Department of Peacekeeping Operations
The mission of the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) in the United Nations Secretariat is to plan, prepare, manage and direct United Nations peacekeeping operations so that they can effectively fulfil their mandates under the overall authority of the Security Council and General Assembly, and under the command vested in the Secretary-General. DPO is a member of UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. DPO provides political and executive direction to UN peace operations around the world and maintains contact with the Security Council, troop and financial contributors, and parties to the conflict in the implementation of Security Council mandates. Within the purview of mandates of the respective missions, with due reference to relevant Security Council resolutions, DPO works to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV).
Areas of Focus
Towards implementing its specific mandates on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), DPO works to address all forms of sexual and gender-based violence against women, including sexual exploitation and abuse by civilian and uniformed peacekeeping personnel.
As each functional unit of peacekeeping has direct responsibility for supporting prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, activities are mission and mandate specific. The women, peace and security architecture in the Missions represented through the presence of gender units, senior gender advisors, senior women protection advisors, gender advisors in uniform and the gender focal persons across the various functions and components of the peacekeeping missions facilitate the implementation of WPS mandate and address sexual and gender-based violence through partnerships with a variety of actors, including women’s civil society organizations and networks, host governments, regional bodies and other United Nations entities . Specific focus areas for addressing SGBV include investing in gendered conflict analysis to identify risks, vulnerabilities and drivers of SGBV, identifying and implementing targeted actions in planning and implementing of protection of civilian strategies and community violence reduction programmes that identify particular risks and threats faced by women, contributing to strengthening institutional response mechanisms/referral pathways for SGBV survivors, providing targeted awareness raising, trainings and context specific guidance to address SGBV risks faced by women and girls and contribute to establishing gender responsive national security and justice mechanisms, including legal frameworks to address SGBV.
In missions with a CRSV mandate, Women’s Protection Advisers , engage in a dialogue with parties to the conflict to elicit formal commitments from their leaders on preventing and addressing CRSV in accordance with their international obligations.
In June 2020, DPO launched the first Handbook to support UN Field Missions in preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), building on the publication of the first UN Policy on this same topic a few months earlier. Both these documents were developed by DPO jointly with the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (OSRSG-SVC) and in consultation with representatives from the United Nations Action Network on Sexual Violence in Conflict and partners at United Nations Headquarters. These documents provide guidance for civilian, military, and police personnel deployed in UN Field Missions on how to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence with a coordinated and survivor-centred approach. Since the release of the CRSV Policy and Handbook, DPO has been supporting their dissemination and implementation in the field.
DPO’s Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) Team has been dedicated to supporting five UN peacekeeping operations in implementing and strengthening the delivery of conflict-related sexual violence mandates.
Notable achievements since February 2020 include the development and launch of the first UN Policy and Handbook for UN Field Missions on CRSV prevention and response. The Team also provided ongoing specialized advice to peacekeeping operations and DPO Headquarters divisions on the mainstreaming of the CRSV mandate within missions, facilitated inter-mission learning, and ensured CRSV was systematically integrated in mission mandate renewal and budgetary processes. In order to raise awareness about the CRSV mandate and promote best practice sharing, in June 2020, DPO published a first of its kind annual summary of activities and good practices in Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence by United Nations Peacekeeping Missions.
Peacekeeping missions raise awareness on Sexual and Gender Based Violence through events/media campaigns during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
Missions also worked to strengthen women’s participation in building a protective environment. In Central Africa Republic. 46.5% of the early warning mechanisms supported by MINUSCA compromised at least 30 per cent women; in Mali and Darfur, CRSV survivor networks were established; in Abyei UNISFA enhanced its early warning system by partnering with Abyei Women’s Association in identifying gender-specific triggers and events that have the potential to escalate the local conflict; in Darfur, Sudan, the 54 women-led protection networks established by UNAMID serve as unique examples of how women have helped prevent conflicts and contribute to building a protective environment. MINUSCA’s support included formation of 16 women’s situation rooms and a hotline to strengthen women’s protection during election. In DRC, MONUSCO supported women’s organizations to map security threats and hot spots for women and girls, which informed the interventions of security and defence forces and other protection actors.
Through public communications and reporting, peacekeeping operations contributed to raising awareness on conflict-related sexual violence and promoting prevention and the condemnation of harmful stigmatizing attitudes towards victims/survivors. For instance, in South Sudan, UNMISS and OHCHR published a joint public report on access to health for sexual violence survivors that increased attention to the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health. UNMISS and the Government subsequently launched a joint nationwide campaign against stigmatization of sexual violence survivors, which remains one of the key barriers to accessing healthcare. In Mali, for the International Day on the Elimination Against Sexual Violence in Conflict on 19 June 2020, the MINUSMA SRSG joined voices with heads of UN agencies, government representatives and diplomatic missions to publicly condemn CRSV on social media. During the 16 Days of Activism Campaign against Gender-Based Violence, the Deputy SRSG-Political Affairs took part in a live radio debate on the Mission’s efforts to eradicate CRSV.
DPO collect data through qualitative and quantitative reporting to monitor progress, trends, and challenges including on protection and prevention to ending violence against women. Through WPS quarterly reporting, the peacekeeping operations report on gender-based violence incidents and survivors, gender responsive patrols by the military and police and local early warning mechanisms for prevention.
During the reporting period, Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements (MARA) on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) were operational in MINUSMA, MINUSCA, MONUSCO, UNMISS, UNAMID and were central to peacekeeping efforts to address CRSV including through enhanced information sharing across civilian, police, and military mission components and the broader UN family and NGOs. The MARA supported the development of comprehensive analysis on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; supported the facilitation of the timely referral of survivors to essential services; supported to the development of action plans for implementation of national CRSV commitments; and informed targeted advocacy and sensitization efforts. Analysis from the MARA Working Groups also provided substantive content for the Secretary General’s Annual Report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence with respect to the DRC, CAR, Mali, Sudan and South Sudan, including the “listing” of parties credibly suspected of committing or being responsible for CRSV.
