Prepared by Colleen Bromberger
Reporting Period: 1-30 July 2018
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), 2393 (2017) and 2401 (2018), 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 (OP 6); to demilitarise medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities (OP 10); to lift the sieges of populated areas (OP 5); to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights (OP 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). Moreover, Resolution 2401 (2018) demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay, and engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation of this demand by all parties (OP 1).
The report highlights several developments in military escalation and humanitarian assistance since the previous report was released in June 2018. During the reporting period, violence against civilians continued, with notable attacks on populations in the southwestern region leading to widespread population displacement (para 1). With 4.2 million people requiring assistance (an increase of 570,000 since the beginning of 2018) (para 3), humanitarian aid was able to reach 3.3 million individuals (para 6). Military escalation continued in the southwest, affecting civilians, medical facilities and access to humanitarian assistance (para 4). Conditions for humanitarian workers, as well as UN personnel and UN staff, in the region are increasingly unsafe, as many workers were forced to flee alongside civilians from the fighting, with eventually some being detained (paras 4, 41).
Out of the report’s 48 paragraphs, only eight (16%) made references to women and girls. This report reflects a 7% decrease in references to gender and women from the previous report of June 2018, with seven (88%) of the eight focusing on women and girls as victims of armed conflict (e.g. detention, displacement, evacuation, kidnapping) or recipients of humanitarian aid. While it is important for sexual and gender-based violence to be highlighted in the Secretary-General’s reports, future reports should examine how SGBV can be used as a tool to further violent masculinities and systems of patriarchy in conflict settings. Furthermore, future reports should highlight women’s contributions to ending conflict by adopting a consistent gender analysis, which would provide the basis for developing gender-sensitive policies and approaches in response to the crisis in Syria.
Unlike in his previous report, the Secretary-General does not mention the term ‘participation’, with or without gender, in the document. Furthermore, the discussion of finding a political solution for the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic is only referenced in the capacity of the high-level talks in Sochi among senior representatives of Member States of Iran and Turkey and the Astana guarantors (para 11), rather than as a locally-owned, gender-sensitive, civil-society organised and inclusive bottom-up process. As referenced in the previous report, women must be equally included in civil society organisation delegations with a 50% quota, as well as include women in all stages of the campaigning, negotiations and the political process. Future reports should note the progression and/or regression of all participation efforts, especially concerning specific women’s groups or civil society organisations, such as the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, in order to fulfill the request of Resolution 2139 (2014) to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society. While the Secretary-General previously committed to incorporating gender in his reports, there remains a lack of gender analysis and discussion on the main barriers to women’s participation in Syria.
Since the previous report, the UNHCR increased its functioning community centre by one, totaling 96 versus the 95 noted in the previous report, which offers services assisting with the preventing and responding to sexual and gender based violence (para 34). Despite the continued assistance that the UN entities provide in outreach programmes, 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.
With the increase of violence, particularly in the southwest region, protection remained an issue for civilian population, especially from armed actors. UNHCR continued to provide services to internally displaced persons (para 34), and the Secretary General uses the report to emphasize the normative framework of the UNHCR in regards to protection and conflict response (para 47). Outside of the discussion of SGBV, there is no reference to women or gender as a cross-cutting issue in protection response in this report. 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
While it was highlighted in the report that many people continued to return to the city of Raqqah (para 5), in a recent Arria meeting, Hadi Albahra, of the Chief negotiator of the Syrian National Coalition delegation in Geneva, noted that individuals who were beginning to return from Lebanon to the Syrian Arab Republic were doing so because they were too old to be forced into the military and that many more individuals who would like to return to the Syrian Arab Republic are unable to do so because the conditions for a safe return are still not possible. As a previous report has noted, this tension between refugees and the host country of Lebanon has escalated recently, with Lebanon revoking the licenses of UNHCR workers who refused to “change approach” and stop deterring Syrian refugees to return to the Syrian Arab Republic. In regard to human rights violations, detentions continued to occur, with notable instances of the detention of men and women. The Secretary-General highlights an important example of women who protested the detention of their husbands were themselves detained for 24 hours by the Syrian Democratic Forces in Raqqah (para 17). Detention remains a serious concern for men and women in Syria, and future reports must address concrete steps to assist both individuals and relatives who are arbitrarily detained.
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 the Syrian Arab Republic 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 (ATT), 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 the Syrian Arab Republic 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 the Syrian Arab Republic 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, including enforced disappearances and detentions of civilians and United Nations personnel.