Period: 22 June to 6 November 2017
The report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL), pursuant to Resolution 1701 (2006), for the reporting period of 22 June 2017 to 6 November 2017. The Security Council has ordered: the immediate cessation of hostilities between Israeli and Lebanese forces, including Hizbullah (OP 1); the extension of control over all Lebanese territories to the Government of Lebanon (OP 2); increased financial and humanitarian support from the international community, with particular concern for the plight of more than 1 million refugees currently hosted by the state of Lebanon (OP6); and further support to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to monitor the situation on the ground, assist Lebanese forces enforcing the Blue Line and ensure humanitarian access (OPs 11-14).
This report began by stating that there has been relative calm along the Blue Line. Despite the relative calm, there were two occasions where tensions rose and required UNIFIL to intervene. Additionally, cross-border violations of Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity continue. For example, Israel continued to violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis, in violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and Lebanese sovereignty (para 9). The conflict in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis also continue to pose daunting challenges to Lebanon. There was no progress in dismantling the military bases maintained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah al-Intifada, which continue to compromise Lebanese sovereignty and impede the ability of the State to monitor and effectively control parts of the border (para 44). The Secretary-General discusses conflict prevention in this report, stating the UNIFIL and other parties used liaison and coordination arrangements to exchange information. This provided de-escalation of tensions, particularly with Israel (para 29). The Lebanese Armed Forces and UNIFIL also continued to engage in the strategic dialogue process, which seeks to support the development of the capabilities and presence of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The report discussed disarming armed groups, where there has been no tangible progress in disbanding and disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Arms transfers, bombs and landmines, political and institutional instability and UNIFIL conduct were all reported on.
Of 98 paragraphs in this report, four contained references to women (4%). The report discussed women’s participation, stating that with regard to municipal elections, a bill was passed on 19 September that could boost married women’s participation by allowing them to run on their own (para 59). Women’s human rights were also discussed, with a focus on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). Both UNIFIL and Lebanon are taking steps on this issue. In Lebanon, on 16 August the Parliament abolished article 522 of the Criminal Code, which allowed rapists to be discharged from prosecution if they married their victims (para 63). During the period under review, UNIFIL enforced existing measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse, all UNIFIL personnel and the local communities were informed of the expected standards of conduct for United Nations personnel and of how to report misconduct and the United Nations Country Team Network to Prevent Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Lebanon continued to further develop information-sharing protocols and share best practices. Despite several positive steps in including women in the report at a higher rate than the previous report, this report remained too focused on militarisation (including the existence and activities of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias), the Syrian conflict and collecting mutual accusations by Lebanon and Israel of violations of Resolution 1701 (2006).
The Secretary-General explained that the meaningful participation of women in the electoral process is imperative and urged relevant decision makers to ensure the adequate representation of women in the upcoming elections, in line with the commitments of Lebanon to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (para 89). The Secretary-General encouraged more work to address legal gaps in women’s rights. The absence of a quota for women comprises a key failure from the Lebanese government to promote the full and effective participation of women in political life. By failing to include gender-sensitive measures in its new electoral framework, Lebanon impedes women's potential as agents of change. When women have less political power, they have a far less secure platform from which to advance claims of gender justice. Ultimately, the Government of Lebanon ought to advocate for such measures more firmly in order to demonstrate women are an important constituency for peace and democracy.
Currently, Lebanon is hosting 1,001,051 refugees from the Syrian Arab Republic. The Secretary-General recognised the impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon, and called upon donors to respond to the needs of refugees. Despite Lebanon hosting such a high number of refugees, women’s different experience of conflict and displacement was not mentioned in the report. For example, the report stated that the economic vulnerability of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continued to rise. This statement lacks a gender lens, as female refugees often face very high amounts of economic vulnerability and poverty. A lack of funding puts health, education and water and sanitation programs at risk, which affect women at high rates as well: lack of sexual and reproductive health care is a leading cause of death, disease, and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age. Women require different health and sanitation requirements, such as well-lit, locked toilets to avoid assault, or sanitary pads. Girls are often unable to get an education. Funding for these programs is critical for women and girls.
In addition, there have been armed clashes in camps, resulting in deaths and injuries and further displacement. Heavy weapons were used, which put women at risk. As it stands, Syrian and Palestinian refugee women suffer significant human rights violations in Lebanon, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and trafficking. Refugees in camps face early marriage, sexual violence, no access to education and lack of access to reproductive or psychosocial healthcare, yet none of this was mentioned in the report. In view of women’s increased vulnerability in refugee environments, reports have highlighted the need for UNIFIL to increase access to technical and vocational education and training for women in order to help reduce their socioeconomic vulnerability.
In addition, all women on the ground face violence due to the proliferation of arms and gun violence. Government efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons and to counter violent extremism should not deviate focus and resources from efforts to promote women’s protection and gender equality.
There is a connection between violence against women and firearms. Getting rid of illicit weapons does not fully eliminate the risks to women. In some places, research suggests a link between foreign military bases and and sexual violence. Armed soldiers used their weapons to coerce women into sexual interactions, a form of violence. Alternatively, the use of bombs and other explosives can have a disproportionate impact on women. This is significant for Lebanon as Hizbullah and The Lebanese Armed Forces are both engaging in these tactics. For example, areas on the outskirts of Arsal are contaminated with landmine s following the militant presence (para 54).
