Prepared by Colleen Bromberger
Period of the review: 1 - 31 May 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 (para 3). In this vein, Resolution 2139 (2014) invites relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women (para 30).
During the reporting period, there was a de-escalation of military action in eastern Ghutah (para 26), and the Syrian Arab Republic gained control over the areas of Ghutah and the Yarmouk camp (para 1). While many previously displaced persons have begun to return to the eastern Ghutah, approximately 160,000 people still remained displaced across the Syrian Arab Republic (para 3). Humanitarian access is still a concern, particularly in the areas of eastern Ghutah and Yarmouk camp (para 1), and reaching these areas remains a top priority for the United Nations (UN) (para 7). The Secretary-General estimates in his report that a total of 104,750 (7%) of people were reached in “hard-to-reach” areas during the reporting period (pg. 9). On 14 May, UN staff was granted access to parts of eastern Ghutah (the first permitted access in two months); however, the UN was not granted participation to the 30 May convoy to Talbisah and Tulul al-Humr (pg. 5). Armed conflict continued to affect civilian infrastructure (para 16), healthcare facilities (para 19) and educational facilities (para 20). The UN worked closely with implementing partners to provide food assistance through the cross-border points in Jordan and Turkey (para 33); improve access to clean water and sanitation in the southern parts of the Syrian Arab Republic (para 34); and enhance the response to internally displaced peoples and returnees (para 35).
Out of the report’s 47 paragraphs, only six (13%) made reference to women, girls and/or sexual and gender-based violence. While this report reflects a 9% increase in references to gender and women from the previous report of April 2018, the references continue to lack substance, with the majority focusing on women and girls as victims of armed conflict. Adopting a consistent gender analysis in the context of Syria would help all stakeholders better understand these violations and address 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.
None of the six paragraphs that referenced women mentioned the importance of women’s participation in developing peace processes, peacebuilding or political stability. With the de-escalation of tension in the Ghutah region, and the notable increase of previously displaced individuals returning to cities, women should be included at the earliest stages to ensure sustainable and long-lasting peace agreements. As noted in previous reports, there was no reference in this report to any specific women’s groups or civil society organisations, including the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, despite the request of Resolution 2139 (2014) to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society. Furthermore, there remained a lack of gender analysis and discussion on the main barriers to women’s participation in Syria, even though the Secretary-General had previously committed to incorporating gender in his reports. Women must be included in all levels of the peace process of Syria as peacemakers, mediators as well as through quotas of political participation and through capacity-building initiatives.
One of the six paragraphs that referenced WPS relevant issues highlighted the advances of agencies in combating sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Secretary-General notes that the UNHCR and its implementing partners were successful in hosting 2,388 awareness-raising campaigns across 12 governorates and in 95 community centres on the prevention of and response to SGBV (para 35). Despite the progress of outreach, the report failed address the link between SGBV and armament, particularly in armed conflict settings. Arms control in an important avenue for the prevention of SGBV; however, United Nations bodies, such as the Security Council, have notoriously avoided the linking the reduction of SGBV and disarmament in their debates.
The Secretary-General also failed to highlight in his report the lack of partnership between United Nations humanitarian agencies, women’s groups or civil societies in streamlining and coordinating delivery mechanisms, as well as protection-based programmes for gender equality and the empowerment of women. It is imperative that gender is mainstreamed across humanitarian efforts, particularly where vulnerable persons do not have access to the full range of critical humanitarian services, including legal services like humanitarian visas and access to fair hearings.
Relief and Recovery
Women are mentioned only in the capacity of receiving relief kits that help improve livelihoods, like the primary healthcare kits intended for mothers and children, during the reporting period (para 25). However, in the scale of the WPS Agenda, women were not included into the relief and recovery pillar beyond as recipients of aid. Most notably in the lack of discussion of reconstruction, security sector reform and enforcement of international law as necessary components for women’s equal participation and empowerment in the post-conflict society. The presence of a National Action Plan on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, such as in the case of Jordan, exemplifies how monitoring violations related to gender can be better enforced at the national level through security sector reform.
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 proactively call for and facilitate the meaningful participation of women in all relevant peace processes and peace negotiations and any future truth and reconciliation mechanisms, and 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 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.
There is an urgent need to curb the ongoing flow and trade of arms, including explosive and small or light arms. 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. The Secretary-General should thus 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, 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. He should also call for the international community to provide funding for psychosocial support programmes, with increased emphasis on trauma therapy, for survivors of sexual violence. Similarly, he should demand that parties to the conflict, over whom they have influence, release women and children held in detention, captivity, or as hostages as a confidence building measure and ensure that any women or children who have been subjected to sexual violence or abuse of any form be prioritised for specialised medical treatment, especially psychosocial care and support. 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.
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 Secretary-General should call for long-term support from the international community to strengthen capacities of Syrian organisations and WHRDs working in the field, and provide expertise to assist in the preservation and documentation of evidence relating to sexual violence. Lastly, it is pertinent that the Council include regular briefings by the Commission of Inquiry as part of the formal agenda of the Security Council, including on the use of sexual violence, as well as support the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. Future reports should discuss, as a matter of urgency, referral mechanisms to the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc tribunal for human rights violations in the country.