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SC/14648
28 September 2021
8867th Meeting (PM)

Realizing Women’s 30 Per Cent Quota, Political Participation in Somalia ‘a Game Changer’ For Sustainable Peace, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Pointing out that, in 2016, Somalia reached a milestone with nearly a quarter of parliamentary seats occupied by women, the Deputy Secretary-General and speakers in the Security Council today called for a 30 per cent quota of legislative seats to be held for women in that country’s upcoming election.

“These [2016] figures demonstrate that progress is possible even in the most difficult circumstances”, said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed as she briefed the 15-member organ on her recent visit to that country to promote greater women’s participation in political life.

“I made this second visit to Somalia because women’s political participation is a game changer in our efforts to achieve sustainable peace, development and more resilient and inclusive societies,” she said, stressing that the 30 per cent quota is a crucial first step towards the equal representation of women in all sectors of life, from business to public service, and from elections to appointments.

Nonetheless, there is real concern that in the current elections, levels of representation of women will decrease, she said, highlighting Somali women’s struggles to access financial support to hold campaigns and a lack of the political networks and connections of their male peers.  The political environment is not conducive to women, with many male leaders promoting male candidates.  These challenges are compounded by violence and discrimination, she added.

Shukria Dini, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Somali Women’s Studies Centre, also briefed the Council, reporting that recent visits to Somalia by the Deputy Secretary-General and Ireland’s Foreign Minister helped to put pressure on key actors to support women’s participation and representation in elections.  In addition, their visit reassured Somali women that they are not alone in their struggle for political participation, empowerment and equality.

To realize the 30 per cent quota, 83 seats in the House of the People and 10 seats in the Senate must be identified and reserved for women, she said.  Leaders of Federal Member States who are also part of the National Consultative Council must ensure that the federal and state-level election implementation teams reject nominations of male candidates for seats reserved for women.

For its part, the international community must not support elections which do not protect the 30 per cent quota, she demanded, adding that building a new Somalia can only be possible when women and other marginalized communities are fully included in all peace and political processes.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members joined the briefers’ calls for implementing the 30 per cent quota.

The representative of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines applauded Somalia for achieving what many Member States, including developed countries, have failed to do:  24 per cent of parliamentary seats were secured by women.  The current election should set yet another milestone, thus achieving the aspirations Somali women have set for themselves, she stressed.

Ireland’s representative, Council President for September, speaking in her national capacity, highlighted the direct correlation between the political participation of women and stability, peace and prosperity.  The political participation of women, and their protection from violence, are also two sides of the same coin, she said, adding:  “Only by tackling gender inequality, including through the political participation of women, will we be able to root out gender-based violence.”

Kenya’s delegate cautioned against “toxic masculinity” — male behaviour that negatively impacts women’s advancement.  “We embrace the 30 per cent parliamentary quota,” he said, adding that women should also be integrated into military and police sectors.  The ideology of al-Shabaab is a problem affecting not just Somalia, but also his own country and other regional States, he pointed out.

Viet Nam’s delegate said the 30 per cent representation of women in Parliament should be guaranteed, calling for an agreement on a specific mechanism to implement this quota.  Adequate institutionalization of the role of women will help bring about their long-term inclusion in political, security and socioeconomic mechanisms, she added.

Norway’s delegate urged the Somali authorities to move beyond what was already achieved almost five years ago, calling on the country to ensure a clear mechanism for implementing the 30 per cent quota in both houses of Parliament.  Achieving the full equal and meaningful participation of women is about more than implementing the quota, she said, adding that the Somali Women’s Charter provides a solid foundation towards more broad-based and inclusive reforms.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, China, Tunisia, Russian Federation, India, United States, Niger, Mexico, France and Estonia.

The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:25 p.m.

Briefings

AMINA MOHAMMED, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, briefed the Security Council on her recent visit to Somalia to promote women’s participation in elections.  The trip was undertaken in solidarity with Somali women’s calls for full and equal participation in political life, including through the implementation of a 30 per cent quota for parliamentary seats.  Somalia had reached a milestone in its 2016 elections with 24 per cent of parliamentary seats occupied by women.  These figures demonstrated that progress was possible even in the most difficult circumstances.  Nonetheless, they fell short of the commitment Somalia’s political leaders made to achieve 30 per cent women’s representation in Parliament.  Every woman matters, she declared.

She went on to note that, amid real concern that in the current elections, levels of representation of women will decrease, she met with the country’s leaders, including the President and Prime Minister, members of the Federal Election Implementation Team, women’s groups, civil society and traditional elders, as well as with representatives of the international community.  Underscoring that, during her visit, she heard a strong commitment to the principle of women’s equal participation and the 30 per cent quota, she said the National Consultative Council agreed on measures to ensure the integrity of the elections, transparency, credibility and the gender quota.  Appreciating the Prime Minister’s leadership and concrete actions, including reducing candidate fees for women and appointing goodwill ambassadors to advocate for the 30 per cent quota with Federal Member State leaders, she said it was also encouraging to hear traditional elders acknowledge the central role of women in advancing peace and security.

