Period of the review: January-April 2018
Prepared by Ijechi Nwaozuzu
Pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2367 (2017), the Security Council extends the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) until 31 July 2018. Resolution 2367 specifically highlights the need for all segments of the Iraqi population to participate in the political process, political dialogue and economic and social life of Iraq, including through the equal participation of women (PP 8); encourages the Government of Iraq to continue pursuing more substantive reforms, particularly economic and institutional reforms to improve the standard of living for all Iraqis, including by improving the situation of women and girls (PP 9); emphasises that all parties should take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of affected civilians (PP 13); stresses the importance of the United Nations, in particular UNAMI, in advising, supporting and assisting the Iraqi people, including civil society, to strengthen democratic institutions, advance inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation (PP 17).
The report outlines political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq for the period between January and April 2018. It specifically discusses the efforts of UNAMI to support electoral processes for the May 12 elections, facilitate human rights monitoring and support humanitarian activities in Iraq. Echoing the previous reporting cycle, the federal government continues to focus on security, stability, reconstruction and economic prosperity (para. 23), as well as the complete eradication of terrorism (para. 21). This includes facilitating the safe and dignified return of displaced persons, with a view to creating a conducive environment for free and fair elections (para. 5). That said, although the Iraqi government had openly declared its final victory over the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the last reporting cycle, many regions continue to experience asymmetric attacks by various armed groups, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and armed opposition groups (paras. 18-22). The ongoing presence of arms in the country also continues to inhibit sustainable peace processes, as well as to influence the increase in the level of violence, that affects women and girls disproportionately.
Of 85 paragraphs in the report, 8 (9%) include references to WPS-relevant issues, which is a notable decrease from the last report. Like in the previous report, the Secretary-General mentioned UNAMI’s increased engagement with women’s groups and civil society organisations to improve women’s participation in political, electoral and reconciliation processes (para. 52). However, there were no details about the character and depth of this engagement. While the report recognises the importance of women’s participation in political and peacebuilding processes, it completely omits the value of women’s participation in resolving the ongoing conflict and the value of services provided by local women’s organisation to refugees and SGBV survivors. Future reports should discuss the draft Family Violence Protection law with proposed amendments from Iraqi women’s rights organizations, including provisions to clarify that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may provide shelters for women fleeing SGBV. Additionally, like the previous report, this report also does not include in-depth gendered-analysis of human rights and humanitarian situation in Iraq, providing limited focus on gender-specific care and non-violent solutions for sustainable peace. To this end, the Secretary-General falls short of his mandate under Resolution 2107 (2013) to strengthen the engagement of all segments of the population in peace work.
The report lauds the government’s recent achievements in destroying chemical weapons remnants as a mark of Iraq’s fulfilment of its obligations under the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (para. 38). The report also highlighted a two-month operation in Basra Governorate to disarm northern tribes in the region, and its success in the seizure of their illegal weapons (para. 21), in line with the UN 2013 Arms Trade Treaty. However, there is no focus on the incorporation of a gender perspective and the participation of women across in prevention, even though gender mainstreaming is crucial to successful prevention efforts. To this end, there is no account of UNAMI’s support for the development of early-warning mechanisms and support for civil society initiatives in relation to developing such mechanisms.
Although the report sheds light on improvements to humanitarian services, it did not reflect gender-disaggregated data that would ensure better understanding of the gender dimensions of the conflict. The report has also failed to encourage partnership with civil societies and women-led groups in addressing the humanitarian issues in the country. While $569 million has been committed towards humanitarian plans for 8.7 million people in 2018 (para. 56), it is unclear how this funding and resources would be managed to ensure the adequacy and sustainability of gender-sensitive humanitarian aid. Gender-sensitive forms of aid needed by displaced persons were not discussed, including sexual and reproductive health, as well as basic access to female doctors, translators and other humanitarian actors. It is also unclear whether current aid is provided in line with international humanitarian law and is not subject to donor limitations.
