the rule of law.

As this Council knows, most courts and prisons have ceased to function, and many civil servants and magistrates have abandoned their positions.

UN Women is taking part in a joint programme that will improve women’s access to justice.

It will focus on survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, building capacity of national institutions, deploying mobile courts and holding perpetrators accountable.

We note the efforts of the International Commission of Inquiry and the recent request by the President to the International Criminal Court.

Efforts to secure justice at all levels must be supported.  UN Women has offered dedicated gender crimes investigators.

We also welcome this Council’s recent decision to establish a robust peacekeeping mission in MINUSCA, building on the efforts of the Economic Community of Central African States and the African Union, and the support offered by French forces and the European Union mission.

This year’s initial deployment of gender and women’s protection advisers must be strengthened next year. This expertise must extend beyond Bangui to the regions, and be embedded in all of the mission’s priority areas.

To build durable national security, we need more women in the military, police, and civilian components of the mission.  

Mister President, I am pleased to announce that, for the first time, UN Women and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations will offer specialized pre-deployment training on preventing sexual violence.

I urge all troop-contributing countries to take up the offer and support full implementation of this training.

I also urge the international community and members of the Security Council to increase funding for the safety and protection of women and girls, for women’s economic empowerment and for education.

We know that investing in women’s employment and entrepreneurship and child care has a significant impact on family and community recovery, and is a powerful investment for peacebuilding.

UN Women will work with partners including the AU, to ensure that emergency employment programmes include at least 40 per cent of women as beneficiaries.

We encourage all international partners to adhere to the UN’s policies on earmarking 15 per cent or more of funding for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

UN Women is partnering with UNHCR to respond to the urgent needs of women and girls in refugee sites in Cameroon, and to support women’s access to humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic.

To reiterate, I request this Council to ensure:

  • that MINUSCA has the proper gender architecture to fulfil this mission;
  • that troop-contributing countries provide all troops access to the training on prevention of sexual violence;
  • that women are represented in all processes that deal with peacemaking, peacebuilding and reconciliation;
  • that election preparations place women’s representation and participation at their centre;
  • that efforts to rebuild the justice system and secure accountability for grave crimes include dedicated sexual and gender crimes experts; and
  • that our humanitarian response is scaled up both within and outside the country, and education and economic well-being is also addressed.

The women we met in the Central African Republic, including Interim President Samba-Panza, must be supported to play their full and equal role as agents of change, peace, and security.

Empowered women are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against the radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence. Their voices must be heard.  

In going about my work, I have been touched by the level of awareness among women around the world of the Security Council’s decisions on Women, Peace and Security.

This body has made very significant promises to women, most recently in UN Security Council resolution 2122. resolution 2149 on the Central African Republic also included strong language on women’s participation, leadership and protection.

UN Women stands ready to support the Council to implement these strong commitments and to keep its promises.

Once again, Mister President, distinguished delegates, I thank you for this opportunity and I look forward to our discussions.