Remarks by UN Women Executive Director at the Security Council of the African Union

Briefing by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, on the joint African Union/United Nations Mission to South Sudan at the Security Council of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2018

[As delivered]

Thank you for the opportunity to brief you today on our joint African Union and United Nations mission to South Sudan.

I join my colleagues in commending South Sudan on the signing of the peace agreement and I welcome the important provisions of the agreement that address women, especially the 35 per cent guarantee for women’s representation and participation in the composition of the Executive of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity of the Republic of South Sudan.

Implementing the 35 per cent affirmative action is critical at all levels, and within all arms of government, and not just at the national executive level. The 35 per cent is also critical for the institutions to be established and reconstituted as part of the revitalized Peace Agreement.

At a meeting in Bentiu, there was a rare opportunity for women from the opposing sides to be together. They presented their concerns, from the Protection of Civilians sites and the town. They concluded that the cessation of hostilities and the end of killing was a top priority for them. They wanted reconciliation, even though between themselves as women they had no disputes or hostilities.

They found themselves caught up in a futile man’s war in which they are victims of sexual assaults from all sides, their families are killed and their livelihoods destroyed. Without access to the leaders of their country, who they said are responsible for the crisis, they are asking us as the United Nations and African Union to do more to help them and to hold the leaders accountable.

They also pointed out that the men who are responsible for the sexual abuse that they continue to experience are getting younger and younger in age, and that too was creating a significant concern for what would happen with the next generation.

In Juba, we met women from all walks of life who presented their demands and their asks to all of us. They call for the cessation of hostilities, and for all warring factions and armed parties to communicate with their followers and inform them about the peace agreement, as the fighting had not completely subsided. They said that the same message must also go to militias and non-organized forces.

The women highlighted the importance of their inclusion at critical levels in all the decision-making segments of the peace process. As they welcomed the 35 per cent quota, they also demanded that the inclusion of women must start with the Pre-Transitional Structures. At this point, to have only one woman and ten men in the Pre-Transition Committee is not acceptable and must be corrected. They requested the International Authority on Development and the AU to ensure continuous monitoring of inclusiveness. The process of monitoring must begin now with the Pre-Transitional Structures.

Women further want to ensure that the Constitutional Review process includes women so that their needs and their concerns could be considered and heard. Again, in that regard, they required that support and the process of monitoring were ensured.

They call for women’s participation in security sector reforms and security institutions so that those institutions properly fulfil their role to protect all the people of South Sudan, including women and girls. They call for women to be given leadership roles in those institutions to ensure that the security institutions are reconstituted in a manner that is gender-sensitive and focuses on protection of civilians from gender-based violence, including the protection of all citizens, men and women alike.

Young women and those living with disabilities shared the difficulties that they have experienced in the past years, and how much they needed peace that understood their needs. They were concerned that even though they bear the brunt of the effects and impact of the conflicts, the decisions regarding the peace talks are still only viewed as ‘national’, without any concrete plans to bring in the voices and reflections of women in the communities.

They needed to be assured that reparations will take account of what they suffered, and what they have lost, including when they have survived sexual violence.

They highlighted that it is crucial that the Transitional Justice Mechanisms deter and punish sexual and gender-based violence, and called for accountability mechanisms for transitional justice, including the Hybrid Court.

Women called for all parties to see the women of South Sudan, including civil society, as equal partners in implementation of the accountability mechanisms. They were able to mobilize and bring forward the experiences of all the women of South Sudan, both those in the country and those in the diaspora.

The participation of civil society organizations in the implementation and monitoring processes will ensure inclusion of women’ leadership, voice and agency. 

The inclusion of women is also essential for reorganized security forces, with the recruitment of women at a minimum level of 35 per cent into the commissioned and non-commissioned cadres, to change the face of the security forces and curb negative masculinities, prioritize gender within disarmament and demobilization, including in the organization of cantonments, and strengthen accountability for conflict-related sexual violence.

Further, I would like to bring forward additional expectations for action from the women that are addressed to the United Nations, FemWise and the African Union.

They ask the African Union Peace and Security Council to show leadership and responsibility in holding all parties accountable for the active implementation of the Revitalized Agreement. They ask that security be regarded as a gender issue and defined differently, in order to embrace more of the protection that has been missing. 

Women and girls call for your support as partners to pay attention to the marginalized communities which have fewer paid opportunities, access to education, livelihoods and economic sustenance, and they ask that that attention be given to the choices that need to be made in order to take South Sudan out of poverty.

They call for massive recovery and resilience programmes in South Sudan, and in particular the training of women, girls and boys, to develop new skill sets that are necessary for post-conflict reconstruction and to retain and protect peace. 

I would like to thank the African Union, the Peace and Security Commission, and colleagues who were part of this delegation both for the opportunity to brief you and the opportunity you afforded us in listening to our briefing.

This is a long road ahead, but we are cautiously optimistic that together we will be able to support the people of South Sudan to fulfill the mission of peace.

Thank you.