However, she highlighted Somali women’s struggles to access financial support to hold campaigns and a lack of the political networks and connections of their male peers.  The political environment in general is not conducive to women representatives and many male leaders continue to promote male candidates.  These challenges are compounded by violence and discrimination.  Across the board, women spoke of the need for greater protections from intimidation, harassment and violence, she stressed, paying tribute to Hibaaq Abukar, an Adviser on Women’s Affairs and Human Rights in the Prime Minister’s Office, who was killed in a recent bomb attack in Mogadishu.  Somali women also called for a concrete mechanism to ensure the implementation of the 30 per cent quota and for a move towards direct elections in the form of one person, one vote, as the current format of indirect selection leaves political decision-making in the hands of clan elders, all of whom are men.  As well, they called for constitutional reforms that would create a permanent solution by reserving a proportion of parliamentary seats for women and for women to be included in electoral committees as delegates and as candidates, she said.

The need for regional stability was also spotlighted in meetings she had with the Presidents of Kenya and the United Republic of Tanzania on her way to Somalia, she continued.  Both Heads of State emphasized the need for increased and sustained attention by the international community to issues of stability in the Horn of Africa.  “I made this second visit to Somalia because women’s political participation is a game changer in our efforts to achieve sustainable peace, development, and more resilient and inclusive societies,” she said, stressing that the 30 per cent quota is a crucial first step towards the equal representation of women in all sectors of life, from business to public service, elections to appointments.

SHUKRIA DINI, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Somali Women’s Studies Centre, said that recent visits to Somalia by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland helped to put pressure on key actors to support women’s participation and representation in elections.  In addition, their visit reassured Somali women that they are not alone in their struggle for political participation, empowerment and equality.  She noted that due to the protracted conflict in her country, women’s roles have changed, with an estimated 60 per cent of households relying on women’s meagre incomes.  Somali women are proving how resourceful they must be for the survival of their families and communities.  They are at the forefront of building peace and preventing conflict in Somalia, yet they are insufficiently represented in peace and political processes.  They also lack opportunities to improve their representation in decision-making, she said.

The Deputy Secretary-General’s visit energized Somali women’s struggle to realize the 30 per cent quota, she continued.  Women’s representation in politics is a human rights issue, a justice issue, a security issue, a peace issue and a democratic issue.  Moreover, women’s participation is crucial for building a peaceful and inclusive Somalia.  Therefore, it is critical to deliver an inclusive election, she underlined, adding that political accountability and gender-inclusive governance can only come about when women are included in decision-making forums.  Exclusionary processes, on the other hand, will threaten lasting peace, stability, gender equality and recovery.  She described how Somali women have used their marginalization within their clan systems to build trust, mobilize community actors, assist vulnerable groups, stretch hard-earned incomes and feed both family and non-family members.

Despite promises from political leaders to safeguard the 30 per cent quota, Somali women are concerned about the election’s outcome, she said.  Goodwill ambassadors, such as herself, have been lobbying critical stakeholders to achieve the quota, including through advocacy visits in Federal Member States.  She urged the international community, and the Security Council in particular, to continue to put pressure on the National Consultative Council in Somalia and to convince political leaders not to steer the country into chaos and unrest.  The political solution is the only path forward; elections must take place without delay and the 30 per cent quota must be delivered, she said.

To realize the 30 per cent quota, 83 seats in the House of the People and 10 seats in the Senate must be identified and reserved for women, she said.  Elections for those seats should take place before polls are held to fill the remaining seats.  Appropriate steps must be taken to ensure the protection of women during the election.  Leaders of Federal Member States who are also part of the National Consultative Council must ensure that the federal and state-level election implementation teams reject nominations of male candidates for seats reserved for women.  For its part, the international community must not support elections which do not protect the 30 per cent quota.  Somalia is a better place than it was 10 years ago, but it is at a crossroads.  Building a new Somalia can only be possible when women and other marginalized communities are fully included in all peace and political processes, she said, underscoring that the opportunity presented by elections must not be missed.

Statements

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent political crises have prevented substantial progress on the women, peace and security agenda in Somalia, noting:  “This is the opportunity cost of the current crisis.”  She underscored deep concern over pervasive sexual and gender-based violence and urged Somalia’s leaders to adopt and implement the 2018 Sexual Offences Bill as soon as possible.  For long-term development to be inclusive and effective, steps must be taken to bring about women’s equal participation and representation in decision-making and leadership positions.  That includes ensuring that 30 per cent of parliamentary seats go to women in the ongoing elections.  She encouraged Somalia to speed up the finalization, adoption and full implementation of its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, in close cooperation with civil society, as it is a vital part of efforts to strengthen women’s participation in peacebuilding and socioeconomic progress.