DPO continued to strengthen coordination and coherence on the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence across the UN system through active participation in the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict network and its activities. Most specifically, since November 2020, DPO has notably been leading on an activity to assess the operationalization of the Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements on CRSV (MARA) in coordination with OHCHR, OSRSG-SVC, DPPA, UNFPA and UNICEF. The MARA serves as the evidence base for all prevention and response activities, both at country level and at the level of the Security Council. This evaluation will notably lead to the update of existing guidance on the MARA with a view to strengthen its implementation and impact.
With the support and advice from Senior/Women’s Protection Advisers, personnel in peacekeeping operations facilitate victims/survivors’ access to protection and support services notably through information-sharing about services, referrals and special assistance projects. For instance, as part of an engagement process with armed groups who had abducted hundreds of women and girls in 2018 in Western Equatoria, UNMISS worked with a local faith-based organization to ensure access to medical care, trauma-healing support and livelihood trainings for 80 women and girls in order to support their recovery and transition into civilian life. Building on this initiative, UNMISS/OHCHR supported an additional 40 former abductees in accessing livelihood opportunities, leadership programs and psycho-social support tailored to their needs. Dialogues were also held with their families, communities and local authorities on stigma prevention and prevention and response to sexual violence. UNMISS adopted a survivor-centered approach throughout these efforts by ensuring respect to survivors’ views and decisions and working to enhance availability of assistance services as well as effective rehabilitation programs to empower survivors to start gaining greater control over their lives. MINUSMA partnered with a local women’s rights organization to implement a project in Bamako and Mopti that helped to prevent risks of gender-based and sexual violence related to the pandemic through sensitization sessions and provided dozens of survivors with access to a safe shelter and care services.
Peacekeeping missions ensured that COVID-19 related re-orienting of mandate implementation, including contingency planning and programme criticality mapping, as well as support to national authorities and collaboration with UN Country Teams and AFP’s, is gender responsive.
Given the increasing levels of violence against women, especially domestic violence, all missions have expanded mitigation and prevention measures through awareness raising, collaboration with GBV sub-clusters and tracking and monitoring of GBV incidence. In Cyprus, the mission supported awareness raising on GBV, while in Darfur and Abyei, UNAMID and UNISFA respectively, supported women’s protection networks to disseminate protection and GBV related information to IDP settings as well as the community at large. UNIFIL increased awareness on GBV, including dissemination of referral guidelines. UNMIK with other partners increased GBV awareness and issued statements, and key messages including in women’s correction facilities. In DRC, the mission raised awareness on GBV and access to referral services.
Missions developed gender-responsive frameworks to inform Community Violence Reduction (CVR) programming and incorporate emerging threats to security related to COVID-19. UNMISS, MINUSCA, UNAMID mapped gender specific CVR priorities, including as a component of DDR/CVR programming. For example, MINUSCA expanded women’s economic options through innovative income generation activities. UNMISS and UNISFA focused on gender inclusive PoC responses.
The Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements (MARA) Working Groups in peacekeeping settings served as collaborative platforms to document the impact of the pandemic and find solutions to ensure accessibility of services for survivors of sexual violence. In collaboration with the UNCT/HCT, to reduce reporting barriers for survivors, telephone hotlines were established in the DRC and South Sudan. For instance, in the DRC, the hotline enables information collection, the remote provision of psychosocial and legal support and referrals to appropriate legal and medical services.
Gender units invest in targeted SGBV prevention activities that include prevention against VAW across the Missions through targeted capacity strengthening training, implementing gender analysis to identify enablers of SGBV; invest in community based early warning mechanisms and inclusion of specific SGBV indicators and reporting benchmarks across all functions to identify timely identification of SGBV risks; and establish partnerships with women civil society organisations to collectively develop strategies for an enabling environment that prevents and mitigates SGBV
In March 2017 DPKO produces a range of communication materials in line with the new gender policy have been developed to provide coherence and consistent advocacy on SGBV prevention.
DDR/CVR teams across 5 peacekeeping missions (MONUSCO, MINUSCA, MINUSMA, UNAMID and MINUJUSTH ) missions have designed and implemented a series of Community Violence Reduction (CVR) projects, aimed at preventing and reducing violence at the community level in both ongoing and post-conflict scenarios. While interventions target a wide set of actors (e.g. members of armed groups, youth at-risk and community members), these initiates particularly improve security conditions for vulnerable groups, including women and children. Moreover, by ensuring their participation, CVR projects serve to mobilize and empower women within their communities and, as a result, contribute to the constitution of a protective environment.
Gender-specific mine action programming: UNMAS makes every effort to ensure that its mine action programming is tailored according to specific cultures and gender of the beneficiaries. In some settings, this means women conducting single-gender risk education sessions (e.g. in Iraq in 2017).
Recruitment of women in mine action programming: Research in Colombia and Lebanon indicates that women employed in mine action (which is traditionally male -dominated) increase their voice and influence in their communities: http://www.gmap.ch/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/final-report-ARS-2016.pdf
Gender Unit: An updated Gender Equality and Women, Peace and Security Resource Package is being finalized which includes dedicated chapters on CRSV and SGBV. This comprehensive resource tool will act as the main comprehensive resource and a “how to guide” to integrate gender and WPS for all peacekeeping personnel across all components and functions of peacekeeping operations; and will provide good practices to enhance evidence based programming.