Prepared by Ines Boussebaa
Period: 7 November 2017 to 28 February 2018
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).
The report covers updates on political, security and humanitarian situations in the country, reporting that a number of demonstrations occurred due to the United States announcement on Jerusalem the 6 December. Additionally, cross-border violations of Lebanese sovereignty and territorial integrity continue. UNIFIL observed an increase in construction activities, including vegetation clearing and earthworks, along both sides of the Blue Line, leading to violations of the Blue Line and several incidents of weapons pointing by all parties (para 7). Crises in the region also continue to pose a risk to the stability of Lebanon, including leadership instability.
The Secretary-General discusses conflict prevention in this report. UNIFIL chaired tripartite meetings on 8 November, 7 December and 5 February to discuss contentious issues, exploring paths towards a permanent ceasefire. Overall, relations between UNIFIL and the local population remained largely positive; UNIFIL continued its outreach and engagement with local communities, through quick-impact projects to address the pressing needs of local communities.
The report discussed disarming armed groups, stating that there has been no tangible progress in disbanding and disarming Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Additionally, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, President of Lebanon and UN Secretary-General have all called for a policy of disassociation from external wars (para 53); however, arms trafficking between Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic continues. Arms transfers, bombs and landmines, political and institutional instability and UNIFIL conduct were all reported on.
As of 31 January, 995,512 Syrian refugees were registered with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (para 60). In response to the refugee crisis, the international community allocated $1.68 billion to Lebanon in 2017, with $1.37 billion disbursed or committed for that year (para 61). The Lebanon Crisis Response Plan appeal for 2018 was jointly launched on 1 February by the Government and the United Nations, requesting $2.68 billion to support 2.8 million people with humanitarian assistance, as well as investment in the country’s public infrastructure, services and local economy (para 62).
Of 93 paragraphs in this report, three contained references to women (3.2%). The report discussed women’s participation, where the Secretary-General encouraged Lebanese political parties to increase women’s representation in Lebanese politics and include qualified women on their electoral lists, for the upcoming parliamentary elections. United Nations technical assistance with the electoral process continues, as do efforts to promote women’s participation in the parliamentary elections (para 56). Women’s human rights were also discussed, with a focus on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). Neither UNIFIL nor the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon received allegations of sexual exploitation or abuse during the reporting period. Both entities continued to implement existing measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. This report includes women at a lower rate than the previous, and this report remained too focused on militarisation (including the existence and activities of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias), political stability and collecting mutual accusations by Lebanon and Israel of violations of Resolution 1701 (2006).
The Secretary-General explained that preparations for international and local elections observation are underway. The United Nations is offering technical assistance with this process and is engaging in efforts to promote women’s participation in parliamentary elections. The absence of a quota for women, in this vein, 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. The Secretary-General also lists statistics on women’s participation in UNIFIL, stating that women make up 4% of military personnel, 32% of international staff, 25% of national civilian staff and 10% of military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (para 71). While it is important to list these statistics and acknowledge them, the Secretary-General fails to explain specific steps UNIFIL is taking to increase women’s representation in all of these sectors.
Despite Lebanon hosting a high number of refugees, women’s different experiences in conflict and displacement were not mentioned in the report. When the report describes the money allocated to the refugee crisis, there was no mention of gender budgeting, imperative for female refugees who face different challenges than men. For example, the report stated that the economic vulnerability of Syrian refugees in Lebanon continued to rise, but there was no mention of the fact that female refugees often face higher amounts of economic vulnerability and poverty. 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.
There is a connection between violence against women and firearms. The Secretary-General discussed the presence of unauthorized weapons in the hands of Hizbullah and how it remains of serious concern and warrants condemnation. However, the Secretary-General did not report on the gendered dimensions of continued arms transfers between armed groups on Lebanese territory. All women on the ground face violence due to the proliferation of arms and gun violence, and as such 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. While the Secretary-General calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah and all other armed groups in Lebanon, he also calls for the strengthening of the Lebanese Army, believing it will bolster stability and prevent conflict. This constitutes a threat for citizens, especially women. Military expenditures, which support war efforts, sacrifice social funds that can also guarantee security. The Secretary-General also calls for a permanent ceasefire in order to prevent conflict and move from calm to durable stability and security for all communities. While a permanent ceasefire will help prevent conflict, the definition of security used in this report is too limited. Security is not solely the lack of arms in a country. To obtain total security, there must be gender equality, non-violence, non-discrimination and full access to resources and rights.
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.
With parliamentary elections occurring soon, there will not be an accurate representation of Lebanese citizens through their elected officials if there is no gender equality. The Secretary-General must call for the inclusion of a required gender quota in Lebanon, to achieve such representation. The meaningful participation and representation of women in electoral processes is imperative. 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. 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 assessment to effectively coordinate humanitarian assistance.
The report must take into account gender when discussing the refugee crisis in Lebanon. The Secretary-General must report on whether or not humanitarian assistance is in line with existing obligations. In camps, women-specific health, education, relief and social services must be provided. 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. Future reports must also continue to report on the steps various actors are taking to help protect women in various situations, whether civilian, refugees or civil society. Humanitarian groups are at the forefront of changing attitudes and behaviors within the camps. As such, these organisations can take concrete steps by contributing mobile services, and making sure that both static and mobile services are maintained and promoted, all of which are vital in providing more reliable safe spaces for psychosocial support and training courses, as well as enabling women and girls to access services.
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 UNIFIL 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 also 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. It is also crucial that women be engaged in preventing the emergence, spread and re-emergence of conflict through participation in disarmament and stabilisation efforts. Providing broader training programs for women’s participation in disarmament and stabilisation efforts is essential to shift power and support real and sustained change within the community. Lastly, the Secretary-General 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
As aforementioned, the report presents no progress regarding relief and recovery. As such, the Secretary-General should encourage the Security Council to include Women, Peace and Security indicators throughout future UNIFIL mission tasks relevant to reconciliation and reconstruction. UNIFIL personnel must be sensitised when it comes to gender analysis, and this can be achieved through mandatory courses on gender, increasing the availability of resources on gender, encouraging women to apply for senior management roles, and most importantly, the establishment of a Gender Team that prioritises gender issues in specific relief and recovery projects. The Secretary-General must address the work required to address legal gaps in women’s rights, specify what gaps exist and explain what kind of work must be done. CEDAW is a vital part of this and should be nationally implemented in Lebanon. The UN and civil society organisations can support Lebanon in addressing the amendments of discriminatory clauses within its Constitution and laws on Personal Status.