DAI BING (China) said national reconciliation in Somalia cannot be achieved overnight.  The international community must be patient.  Political stability and national unity will help create favourable conditions for women’s full participation in political life.  Recalling the Council’s press statement on Somalia, issued on 18 September (see document SC/14641), he said that the most urgent task is to hold successful elections.  He urged Somalia to advance the electoral process in line with the agreed timeframe, resolving outstanding issues through dialogue, with the international community providing financial and technical support whilst adhering to the principle of a Somali-led and Somali-owned process.  Given that the situation is sensitive and complex, the Council should calibrate its efforts so that Somalia can make progress on key issues concerning its future and destiny, he said.

HALIMAH AMIRAH FARIDAH DESHONG (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said holding an inclusive election is critical to normalizing the security situation, addressing the urgent humanitarian needs and accelerating socioeconomic development.  In short, the election is key to advancing the State-building process.  However, unless women are sitting at the decision-making table at all levels and unless women are crafters of policies and architects of actions, the possibility of equitable and just development will remain elusive.  This is true of every society.  Somalia achieved in 2016 and 2017 what many Member States, including developed countries, have failed to do:  24 per cent of parliamentary seats were secured by women.  The current election should set yet another milestone, thus achieving the aspirations Somali women have set for themselves.

MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) cautioned the Council about the fearsome ideology that will be visited upon the women of Somalia, as well as other countries in the Horn of Africa, if groups such as al-Shabaab are not checked.  Therefore, it is essential to consider the role of such groups when talking about the peace and security of women.  Recalling the phrase “toxic masculinity”, which describes male behavior that impacts women negatively, he noted the adverse consequences of Al‑Qaida and pre-2001 Taliban on women’s advancement.  “We embrace the 30 per cent parliamentary quota,” he said, adding that women should also be integrated into military and police sectors.  The ideology of al-Shabaab is a problem affecting not just Somalia, but also his own country and other regional States, he stressed.  “We have seen what al-Shabaab has done to women,” he said, recalling his meetings with survivors of sexual violence and subjugation.  Removing the group’s military capability and cutting off its funding is one of the most important initiatives to be taken on behalf of the women of Somalia, he underscored.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), urging Somalia to move beyond what was already achieved almost five years ago, called on the country to ensure a clear mechanism for implementing the 30 per cent quota in both houses of Parliament.  Achieving the full, equal and meaningful participation of women is about more than implementing the quota, she said, adding that the Somali Women’s Charter provides a solid foundation towards more broad-based and inclusive reforms.  Underscoring the importance of giving women greater opportunities to participate in the reconciliation process, she said that women have shown their capacity to build bridges between clans.  Women are also important and influential agents of change, especially vis-à-vis elders and others with decision-making authority, she said.

ADEL BEN LAGHA (Tunisia) stressed the importance of holding free, fair, timely and inclusive elections in Somalia, adding that the agreement on the 30 per cent minimum quota for women’s representation in the Parliament must be upheld.  Welcoming the efforts of the Government, such as reducing nomination fees for women candidates and appointing good will ambassadors and champions to advocate for greater inclusion, he said it is important at this stage to agree on how precisely the 30 per cent quota will be implemented.  As well, the concerns of Somali women, in particular the high-level of violence and insecurity, must be addressed.  Women’s full inclusion in all sectors of society would contribute to greater resilience, peace and stability in Somalia, he emphasized.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) stressed that Somalis themselves can achieve the 30 per cent quota if they are given necessary political and economic conditions.  The Security Council must be guided by the political realities in the country and set the right priorities, she said, adding that the 15-member organ has already sent necessary signals through the 18 September press statement.  The main goal is to complete national elections.  Unfortunately, the Somali Federal authorities have again postponed the agreed timeframe for elections, with the electoral process now not expected to be completed until the end of November.  Citing al‑Shabaab attacks, she said she expects from the Secretary General, the African Union and Somalia proposals on the parameters of the further presence of the peacekeeping mission in the country, as required by Security Council resolution 2568 (2021).

SRINIVAS GOTRU (India) noted the long period of uncertainty in Somalia regarding the elections to the legislative bodies mandated by the transitional constitution.  The peaceful conduct of elections within the agreed timelines is important for the country’s democratic future, he emphasized.  Expressing support for the call to include women across all sectors of society, he stressed the role of women in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation.  The delays in holding the elections have enabled al-Shabaab to consolidate its hold and gain further ground, he pointed out, condemning the group’s recent terror attacks.