The report highlighted UNAMI’s continued engagement with members of the Independent High Electoral Commission, government officials, members of parliament, representatives of political parties, women’s groups, civil society organisations and religious and community leaders (para. 31). In particular, it discussed the 7-8 March conference held to solicit views from local communities, civil society organisations and internally displaced women in order to further develop the draft implementation report before its planned submission to the Security Council later this year (para. 52). However, women’s political participation remains limited and women candidates continue to face social and structural challenges. The report also does not provide any specific information on efforts by civil society women groups like the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women. Lastly, there is no information on efforts by the Government or UNAMI to allocate funding and resource for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 (2000) National Action Plan of Iraq. Thus, it is unclear whether UNAMI has successfully fulfilled its mandate to strengthen democratic institutions, advance inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation, as mandated under Resolution 2367.
Relief & Recovery
Unlike the previous report, the report details efforts by the government and UNAMi to strengthen accountability mechanisms, particularly for terrorism and SGBV crimes. For example, the Supreme Judicial Council has publicly announced the imposition of 22 death sentences for terrorism-related crimes (para. 46). Additionally, following an Iraqi-led process supported by the Mission, a proposed draft law on the creation of a specialized court for international crimes has been delivered by the Mission to Iraqi institutions, parliamentarians and civil society actors, for their consideration (para. 48). However, no substantial headway has been reported regarding the creation of a specialised court and tribunals to facilitate accountability and justice specifically in relation to SGBV and discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Although the Office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict has initiated the creation of an investigative team for SGBV crimes, greater efforts have to be made to expedite the process, especially when not a single member of ISIL has been tried and prosecuted for SGBV crimes to date. It is also unclear what kind of specific services and assistance would be available for victims and their families.
As existing gender analysis suggests, disarmament in Iraq is key for effective stabilisation and prevention of conflict relapse in Iraq. For starters, UNAMI should be called upon to work with the federal government in implementing the ATT, and curbing the trade and flow of arms in the country. Nonetheless, sustainable peace goes beyond disarmament of state and extremist groups. As illustration, although the UN was successful in disarming Iraq in 1991, it still failed to prevent the 2003 war. Thus, the Secretary-General must also inquire UNAMI to support women’s organisations in their work to prevent violent extremism and rehabilitate former extremists. It is also pertinent that future reports incorporate the ways in which women and gender analysis are included in the country’s national prevention initiatives and early warning mechanisms. Future implementations of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programmes must prioritise and be set up in consultation with women and girls.
The political environment in Iraq must ensure that humanitarian and protection work are informed by women’s experiences and perspectives on the ground to reflect priorities of general population, including the priorities of local communities and different groups within them. The Secretary-General should call upon UNAMI and the Iraqi government 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. For example, activities of the Organisation of Freedom for Women in Iraq remain illegal, particularly the operation of shelters for battered women, who do not receive needed psycho-sociological support through existing humanitarian channels. Apart from basic food and health aid for refugees, aid should also focus on improving access to international protection through humanitarian visas, increased refugee resettlements, greater access to information and fair hearings.
The Secretary-General should encourage the Government to develop, finance and implement its UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan to include the meaningful participation of civil societies and women organisations throughout peace talks and processes. Additionally, future reports should also discuss the participation of women in political and peace processes relating to the ongoing conflict, as well as efforts made to strengthen and facilitate women’s political engagement after the passing of the May 12 elections.
Relief & Recovery
The Secretary-General should accord greater focus towards gender justice and accountability for gender-based crimes as a critical part of peacebuilding processes. In the face of the most heinous crimes, including the ongoing genocide against the Yazidi and other ethnic minorities, the Secretary-General should also request the Council to take immediate measures in line with the Genocide Convention. Future reports should further expand the scope of all gender-based crimes including crimes against women human rights defenders, LGBTQ persons, men and boys, civilian women and girls with actual or perceived ties to ISIL, and persecution of individuals who do not conform to gender norms, so as to ensure accountability for all perpetrators.