Integrating Gender into Oversight of the Security Sector by Ombuds Institutions & National Human Rights Institutions

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Ombuds institutions and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) can be important actors in holding the security sector accountable to the people. By receiving and investigating complaints and issuing reports and recommendations, they can help to identify, address and deter problematic behaviour by security sector personnel, as well as highlight institutional shortcomings. Their monitoring activities can promote transparency within the security sector, thereby facilitating its ability to map out ways to improve performance. This guidance note is designed to help ombuds institutions and NHRIs to better integrate an awareness of gender issues into their oversight of the security sector. As security sector institutions rise to the challenge of being more responsive to gender issues (see Box 1), ombuds institutions and NHRIs are well placed to support them.

Many will have an explicit mandate (legal authority) to promote human rights, and will already be experienced in guiding institutions to promote and protect gender equality. By transferring this expertise to security sector oversight, ombuds institutions and NHRIs can support and encourage security sector institutions in demanding that they recognize and address the different needs of women, men, girls and boys in the communities they serve. Ombuds institutions and NHRIs can also advise and monitor security sector institutions as they strive to create work environments that allow both women and men to fulfil their potential. In doing so, ombuds institutions and NHRIs can help deliver gender-responsive security sector oversight.

Ombuds institutions and NHRIs have a wide diversity of mandates in relation to security sector oversight, but gender will always be an important aspect of their work. Gender is a consideration in preventing unfair or discriminatory treatment, while gender equality is integral to promoting the human rights of all individuals. Moreover, national laws and policies and international standards, including the UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security, call for security sector institutions to be gender responsive.

Some in particular underscore the importance of focusing on gender issues in monitoring and inspections. This guidance note has been developed in partnership with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). It was developed through desk research and expert input, and was reviewed and discussed extensively at a meeting of experts and practitioners held in November 2013.