TRA PHUONG NGUYEN (Viet Nam) said the 30 per cent representation of women in Parliament should be guaranteed, calling for an agreement on a specific mechanism to implement this quota.  Long-term peace and prosperity in Somalia depend on it.  As well, measures are needed to protect civilians in the electoral process.  Adequate institutionalization of the role of women in this process will help bring about their long-term inclusion in political, security and socioeconomic mechanisms.  To that end, international partners must further assist the Government in alleviating the socioeconomic impacts caused by long-standing threats and challenges, including desert locusts, floods and the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in regard to women-owned development projects.  This must go hand in hand with addressing deep-rooted economic issues, especially in agricultural development, she added.

JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), welcoming the considerable progress on elections in Somalia over the past three months, said the current dispute between the President and Prime Minister should not disrupt the process.  Since women are often the victims of discrimination and oppression, it is vital their voices are heard in the highest levels of government.  Therefore, it is critical to finalize arrangements for meeting the 30 per cent quota for women’s representation in Parliament pursuant to Somali political agreements.  Noting that women active in the political system are more likely than men to experience harassment and violence during the electoral process, he pointed out that women candidates have even been kidnapped and killed in the past.  Underscoring the need for a gender-sensitive lens on election security preparations, he said:  “The world is safer and more prosperous when women and girls are at the table.”

NIANDOU AOUGI (Niger), expressing condolences to the families of the victims of the latest murderous attack in Somalia, hailed that country’s progress in achieving the quota for women’s representation in Parliament in the last round of elections.  Urging the leaders and political actors to redouble efforts to achieve the 30 per cent quota reserved for women in the upcoming elections, he also stressed the need to improve the economic situation of women.  It is in the interest of the international community and the Security Council to ensure that the electoral process in Somalia is inclusive and participatory, he stated.

ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said today’s briefing complements the work of the informal working group on women, peace and security in relation to the situation in Somalia.  It was important to step up efforts to help Somalia achieve the 30 per cent quota.  As well, protection for women candidates must be strengthened to guarantee their participation in elections.  Once elected, women must have the resources to carry out their legislative duties effectively and without fear.  She urged Somalia to finalize a national action plant for women, peace and security, fully implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and adopt laws to criminalize sexual and gender-based violence.  The Government should also commit to mainstreaming gender in security sector institutions.  In addition, more needs to be done to expand women’s access to education and jobs.  Turning to recent political events, she said that disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and transparent, credible and inclusive elections.  Tensions between the main political actors cannot jeopardize the progress made so far.

NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) called for sanctions to be levied on the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence, in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.  She noted that the Generation Equality Forum held in Paris earlier this year launched standing mechanisms to follow up on the implementation of the women, peace and security agency.  Change must happen in Somalia, she said, noting that one in three women in that country are subject to genital mutilation and that one in 12 are married before the age of 15.  Today’s meeting is a reminder of the cost of inaction, as the political crisis paralyzing Somalia is disproportionately affecting women.  The Government must ensure that polls are held on time.  Al-Shabaab is a threat throughout Somalia, with women the victims of sexual violence and forced marriage, she said, stressing that efforts to combat that group must continue, including through a reconfigured African Union mission.

SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia) expressed deep concern about the ongoing disagreement between the President and Prime Minister of Somalia.  All parties must avoid actions that could lead to violence.  They must resolve their differences through dialogue and give priority to transparent, credible and inclusive elections within the agreed timelines.  He called on Somali leaders to live up to their commitment to ensure implementation of the 30 per cent quota, thus safeguarding women’s political representation.  Women’s rights also need to be advanced more broadly, he said, emphasizing that too many Somali women and children are trapped in a cycle of violence.  Adoption of a new National Action Plan for ending sexual violence must be accelerated and women’s rights must be codified in the revised Constitution.  Defeating al-Shabaab must remain a priority for the Government, he said, calling for prompt implementation of a transition plan “to make liberated Somalia a reality”.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), Council President for September, speaking in her national capacity, highlighted the direct correlation between the political participation of women and stability, peace and prosperity.  Thus, women’s participation in every aspect of public life is imperative.  Recalling a report last month by a civil society briefer noting that a concrete mechanism to implement the 30 per cent quota remains elusive and challenging, she urged Somalia’s leaders to take further measures to translate their commitments into practice, including through reserving 30 per cent of the seats in both houses of Parliament for women.  The political participation of women, and their protection from violence, are two sides of the same coin, she said, adding:  “Only by tackling gender inequality, including through the political participation of women, will we be able to root out gender-based violence.”  At this crucial moment for Somalia’s political future, she underscored her trust that Somalia’s leadership has the courage to set aside differences and put the Somali people’s interests first.

For information media. Not an official record.