The Security Council met on 25 October 2013 to discuss the situation in Syria (S/PV.7049). The Council was briefed by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Ms. Amos described the continual determination of the situation as a “race against time”, and reiterated the dire need for the Council’s continuous pressure on the Syrian Government and opposition groups. Ms. Amos discussed the impact of the conflict on all Palestinian refugee camps as well as the indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, power plants and water access points by the other the government and opposition groups. UN agencies and partners remain unable to reach an estimated 2.5 million civilians due to barriers of access. Finally, she calls on the government to lift all bureaucratic impediments and calls on members of Council to exert influence and take necessary action to stop the violence.
The briefing by Ms. Amos lacked a gender perspective in regards to women’s protection concerns, including protection from and response, including services, to acts of sexual and gender-based violence and in humanitarian delivery and access.
In relation to the recommendations put forth in the September 2013 MAP, the meeting’s record was inadequate. The MAP called for improved humanitarian access including essential services outlined in UN Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings for survivors of sexual gender-based violence; the inclusion of a gender advisor on issues in the team for the Joint Special Representative. Encouragingly, Ms. Amos called for protection of women civilians, however the meeting was devoid of references regarding the needs of women survivors of sexual, gender-based violence. Additionally, there is no gender lens integrated in the delivery and access to humanitarian aid; and no discussion of the need for gender-specialists or advisors in the work of UN agencies on the ground.
The limited mention of women, peace and security issues in the meeting of 25 October 2013 (S/PV.7049) was on par with the previous meeting of 16 July 2013 (S/PV.7000). In the current meeting, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator reiterated the urgent need for improved humanitarian access. In particular, Ms. Amos highlighted the impact of the conflict on all Palestine refugee camps; civilian infrastructure of the country; and the bureaucratic barriers inhibiting humanitarian workers from reaching an estimated 2.5 million civilians. The current report made no acknowledgment of access and delivery of services for women survivors; more broadly in humanitarian delivery and access; and there is no reference to training and appointing gender advisors or focal points in UN agencies.
The President of the Security Council issued a presidential statement (S/PRST/2013/15) on 2 October 2013 (S/PV.7039) on the Middle East, with a particular focus on Syria. The statement discussed the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation. The President condemned all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Syrian authorities and armed opposition groups, called for immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian aid, and stressed the need for a political solution to the conflict.
Issues of women, peace and security were referenced in regards to acts of sexual and gender-based violence and civilian protection. There were numerous missed opportunities to address issues of women, peace and security in regards to both women’s participation and protection concerns. First, the report failed to reference women’s and civil society’s participation in any efforts to seek a political solution to the conflict. Second, a gender lens was absent in discussion of humanitarian access and delivery. Further, the statement was devoid of an explicit call to end impunity for crimes of sexual and gender-based violence.
In comparison to the recommendations put forth in the October MAP, the statement’s record was inadequate. The MAP called for numerous points including, improved and unhindered humanitarian access; information about and access to services for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence; women’s and civil society’s participation in any negotiations; the appointment of a gender advisor or focal point; and referral to ICC. The statement is devoid of women’s participation concerns, and made superficial references to women’s protection concerns, hindering the realization of women’s human rights and empowerment.
The current PRST of 2 October 2013 had an overtly humanitarian focus in comparison to the previous PRST of 26 September 2012 (S/PRST/2012/20), which discussed the increased cooperation between the UN and Arab League, a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, and welcomed the appointment of the Joint Special Representative for Syria. The prior PRST of 5 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/10) was not a relevant comparison either, which called on the Syrian government to cease violence by 10 April 2012.