Syrian Women "Speak Truth to Power" at a Historic Security Council Meeting

The visit of three Syrian women civil society leaders representing the Syrian Women's League, Syrian Women's Network and the Syria Women's Coalition for Democracy to New York marked a historic event. On Friday 17 January, they provided the first ever briefing of the Security Council by Syrian women in an exclusive closed Arria Formula meeting. The women came to New York to advocate for women's meaningful inclusion in Geneva II peace talks and ongoing transitional peace processes. They also advocated with key Permanent Missions to the United Nations through bilateral meetings and spoke at an open side event hosted by PeaceWomen on 16 January, titled “Women's Participation and WPS Accountability in Syria: Geneva II Peace Negotiations and Beyond.”

At the Security Council, the Syrian women presented the outcome document with concrete objectives from a conference organized by UN Women on 12-13 January in Geneva with 50 Syrian women from diverse backgrounds. They demanded:

  1. An independent women civil society presence at Geneva II talks;
  2. 30% quota of women on all negotiating bodies; and
  3. Strong and effective gender expertise to ensure gender is mainstreamed throughout all outcome documents and processes.

Women leaders have already shown– indeed, more than the men involved – a creative process and plan for peace. Yet they still are not at the table. Beyond the Geneva meeting 19th December and the Arria on 16 January, WILPF, in collaboration with international partners, facilitated a women's peace summit from January 20-22 in Geneva with women from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Ireland, Liberia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Uganda; this included modeling what peace processes should look like as well as demands for women's meaningful inclusion in Syrian peace processes, Geneva II and beyond. Although the opening to Geneva II has been hugely disappointing, it is just one part of a bigger process. Now it is up to the governments to stop being gatekeepers and let these brave and creative women dedicated to peace and human rights be a real part of the conversation and action on peace.