Interview with African's Union Special Envoy HE Bineta Diop

Mittwoch, 5. Juni 2019

On the sidelines of the 6th Strategic Foresight Workshop Day, HE Mme Bineta Diop gave us an interview on her role as African Union Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, Germany's membership in the UN Security Council, and Resolution 1325.

Her Excellency (HE) Bineta Diop is the founder of Femmes Africa Solidarité, an international NGO that seeks to strengthen the leadership role of women in conflict prevention, management and resolution in Africa. In January 2014, she was appointed by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission as Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security. Picture: BAKS/Sommerfeld

BAKS: Germany is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, where it also works to strengthen the role of women in conflict prevention and management. What would you recommend Germany?

HE Diop: The Office of the Special Envoy and the African Union welcome Germany’s resumption as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. We value German’s support in the past and are confident that Germany will continue to support issues of concern to the African continent particularly with regards the maintenance of peace and security undertaken by the various UN and AU Peace Keeping Operations. Peace and security cannot be achieved without development, which Germany can do to address the root causes of Conflict. We recognize the importance of close collaboration between Germany and Africa in global matters of multilateral concern such as terrorism, conflict, and migration.

As mentioned above, many migrants from Africa flee their homes due to conflicts, extreme violence and terrorism. We count on Germany to use her leverage at the security Council to ensure that the international community fulfils its obligations agreed upon under the Global Compact on Migration. Germany can help survivors of wars. We commend Germany’s leadership at the UN Security Council, notably through the adoption of recent UN Security Council Resolution 2467 on sexual violence in conflict looking at survivor centered approach, women’s leadership, new strategic areas for survivors to get their voices to be heard.

BAKS: Next year the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security celebrates its 20th anniversary. You were one of the contributors in the year 2000. What goals have been achieved so far, and what issues still need to be tackled?

After the opening keynotes HE Bineta Diop discussed with State Secretary Martin Jäger (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development) about Africa's Future. Picture: BAKS/Sommerfeld

HE Diop: Yes, as an African woman who has been engaged with Women Peace and Security Issues for more than 30 years, I was heartened when the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 whose main focus built on principals that were first mooted in the Manu River. I participated in the development of UNSC Resolution 1325 and gave the background how the Manu River where women met with the three leaders and brought them back to the negotiating table as the UN troops were being pulled out were being pulled out of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

This is where this concept of WPS emerged from. At the time, the UN was not talking about WPS, but after the Manu River, the UN Secretary General’s Report for the first time, referred to the role of women and civil society in peace making. The Manu River ladies received a Human Rights Prize from the UN General Assembly. Then there was the Namibia meeting which led to the adoption of 1325. I started an NGO which facilitated negotiations by women in the Burundi talks with President Mandela and the Manu River Talks. It was at the Manu River Talks that women first signed onto a Peace Agreement. I also participated in Democratic Republic of Congo Talks in South Africa. The Agenda of WPS started in Africa because Africa was always in conflict which impacted negatively on women.

The AU Chairperson asked her to continue doing her work albeit within the context of the AU. At the AU, I realized that there were very many Agreements, Declarations, and Instruments with minimal implementation and therefore decided to concentrate on implementation “the how”. The past three years we worked on a Continental Results Framework (CRF) whereby we worked on data, identified indicators, for monitoring and evaluation to close the implementation gaps. Previously most countries prepared National Action Plans that were just policies and therefore not framed for data collection.

The CRF was launched at the sidelines of the AU January Summit. The mandate of our Office is to empower Member States and share with them a platform for women’s leadership in peace and security. This enables us to take ownership and leadership and report back to the AU. Currently, there are 25 Action Plans up from 16 – therefore about half the continent. My office has worked on the first African Report on 1325 which is due to be launched. My Office does not do the work but it encourages Member States to do it. My Office has also worked with the militaries, particularly PKOs and training them before deployment on policies adopted by the AU such as Zero Tolerance and the Code of Conduct. The OSE has selected a few countries for this training. A case in point is Senegal, where with the help of the UK Ambassador a Centre of Excellence was funded, an MoU was signed with the Defence Force for training and the training took place. Canada is also supporting through the Elsie programme.

The biggest challenge to mediation was political will. It requires the willingness of the leadership to implement. Then there is also the perennial challenge of funding. Professor Freese noted that this was not just an African problem and clarified that there was need for an accountability mechanism. The OSE therefore showcases good practices and hope that others learn from them. A case in point is the One Stop Shop for SGBV Victims which worked well in Rwanda and is now being replicated in South Sudan.

Following the adoption of the CRF by the PSC, I go on the ground and partner with Ministries of Gender, Defence, and Foreign Affairs to ensure that they sign on. The AU had adopted a Gender Parity Policy which has led to the 50/50 distribution of Commissioners 5 each. Other useful policies are the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality which Heads of States have signed on to, the Protocol on Women’s Rights which is progressive and also refers to sexual and reproductive rights. My Office carries out Solidarity Missions so as to bring the voice of the women to the AU. Some recent Solidarity Missions, namely Senegal, Niger, Northern Nigeria and the Sahel and South Sudan. We are therefore looking forward to the 20th Anniversary of 1325, especially because Africa once again is taking the lead the WPS Agenda in that it is the continent that has the highest number of National Action Plans.

BAKS: As the African Union’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, you were involved in several peace and reconciliations processes on the African continent in the past. Which has been your most remarkable case to mediate and negotiate?

Diop and a joint UN-AU Delegation visit an Internally Displaced Persons camp in the in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of many African regions affected by several years of civil war. Picture: UN Women/Ngeleka

I have been at many mediation and negotiation tables, including for the Manu River / Great Lakes. Now, as AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, I see mediation as a vital peace instrument, in which women must be involved. Women must be at the table of peace processes. We must bring their voices at the AU and beyond. What I found interesting is that when you empower women to be at the table you empower the whole peace process, by training women mediators; by giving them the skills to be at mediation team (femwise); pushing for more women in leadership spaces (AWLN). Mediation is not about me as a person, it is about creating more women mediators at the table, such as AWLN, which Germany is supporting.

My commitment is to ensure that we have more women Bineta who are mediators, negotiators, more Manu River Women, More Women in the Great Lakes and young people who know how to mediate. My role now is to open doors for more women and youth so that they sit at the table of mediation. For instance, for the women of IGAD, ensuring they are at the table of South Sudan peace process. We connect them with the AU Peace Security Council, ensuring they have access to UN Security Council and speak. We are also mediating among women themselves in the G5 Sahel, ensuring they bring an agenda that should be mainstreamed through the Global agenda of G5 Sahel.

Interview: Jan Strobach