Period of the review: 1 - 30 April 2018
Prepared by Ijechi Nwaozuzu
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016) and 2393 (2017), the Security Council orders: all parties to immediately put an end to all forms of violence and attacks against civilians; rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners (para. 6); to demilitarise medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities (para. 10); to lift the sieges of populated areas (para. 5); to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights (para. 13). Pursuant to Resolution 2165 (2014), the Security Council also requests to establish a mechanism to monitor the humanitarian situation on the ground (OP. 3). In this vein, Resolution 2139 (2014) invites relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women (OP. 30).
The report outlines security, humanitarian and political developments in Syria between 1 and 30 April 2018, including the intensification of military activities in parts of the country and its impacts on civilians, infrastructure, and the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. Since the adoption of Resolution 2401, in which the Council demanded a cessation of hostilities, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America carried out air strikes on military targets inside the Syrian Arab Republic that were reported to be part of the Government’s chemical weapons capacity (para. 5). Simultaneously, various parts of the country has seen renewed violence that continue to limit humanitarian access across conflict lines (para. 4). In the Idlib Governorate, government air strikes and artillery shelling, as well as repeated clashes between government forces and non-State armed opposition groups, remain rampant (para. 13). Meanwhile, fights against ISIL continued in Dayr al-Zawr city, Hasakah Governorate, and the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk as ISIL attempts to retain its Eastern presence (para. 16).
Despite the scaling up of the humanitarian response in Raqqah City and Ghutah, humanitarian access continue to be impeded by air strikes and explosive weapons fired into populated areas (para. 18). This increased hostility in areas contaminated with explosive hazards has also posed an elevated risk for various humanitarian personnel focused on monitoring and aid work (para. 43). At the same time, heavy rainfall and severe floodings across the south-western part of the country in April resulted in damage to various IDP camps in Qunaytirah and Dar‘a Governorates, and inhibited the safe return of many refugees (para. 14)
Of 52 paragraphs in the report, 2 (4%) included references to women, a decrease from the last report. Similar to previous reports, these references were made largely in relation to death and injury statistics; portraying women and girls as perpetual victims. Unlike in the previous report, however, this report briefly mentioned gender-specific services provided to pregnant and lactating women, including health services and educational training (para. 36). Reinforcing the general trend across discussions on Syria, the Secretary-General and the Security Council continue to miss important opportunities to meaningfully report on women’s participation in the UN-facilitated political process for the country. As WILPF’s recent commentary puts forward, “[f]or there to be a break through on the appalling human rights violations and violations of IHL in the Syrian conflict, the multilateral system, through all its manifestations needs to work as it is supposed to do.” Adopting a consistent gender analysis in the context of documenting grave violations of human rights in Syria would help all stakeholders better understand these violations generate different needs, constraints and opportunities to ameliorate gender relations. In essence, it would provide the basis for developing gender-sensitive policies and approaches in response to the crisis in Syria.
Apart from a condemnation by the Secretary-General on ongoing chemical attacks (para. 47), the report failed to discuss measures being undertaken to prevent the proliferation of weapons, including small arms and light weapons, in Syria and its neighbouring countries. Although it is part of the mandate to report on efforts to prevent arms-related violence, the UN Secretary-General did not stress the international community’s responsibility to refrain from selling and supplying arms and ammunitions to parties in the Syrian conflict. Additionally, some Member and Observer States of the Council that support peace processes in Syria have been reported to be involved in arms transfers to the warring parties. The resources spent on war technologies instead of peacebuilding, development and human rights perpetuate a militarised security approach to conflict that has proven, and continue to prove, unsuccessful and unsustainable.
Similar to the previous report, this report detailed specific humanitarian care for pregnant and lactating women as well as malnutrition treatment and psychosocial support for girls (para. 36). However, it provided no gender-analysis of data on displaced persons to generate a better understanding of the gendered and changing dimension of the conflict. As noted in WILPF’s commentary, further displacement has increased the vulnerability of women and girls in internment camps, and in refugee camps outside Syria, women and girls are heavily trafficked or forcibly married off. The Secretary-General also failed to highlight the lack of partnership between United Nations humanitarian agencies women’s groups or civil societies in streamlining and coordinating delivery mechanisms. It is imperative that gender is mainstreamed across humanitarian efforts, particularly where vulnerable persons do not have access to the full range of critical humanitarian services, including legal services like humanitarian visas and access to fair hearings.
The Secretary-General noted in the report that the solution to the Syrian conflict has to be political and not military. In this regard, he called for finding ways to make the credible progress towards a genuine and credible political solution in line with Resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué (para. 51). However, he notably failed to discuss women’s participation in any aspect of the peace and political process in Syria, especially when armed militias like Jabbat Fatah al-Sham continue to force closures of organisations that contribute to, or facilitate, women’s empowerment or mixed participation. Consequently, the report did not address the importance of funding or technical support for the participation of women’s groups and civil societies in legal reconstruction efforts in the country. This is a missed opportunity in the face of prior discussions on supporting women’s participation in the committee established to draft the country’s new constitution. Although Resolution 2139 (2014) requests all relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, there was no reference in this report to any specific women’s groups or civil society organisations, including the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board. Although, the Secretary-General had previously committed to incorporating gender in his reports, there remained a lack of gender analysis and discussion on the main barriers to women’s participation in Syria.
