African Union Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse for Peace Support Operations
1. Background and Context
1.1 The African Union (AU) embodies the aspirations, togetherness, and determination of the African people, especially in relation to advancing peace, prosperity, human rights and freedoms for the inhabitants of the African continent. In this regard, an objective of the AU, articulated in its Constitutive Act is to “promote peace, security, and stability on the Continent.” In realising this objective, the AU established the Peace and Security Council (PSC) to, inter alia, promote peace, security and stability in Africa and undertake Peace Support Operations (PSOs) in accordance with Article 4(h) and (j) of the AU Constitutive Act.
1.2 The AU has progressively played an expanded role in African peace support efforts, especially following the establishment of the PSC. Since its establishment, the PSC has either mandated or authorised PSOs in a number of contexts on the continent, including Burundi, Comoros, Darfur (Sudan), Mali, Central African Republic, and Lord’s Resistance Army affected countries, Somalia, Sahel and the countries of Lake Chad Basin, to cite a few. Moreover, additional efforts have been put in place for the enhancement of the African Standby Force (ASF) in order to address conflict on the continent more swiftly, systematically and effectively. It is in this context, that the AUC is developing various doctrines, policies, guidelines and directives to guide its current and future PSOs.
1.3 As this process has been ongoing, one critical gap has emerged in relation to the need to be more cognizant of the role of women in peace processes and the need to address the specific vulnerabilities of women and children in conflict situations. While issues of SEA have been a constant feature of conflicts, it was in the early 1990s that the international community realised its magnitude and began to take collective decisions towards addressing it. Indeed, increased demands have been placed on PSOs to ensure that they are managed in a manner that promotes and protects human rights and empowers and protects women and girls in particular, as well as men and boys, against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). It has been recognized that the underlining causes of SEA have been based on gender inequality, discrimination and patterns of violence against women, men, boys and girls. These have particularly highlighted the need to ensure accountability and end impunity for all forms of SEA. This Policy fits into these ongoing efforts to prevent and address violations, and in particular SEA, committed by AU staff and mission personnel.
1.4 The AU is committed to eradicating SGBV in Africa. As part of this, the AU has developed a range of instruments that Member States have agreed to adhere to and promote, including the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa which, inter alia, committed to initiate, launch and engage sustained public campaigns against gender based violence. On this basis and also in recognition of UNSCR 1325 and the fact that all persons, and women in particular, are especially vulnerable to SGBV in conflict and post-conflict situations, the AU is determined to proactively strengthen measures in AU PSOs to prevent and respond to SEA.
1.5 The AU has focused on operationalizing its various instruments on SGBV and SEA through the work of the Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD) and through the appointment of a Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security in February 2014. The AU has also created a specific capacity to address misconduct, including SEA in PSOs at both the AUC HQ and PSO level, including through the work of the Office of Ethics. Similarly, it has also established gender, human rights and child protection capacities and frameworks at the HQ and in PSOs. This Policy is therefore part of this broad effort.
1.6 Finally, while recognizing the need to adopt African solutions to African problems, this SEA Policy draws from numerous international instruments, including the AU and UN frameworks, such as the PSC Communiqué of 461th meeting on sexual violence in conflict situations in Africa and the UN Secretary General Bulletin (ST/SGB/2003/13) on Special Measures for Protection from SEA. It also seeks to develop a policy that is responsive to AU experiences in PSOs. In this regard, it has been informed by an assessment conducted in 2014 on SEA in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the AU’s largest PSO to date.