By Ines Boussebaa
Date: 16 October 2017
Period: 28 April - 27 September 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 9 March 2017 to 21 June 2017. The Security Council has ordered: the immediate cessation of hostilities between Israeli and Lebanese forces, including Hizbullah; the return of control over all Lebanese territories to the Government of Lebanon; 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; 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.
This report delves into three key topics. The political situation in Lebanon (sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence) and the security situation (the extension of control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory and the disarmament of militias) were covered in detail, while humanitarian issues as related to the conflict in Syria were discussed in slightly less detail.
Cross-border violations of Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity continue. For example, “in violation of the sovereignty of Lebanon and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006), Israel continued to occupy the northern part of the village of Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line (para 11).” There has been no tangible progress in disbanding and disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias, as called for in Resolution 1559 (2004), and no specific steps were taken to tackle this issue. However, the Secretary-General reported that the Lebanese Armed Forces have increased efforts to protect Lebanon’s stability and extend State authority, and despite various challenges has substantially succeeded in extending its control. For example, on 19 August, the Lebanese Armed Forces launched operation “Dawn of the Outskirts”, resulting in the expulsion of ISIL from Lebanese territory (para 23). The Secretary-General emphasised the importance of reinforcing the Lebanese Armed Forces and called on donors to support Lebanon so it could strengthen its institutions, most notably its army.
Discussing the humanitarian concerns, the Secretary-General highlighted that ongoing crisis in Syria continues to pose daunting challenges to Lebanon’s security and social stability. For example, the participation of Hizbullah and other Lebanese groups in the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic presents considerable risks to the stability of Lebanon and challenges to its sovereignty. Hizbullah aims to portray itself as a provider of security against external and internal threats, a role that should be the responsibility of the State. In this context, the Secretary-General calls upon donors to support Lebanon in its response to the crisis, and to respond to the needs of refugees and host communities.
On the political front, the Secretary-General reports that after several months of discussions on a new electoral law, an agreement on principles was reached among political leaders. A law was passed by Parliament on 16 June 2017, shortly before the expiration of its term on 20 June. This is a positive step to reactivate Lebanon’s institutions and normalize Lebanese political life. The law paves the way for the first national elections since 2009, and introduces a “preferential vote” system instead of the old sectarian-based law.
Of 48 paragraphs in this report, none contained references to women, and there was only one mention of gender in the context of participation: “A law was passed by Parliament on 16 June 2017, shortly before the expiration of its term on 20 June. The agreed law is a proportional system with preferential voting. The proposal for a gender quota, supported by some political forces, was not retained (para. 4).” In addition, the Government agreed on a substantial number of appointments for key diplomatic positions, but no gender quota is mentioned in the report. 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.
The Secretary-General noted the absence of a quota for women in the recent new electoral law in Lebanon (para. 4). The law is a proportional system with preferential voting, but fails to include a gender quota. This comprises a key failure of the Lebanese government to promote the full and effective participation of women in political life. 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 report failed to integrate a much-needed gender analysis of the current situation in Lebanon and of Lebanese women’s status in the political process. Indeed, the report did not pay attention to women’s meaningful participation in security-related matters, including disarming non-state armed groups, political action and humanitarian assistance. The Secretary-General did not highlight ongoing women’s rights work, or whether or not his office works with UNSMIL to include a gender perspective.
Currently, Lebanon is hosting slightly over 1 million register 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. The report explained that the situation in some refugee camps remains a concern, due to the irregular delivery of essential health, education, relief and social services. In addition, there have been armed clashes in camps, resulting in deaths and injuries and further displacement. As is 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 wholly get rid of the risks to women. In some places, research suggests a link between foreign military bases 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. The Secretary-General states that the widespread proliferation of weapons outside the control of the State undermines the security of Lebanese citizens, and that many Lebanese see the continued presence of such arms as an implicit threat for use within Lebanon for political reasons. While the Secretary-General calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah and other groups, he also calls for the reinforcement and strengthening of the Lebanese Army. This also constitutes a threat for citizens, especially women. When States use spending in favor of the military and not social spending, less value is placed on total human development and human security, including women’s contributions and social functions. In addition, the use of bombs and explosives is significant for women in Lebanon as Hizbullah and the Lebanese Armed Forces are both engaging in these tactics. 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 fails to report on the progress regarding the monitoring of social, economic, or political developments in the lives of women since the Secretary-General report S/2017/201. This is especially concerning as it indicates a failure of the Secretary-General to monitor or report on 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 the Secretary-General to conduct systematic and regular assessments.
While the new electoral law is a large landmark, the lack of a gender quota was a failure. Without gender equality, representation will not be equal for all Lebanese citizens. The Secretary-General must call for the inclusion of a gender quota in Lebanon, to achieve such representation. 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. Moreover, 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. There must be an inclusion of grassroots women’s organisations from civil society in political life for the increased participation of women in national decision-making. Beyond politics, women civil society must be included in all processes concerning the humanitarian situation in camps and disarmament of various factions.
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, and call for disarmament. 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. The Secretary-General should also call on all parties in Lebanon to disarm, in order to prevent further violence against women and civilians. 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 Secretary-General must report on whether or not humanitarian assistance in camps 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.
The Secretary-General must call for a 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 participation in disarmament and stabilisation efforts is especially essential to shift power and support real and sustained change within the community. Moreover, the Secretary-General should call on the mission to 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.