Prepared by Ijechi Nwaozuzu
Period of the review: 1 - 30 February 2018
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 30 February 2018. In spite of the passing of Resolution 2401, in which the Council demanded a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian personnel continue to face challenges in delivering humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations for the critically sick and wounded, especially in Eastern Ghoutah, where airstrikes, shelling and ground offensives have intensified (para 43). The widespread presence of explosive hazards, including unexploded ordnance, landmines and improvised explosive devices, throughout cities like Raqqah has continued to pose a significant risk to civilians and humanitarian workers (para 12). Armed attacks have also continued to target medical providers, including 29 attacks on health facilities, 14 on hospitals, 11 on health centres, 2 on ambulance stations, 1 on a psychiatric hospital and 1 on a medical warehouse (para 6). The intensified hostilities has spurred a displacement of 385,000 people to the Idlib Governorate from 15 December 2017 to 10 February 2018, and many have been forced to live in makeshift camps or in the open (para 9).
Of 48 paragraphs in the report, 3 (6%) included references to WPS-relevant issues, an increase from the last report. Similar to previous reports, these references, including in the annexes, was made only in relation to reproductive services (para 35) and death and injury statistics (para 19). 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 Syria. 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.
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 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. 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. 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.
Unlike the previous report’s mention of services for pregnant and lactating women, this report provides no gender-analysis of data on displaced persons that would ensure a better understanding of the gender dimension of the conflict. The report also did not provide any information on other specific forms of aid needed by, or provided for, displaced persons including 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 Syria.
Unlike the previous report which shed light on women’s participation in the committee established to draft the new constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic, this report failed to discuss women’s participation in any aspect of the peace and political process in Syria. Consequently, it also 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. 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
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 45). However, no gender analysis was incorporated into this recommendation. A brief reference to UNPF’s work in tackling SGBV (para 35) did not translate into a meaningful discussion in the report on the variety of SGBV committed against women, girls, men and boys; including rapes in government detention centers, sexual enslavement by ISIL, forced and early marriage as well as ‘honor’ crimes. 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.
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, especially where 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.
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. 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. 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 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. Future reports should cover engagements with Syrian women’s organisations; research and analysis on women’s experience at the community levels in local mediation; conflict resolution and building confidence with women in Syria; obstacles to women’s participation; conditions required to strengthen women’s participation; and, local efforts to help develop policy and programmatic support and advocacy around women’s participation. 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 Mechanism must look beyond bombardments as intentional and indiscriminate attacks and ensure its work also covers less visible violations, including SGBV that amount 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.