Period of the review: 1 - 31 January 2018
Prepared by Ijechi Nwaozuzu
UN Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, speaks with Syrian refugee girls at the Za’atari camp in Jordan in January 2018 (UNHCR/Ivor Prickett)
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 outlined the intensification of military activities in parts of the country and its impacts on civilians, infrastructure, and the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance between 1 and 31 January 2018. It specifically discussed the challenges faced by United Nations humanitarian agencies and partners in reaching vulnerable persons, including displaced persons, in Eastern Ghutah as well as the Governorates of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo. During this period, attacks against medical facilities, schools, markets and places of worship have increased (para. 15). No inter-agency UN convoy has attained government authorisation to deploy to any hard-to-reach or besieged locations (para. 21). The last humanitarian deployment to a besieged area happened on 28 November 2017, providing assistance to only 7,200 people in Nashabiyah (Eastern Ghutah) (para. 21). Lastly, 22 staff members of United Nations agencies and programmes have been killed, to date (para. 37). Accountability and justice for these crimes remain lacking, with the Secretary-General calling for a full cooperation 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 (para. 43).
Of 46 paragraphs in the report, 3 (6.5%) included references to WPS-relevant issues, an increase from the last report. Similar to the previous report, this single reference was made in relation to acute malnutrition suffered by pregnant and lactating women (para. 27). However, the current report goes further in lauding the inclusion of women in the committee established to draft a new constitution in line with Resolution 2254 (para. 44). To this end, the Secretary-General has, unlike in his last report, fulfilled his mandate under Resolution 2254 (2015) to meaningfully report on women’s participation in the UN-facilitated political process for Syria. However, the rest of the report, including its annexes, only referenced women in relation to death and injury statistics.
The report failed to discuss measures being undertaken to prevent the proliferation of weapons in Syria and its neighbouring countries. Although it is part of his mandate to report on efforts to prevent arms-related violence, the Secretary-General did not stress the international community’s commitment to refrain from selling and supplying arms and ammunitions to parties in the Syrian conflict. 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.
Like the previous report, this report maintained its praises towards UNICEF for providing acute malnutrition women to pregnant and lactating women (para. 32). However, apart from the mention of pregnant women, there is no further gender-analysis of the data of displaced persons that would ensure a better understanding of the gender dimension of the conflict. The report did not provide any further information on other specific forms of aid needed by, or provided to, women and girls. This is pertinent because previous gender analysis has shown that young girls suffer from higher rates of malnutrition than other groups of people. Lastly, the report failed to encourage partnerships with civil societies and women-led groups in addressing the humanitarian issues in the country.
The report has done well in highlighting women’s participation in the committee established to draft the new constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic. However, it did not go further in addressing any allocation of funding or technical support for the participation of women’s groups and civil societies in the legal reconstruction efforts. 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. In this regard, the Secretary-General has fallen short of his mandate to report on efforts relating to an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, under Resolution 2191 (2014). Although, he 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
In his report, the Secretary-General advocated for the accountability of perpetrators of serious violations as a central mechanism in achieving sustainable peace (para. 43). However, no gender analysis was incorporated into this recommendation. In particular, the Secretary-General did not address conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women and girls, including the rape and abuse of women in government detention centers, as well as the sexual enslavement of women and girls by ISIL. Other forms of SGBV include forced and early marriage as well as ‘honor’ crimes. Concrete mechanisms to address the impunity of perpetrators of these crimes remained lacking in the Secretary-General’s report.
There is an urgent need to curb the ongoing flow and trade of arms, including explosive and small or light arms. The Secretary-General should 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. Future implementations of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programmes must prioritise and be set up in consultation with women and girls.
The Secretary-General should call upon relevant international actors, including Jordan and Turkey (para. 24), 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. Apart from basic food and health aid, assistance should also focus on improving access to cross-border protection through humanitarian visas, increased refugee resettlements, greater access to fair hearings, psychosocial services and non-discriminatory medical services. Aid should be provided in line with IHL and not subject to any donor restrictions to ensure comprehensive medical care, including safe abortion. The needs of adolescent girls, who are more likely to be subjected to militarised violence, malnutrition and a lack of education, should also be identified and addressed.
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 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. Moreover, the UN Secretary-General should urge the Office to include Syrian gender experts in all expert meetings in the technical consultative process to ensure that a gender perspective is taken into account at decision-making levels, including in the upcoming Brussels aid conference on Supporting Syria and the Region co-chaired by the UN in April 2018.
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. SGBV must also be addressed, including those amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Secretary-General should call for long-term support to the documentation of violence against women and girls by resourcing and strengthening capacities of Syrian organisations and WHRDs working in the field, allowing them to follow up on cases and to support survivors to access justice. Lastly, it is pertinent that all perpetrators from all sides of the conflict be accorded the same standards for justice and accountability, as evidenced by the experiences of international tribunals like ICTY and ICTR.