The UNMISS mandate through a gender lens: on the DDR process in South Sudan

By Nadine Lainer

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1996 (2011), incorporates a relatively strong gender lens in its actions and, compared to other missions in the region, regularly includes gender-specific and sex-disaggregated data in its reports. According to S/RES 1996 (2011/OP 3(a)), UNMISS is authorized to support national efforts for peace consolidation to foster long-term statebuilding and economic development. The mission is further mandated to support the Government of the Republic of South Sudan in “developing and implementing a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration strategy, in cooperation with international partners with particular attention to the special needs of women and child combatants“ (S/RES 1996 (2011/OP 3(c)(ii)))

The first report to mention the DDR process in South Sudan was presented by the Secretary-General in November 2011. The first phase of the program that targeted 12,525 South Sudanese combatants and was implemented under the auspices of the UN country team and UNDP was supposed to be completed by 31 December 2011. The report further informs about the subsequent DDR strategy for 2012-2017, which at that time was under review and scheduled to begin in April 2012, targeting a caseload of 4,500 ex-combatants of the South Sudan Armed Forces and other armed groups in three transitional centers (S/2011/678, P36-40). However, the report does not include any information on women ex-combatants or women associated with armed groups (WAAGs). Needless to say that the actual implementation came to a very slow and delayed start.

The next report to the Security Council that references the national DDR process and its progress was delivered two years later in March 2013. It includes mentions of the inaugural meeting of the National DDR Commission, which was held on 14 November 2013. According to the report, the DDR process is overseen by four security pillar institutions, the DDR Commission, the Ministry of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministries of Wildlife Services and National Security. The pilot phase of this new “nationally owned” DDR program under the auspices of the DDR Commission was supposed to begin in April 2013. Even back then, the Secretary-General raised concerns about the feasibility of the program due to tight austerity measures of the government (S/2013/140, P 57).

Throughout all Security Council resolutions concerning the UNMISS mandate, which is renewed bi-annually (the last resolution (S/RES 2223) was passed in May 2015), references to the women, peace and security agenda and the respective resolutions (particularly S/RES 1325 (2000)) are made, emphasizing women’s full and meaningful participation in all peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts. Most importantly, UNMISS is also mandated with the protection of civilians as well as the facilitation of humanitarian access and human rights verification and monitoring (S/RES 2155 (2014)). This particular mandate includes the deployment of Women Protection and Gender Advisors as well as coordinated efforts with civil society and the police to fight sexual violence.

However, none of the mandate renewal resolutions include mentions of the DDR process. The last UN document to reference DDR efforts was the report by the Secretary-General in August 2015, which briefly informed on the work of the National DDR Commission but did not comprise any gender-specific data (S/2015/655).

While the UNMISS mandate includes a relatively strong focus on gender, working towards creating an enabling environment for women’s participation in the national political dialogue and drawing attention to pervasive sexual violence, immense discrepancies between official reporting and accounts of women peacebuilders on the ground remain. Women’s participation in the DDR process continues to be of great urgency. The provision of sex-disaggregated data on the DDR caseloads as well as the engagement of women’s civil society in the planning and implementation of any future DDR program is a must.

According to the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), as of May 2015, South Sudan has a draft National Action Plan (NAP) for the implementation of resolution 1325 (and all corresponding WPS resolutions) to fully realize the potential of women peacebuilders and include them in all aspects of conflict resolution. Clearly, the National Action Plan must emphasize the important role of women in all DDR and SSR efforts.

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