The Secretary-General discussed the underlying causes of conflict, including the underlying drivers of socioeconomic hardship, extremism and weapons proliferation, and explained that if they are not addressed violent tensions will recur, especially in refugee camps (para 91). The Secretary-General called for the Lebanese State to achieve a monopoly on the possession of weapons and use of force in its territory. There are many weapons outside of the control of the state, as well as armed militias including Hizbullah, the most armed militia in the country. The Secretary-General reported that arms outside of Lebanese state control restricts full sovereignty and authority over its territory. While the Secretary-General calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah, he also calls for the reinforcement and strengthening of the Lebanese Army, which constitutes a threat for citizens, especially women. Military expenditures, which support war efforts, sacrifice social funds that can also guarantee security.
While UNIFIL’s stabilisation activities are paramount to the implementation of Resolution 1701 (2006), the Secretary-General did not report on the gendered dimensions of continued arms transfers between armed groups on Lebanese territory. There are linkages between arms flows and women’s human security, and these gender perspectives cannot be excluded from discussions if the mission is to achieve success. It is crucial that women be engaged in preventing the emergence, spread and re-emergence of conflict through participation in disarmament and stabilisation efforts.
Relief and Recovery/ Implementation
The report presents no progress regarding the monitoring of social or economic developments in the lives of women since the Secretary-General report S/2017/201. This is especially concerning as it indicates a failure from UNIFIL to monitor the progress or efficacy of gender advisement and training initiatives disseminated by UNIFIL staff among local populations. Moreover, the newly established national human rights institution and its mechanisms to prevent torture, pursuant of Lebanon's commitments under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will be an important element to the stability and justice agenda for Lebanon. Its work will require systematic and regular assessment from the Secretary-General.
While the new electoral law is a large landmark, the lack of a gender quota was a failure. While the Secretary-General is reassured by the support of several political leaders on voluntary gender quotas, this is not enough. The new electoral law will not pave the way for a renewed representation of Lebanese citizens through their elected officials if there is not gender equality. The Secretary-General must call for the inclusion of a required gender quota in Lebanon, to achieve such representation. As he stated, the meaningful participation and representation of women in electoral processes is imperative.
Electoral gender quotas are a key measure - recognised by CEDAW (Article 4) - to ensure both the numeric and substantive representation of women in politics. While quotas have been criticised to be illegitimate tools to “fast track” women’s equal representation in politics, or have been criticised for not being based on merit, it is essential that quotas be recognised as windows of opportunity for women’s meaningful participation. Not only do women simply have the right to equal representation, but these measures are meant to be temporary, and compensate for already existing inequalities. These measures lead to a “role model effect”: they allow women to make themselves relevant to the political process and inspire other women to do so as well. The inclusion of grassroots women’s organisations from civil society in political life can also provide inroads for the increased participation of women in national decision-making.
Moreover, specific attention must be paid to women’s meaningful participation in all security-related matters, including disarming non-state armed groups, political action and gender-sensitive needs assessments to effectively coordinate humanitarian assistance.
The victimisation of women in conflict situations is strongly exacerbated by arms proliferation. Future reports must note the disproportionate impact that arms have on women in Lebanon. The Mission should facilitate gender analysis regarding the impact of weapons, including the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, small arms and light weapons on women. In this context, the Secretary-General should call on the Council to exert pressure on Member States to uphold their obligations under Resolution 1701 (2006) to prevent the sale or supply of arms to entities or individuals in Lebanon beyond the control of the State. Moreover, women should be included in the development of protection programmes for refugees, and for survivors of SGBV.
Furthermore, the report must take into account gender when discussing the refugee crisis on Lebanon. The war in Syria has had major political, economic and humanitarian effects on Lebanon, and women are impacted in camps every day. The Secretary-General must report on whether or not humanitarian assistance is in line with existing obligations under international humanitarian law. In camps, women-specific health, education, relief and social services must be provided, and the Secretary-General must report on whether or not there are advances in this. In addition, the Secretary-General should work with humanitarian partners, women’s civil society and other governments to support refugees in Lebanon and the government of Lebanon in their efforts to achieve their extraterritorial obligations.
The report mentioned the abolished article 522 of the Criminal Code, which allowed rapists to be discharged from prosecution if they married their victims (para 63). This is a good step, and future reports must continue to report on the steps various actors are taking to help protect women in various situations, whether civilian, refugees or civil society.
In this report, UNIFIL’s measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse were described: measures to prevent it were enforced, personnel and local communities were informed of the standards of conduct and how to report misconduct, and best practices were shared. While this is a good measure, UNIFIL must go further. The Secretary-General must call for a more extensive gender perspective in UNIFIL’s training courses and strategic framework, with a special focus on monitoring and evaluation processes which identify the differential impacts of conflict, extremism, and arms proliferation on the lives of women. Providing broader training programs for women’s participation in disarmament and stabilisation efforts is especially essential to shift power and support real and sustained change within the community. Moreover, the mission should identify and allocate sufficient resources from the regular budget for implementing these activities and support. Lastly, the Secretary-General must commit to a political solution for the problems facing Lebanon, and must call for the disarmament of all militaries and armed groups. He must not call for the increased militarisation of the Lebanese military, as increasing military spending, militarisation and use of force leads to violence against women and other civilians.
Relief and Recovery/Implementation
Future reporting must include specific examples of mission efforts to facilitate women’s full participation in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction processes, including in monitoring and evaluating implementation. Where specific gender-sensitive provisions in peacebuilding are not mandated, the Secretary-General should press the Security Council to include WPS indicators throughout future mission tasks relevant to reconciliation and reconstruction. Access to justice and recognition, for example, if not compensation for past violations, are important elements of post-conflict reconciliation, and need to be taken into account. Lastly, while the Secretary-General encouraged more work to address legal gaps in women’s rights, he must specify which gaps he is referring to, and what kind of work must be done.
*** By Ines Boussebbaa