Relief & Recovery
To address widespread impunity, the Secretary-General called upon all parties to the conflict, Member States, civil society and the United Nations system as a whole to cooperate fully with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011 (para. 50). Like the previous report, he detailed work done by UN agencies in combating SGBV. However, his discussion on UNHCR’s work in tackling SGBV (para. 38) did not translate into a meaningful discussion on the variety and impact of SGBV on women’s rights, access to resources and economic empowerment. Such political economy analysis is vital in showing the inequalities in gender relations that play a major role in conflict and in its prosecution. It also informs “the post-conflict design of transition and justice programmes so that the legal obligations relating to reparations, restitution, guarantees of non-repetition, reconstruction and justice are done in such a way that they respond to the different harms suffered” (Chinkin & Rees, 2018). Lastly,the report also failed to address the reality that, to date, not a single member of ISIL has been tried and convicted for SGBV crimes, and state and non-state forces continue to enjoy indisputable impunity for sexual crimes.
There is an urgent need to curb the ongoing flow and trade of arms, including explosive and small or light arms. Adequate small arms regulation and control are important tools in reducing armed violence and promoting conditions conducive to sustainable development. Small arms also continue to facilitate a vast spectrum of acts that constitute human rights violations, including killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearance, torture and the forced recruitment of children. The Secretary-General should thus encourage the Syrian Arab Republic and surrounding states, Turkey and Jordan, to ratify and implement the 2013 UN Arms Trade Treaty, and to establish enforceable national and regional regulations on small arms, consistent with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendations No. 30 and 35. The Secretary-General must also inquire the Syrian government and the Council to support and provide flexible and predictable funding to women’s organisations in their work to prevent violent extremism and rehabilitate former extremists in the country, especially when women’s groups have proven demonstrable success in leading campaigns to control small arms in displacement camps. Future implementations of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programmes must prioritise and be set up in consultation with women and girls. Lastly, as regards chemical attacks,
The Secretary-General should call upon relevant international actors, including Jordan and Turkey, to strengthen their collaboration with women and civil society organisations to streamline coordination mechanisms and ensure the delivery of adequate, gender-sensitive humanitarian aid to vulnerable persons. He should also call for the international community to provide funding for psychosocial support programmes, with increased emphasis on trauma therapy, for survivors of sexual violence. Similarly, he should demand that parties to the conflict, over whom they have influence, release women and children held in detention, captivity, or as hostages as a confidence building measure and ensure that any women or children who have been subjected to sexual violence or abuse of any form be prioritised for specialised medical treatment, especially psychosocial care and support. Lastly, the Council should hold Member States to their total pledge of $ 4.4 billion (€ 3.5 billion) for humanitarian aid to Syria 2018, as well as multi-year pledges of $ 3.4 billion (€ 2.7 billion) for 2019-2020, at the 2018 Brussels Aid Conference.
The transparent, accountable and sustainable implementation of UNSCR 1325 (2000) and consecutive WPS resolutions is key to achieving sustainable peace in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Secretary-General should proactively call for and facilitate the meaningful participation of women in all relevant peace processes and peace negotiations and any future truth and reconciliation mechanisms, and advise the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria to strengthen and enhance the role of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in peace processes. Pursuant to his mandate to facilitate an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, the Secretary-General should also stress the effective incorporation of Syrian women and civil society voices in peace dialogues and negotiations with mainstream peace and mediation organisations, think tanks and analysis groups working in and on Syria, so as to support the incorporation of gender perspectives into their policy, programmatic and advocacy work. The Secretary-General could also consider appointing a senior gender adviser at the D1 level of his office to support the work of the Special Envoy, in line with the recommendation of the 2015 UN Global Study on the implementation of Security Council 1325 and the 2015 UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.
Relief & Recovery
The existing political deadlock on accountability in Syria greatly limits any meaningful measures to tackle immunity of perpetrators of grave human rights violations and crimes. In consideration of this, the Council should support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on international crimes committed in Syria. The Secretary-General should call for long-term support from the international community to strengthen capacities of Syrian organisations and WHRDs working in the field, and provide expertise to assist in the preservation and documentation of evidence relating to sexual violence. Lastly, it is pertinent that the Council include regular briefings by the Commission of Inquiry as part of the formal agenda of the Security Council, including on the use of sexual violence, as well as support the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. Future reports should discuss, as a matter of urgency, referral mechanisms to the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc tribunal for human rights violations in the country.