Period: April 2018 - July 2018
Prepared by Mikayla Varunok
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 April 17 and June 21, 2018. Specifically, it discusses the proceedings of May 12, Iraq’s first parliamentary elections following the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its fourth under the Constitution of 2005. It also outlined Iraq’s continued commitment to addressing the threat of terrorism. The mission has included a gender perspective in joint planning and reporting on the implementation of the recommendations put forth by S/2018/479 by utilising thematic coordination mechanisms such as those on gender (para. 62). However, asymmetric ISIL attacks - including 55 security incidents on election day alone- highlight the role that an ongoing presence of arms plays in increasing violence that affects women and girls disproportionately.
Of the 77 paragraphs in the report, 19 (24%) include references to WPS-relevant issues, which is a notable increase 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. 33). However, women’s participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding is still lacking as well as recognition of the value of women’s work. Additionally, like the previous report, this report does not include in-depth analysis of conflict and humanitarian situations in Iraq that recognises the disproportionate effect of violence on women and girls, 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.
Despite a number of disarmament initiatives in Mosul and Fallujah, such initiatives are generally limited to ISIL weaponry, and didn’t address Iraq’s need to halt production, storage and use of government-owned arms as well. Early warning mechanisms that can identify new trends and risks to peace and security must be put in place in order to ensure conflict-prevention.
UNAMI participated in the annual planning retreat of the United Nations Inter-Agency Gender Task Force this past May, establishing an annual work-plan and strategic priorities for 2018-2019. The Task Force aims to promote women’s empowerment aligning with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Sustainable Development Goals (para. 60). Additionally, Secretary-General of the Iraqi Council of Ministers, Mahdi al-Allaq, approved a proposal to amend welfare legislation to provide a legal basis for establishing shelter services for survivors of gender-based violence (para. 48). However, reports of armed actors in refugee camps across Iraq attacking humanitarian personnel and sexually assaulting, exploiting and harassing women and girls with perceived ties to ISIL was noted without further detailing of any plan of action to address this issue (para. 51).
This report outlines significant improvements in women’s political participation in Iraq, specifically pertaining to the parliamentary elections on May 12, 2018. Adhering to a constitutional requirement, women candidates gained 25.5% of the seats in parliament (para. 6). Prior to the election, Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs and Electoral Assistance launched the #WhyNot (#Shakobeha) campaign with short films depicting successful women political activists, as well as men advocating for women’s political participation as part of UNAMI advocacy efforts (para. 33). According to the Independent High Electoral Commission, 2,009 female candidates ran in the parliamentary elections. However, these candidates were subject to campaign material vandalisation, threats, intimidation and rampant online sexual harassment, causing some female candidates to withdraw. Nothing was done to address this beyond an unsubstantial statement condemning such actions by Special Representative of the Secretary General and head of UNAMI, Ján Kubiš (para. 47). However, no actions were taken to address reports of voter intimidation- which often affects women disproportionately. Further, the Independent High Electoral Commission failed to provide gender-disaggregated data on voter intimidation and turnout, inhibiting the government's ability to create responsive electoral policy that protects women’s free and full participation in the voting process (para. 3). Finally, civil society participation wasn’t mentioned beyond a shallow recognition of their role in working against the terrorist organisations (para. 25). There was no mention of the Family Protection Draft Law, which would encourage women’s participation in the police force and Family Protection Units, providing survivors of domestic violence the opportunity to report crimes to females. More importantly, it would allow Iraqi NGOs the legal capacity to continue to provide shelters for women and survivors of SGBV in areas where government shelters are understaffed and inaccessible
Relief & Recovery
Like the previous report, this report details efforts by the government and UNAMi to improve accountability mechanisms, particularly in terms of terrorism- related crimes and SGBV crimes. For example, so far in 2018, the Supreme Judicial Council has publicly announced 41 death sentences for terrorism-related crime, 24 of which were for crimes against women. This was an 86% increase from the number of death sentences for terrorism-related crimes stated in the last report (para. 41). Additionally, UNAMI’s Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Arrangements Technical Working Group on Conflict-related Sexual Violence is implementing the joint communiqué on the prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual violence of 2016 (para. 46). However, clear indicators of progress in reporting, preventing and responding to SGBV were not outlined in this report. Reports from NGOs on the ground have observed a grave lack of justice delivered in trails against ISIS fighters, which are frequently short, incomplete and don’t include consideration of SGBV or the communities ISIS has affected. Additionally, the above mentioned Family Protection Law, which would provide survivors of SGBV services and resources after a crime has occured, has yet to be passed. Another piece of important legislation that has been introduced is the Justice for Yazidis Act, which would grant Yazidis status as “refugees of special humanitarian concern” and establish social programs to provide them with health care, psychosocial support and resettlement options. Finally, the report states that the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilisation has worked on more than 2,400 reconstruction and recovery projects and taken measures to prevent further violence and extremism, but doesn’t go into further detail of progress made (para. 54).
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 in future 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. Family Protection Draft Law should be put in place to ensure that Iraqi NGOs can legally provide shelter to women and others at risk of violence. Trials of ISIS fighters should be internationally supervised, should account for SGBV and the needs of survivors and should deliver justice that reflects the severity of their crimes. 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.