Period of Time and Topic: Covering the period from 27 April 2016 to 5 July 2016, the Secretary-General report provides information on the key developments in Iraq and provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) mandate.
Women, Peace and Security
Pursuant to Security Council resolution 2233 (2015), the Secretary-General report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). References to WPS issues have decreased when compared to the previous report (S/2016/396), both in terms of quantity (from 10 to 8 references) and scope. References to women focus broadly on protection concerns, particularly in regards to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) serious abuses and violations of international human rights law and allegations of human rights abuses by popular mobilization forces in military campaigns against ISIL/Da’esh. In the Observation Section, the Secretary-General stresses the need for the international community to ensure the accountability of members of ISIL for the crimes they have perpetrated against the Iraqi people, stating his continued fears for the “safety of women and children, mostly from the Yazidi community (as reflected in previous reports), who are being held in captivity by ISIL, and all civilians who remain subject to ISIL control.” Unfortunately, the report does not offer any analysis on gender dynamics of the conflict itself, and overall, is gender blind, missing key opportunities to identify women’s participation in reform and electoral processes as well as UNAMI’s direct assistance to women in a number of mandate components.
Security Situation (including Demilitarization and Arms Management)
The Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide a gender lens to the security sector, with no references to women in the report’s discussion of the “security situation.” During the reporting period, the report notes that Iraqi security forces, the Peshmerga, and the popular mobilization forces and local fighters, with support from the international counter-ISIL coalition made progress in retaking areas from ISIL/Da’esh, particularly in Anbar governorate. Ideally, the report would have detailed women’s protection concerns, and provided information on liberated Yazidi women and other detained minorities women, particularly in regards to government provision of services. In addition, the report notes that as the result of lost territory, ISIL resorted to “asymmetric tactics, such as suicide attacks and raids on pro-government forces, as well as attacks against soft civilian targets,” particularly in Baghdad;however, no information is provided on the impacts of such asymmetrical attacks on women. At a minimum, the Secretary-General report should provide sex disaggregated data on cited civilian casualties, injuries, abductions, including of UN personnel, particularly the UNAMI recorded 1,953 civilian casualties (607 killed and 1,346 wounded), which brought the total number of civilian casualties since the upsurge of violence and armed conflict in the country that commenced in January 2014 to 66, 181 (22,339 deaths and 43,842 wounded).
As UNAMI is mandated to support the Government of Iraq in regards to implementing reintegration programmes, the report should provide information on UNAMI’s reintegration activities, particularly how the specific needs of women and girls associated with armed forces and armed groups are being taken into account in the retaking of areas from ISIL/Da’esh, as well as information on UNAMI activities to ensure women’s full access to these programmes, including establishing protection mechanisms for women at and around cantonment sites and by offering trauma and reintegration support to women and girls formerly associated with armed groups, including those who worked as combatants. In addition, the report notes that the United Nations Mine Action Service has launched risk awareness campaigns and trainer initiatives. UNAMI should consider empowering women, including through capacity building efforts, to participate in the design and implementation of these efforts. The report should also provide information on UNAMI activities to ensure the participation and leadership of women and women’s organizations in developing strategies to counter terrorism and violent extremisms, particularly perpetrated by ISIL/Da’esh.
Political Activities and Electoral Assistance
The portion of the report reviewing the political activities of UNAMI provides a narrative summary detailing the ways in which UNAMI supported both the Government of Iraq and peaceful protestors over the continued political deadlock and stalled reforms. Although the report notes that the Special Representative continued to meet with “civil society” and other stakeholders in an effort “to help de-escalate and overcome the ongoing political stalemate,” the report misses an opportunity to discuss the political mission’s engagement with women and women’s organizations in regards to the political stalemate. The report also does not provide any gender analysis of the impacts of the political deadlock, including violent protests, on women, failing to detail women’s participation in both the protests and the creation of the Reform Front, a new entity seeking to consolidate oppositional forces of the government. In the Observations section, the Secretary-General advocates for the inclusive representation on the basis of equal rights and justice for all Iraq’s diverse components, including women, in the political process; however, this reference should have been strengthened by calling on the Government of Iraq with assistance from UNAMI to ensure the full and equal participation of women at all levels of decision-making in national institutions for the prevention and resolution of this political conflict. UNAMI should also consider strengthening its activities to focus more of its attention on women’s leadership and participation in political resolution, in its effort to support the Government of Iraq to advance their inclusive political dialogue and national reconciliation.
Although updates have been provided in previous reports (S/2016/396), the Secretary-General also fails to provide any information on the implementation of the Iraqi National Action Plan on 1325 (2000), missing an opportunity to call on the Government of Iraq to further integrate the women, peace and security agenda into their strategic plans.
In regards to elections assistance, the report notes that UNAMI followed up with potential donors on the project proposals previously submitted for international funding, including for those projects relating to gender issues. This reference should have detailed the projects under consideration as well as how they will target women and alleviate or address certain challenges and barriers to women’s participation in electoral processes. At a minimum, the report should detail how UNAMI electoral assistance ensures women’s full and equal participation in 2017 Provincial Council elections, including specific mechanisms to improve women’s access to political participation as well as increasing the involvement of women’s civil society organizations in the monitoring of upcoming election processes.
Human Rights and Rule of Law
The report provides some information and analysis on the particular ways in which women’s human rights have been violated by both ISIL and the popular mobilization forces and associated armed groups, but does not provide a comprehensive gender analysis of the human rights situation.
In regards to ISIL, the report provides some analysis on the death of a woman in Mosul, who was publicly stoned to death by 18 men, following a guilty conviction for adultery by a self-appointed court of ISIL on 14 May 2016. The report also generally notes that UNAMI continued to receive numerous reports alleging serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated against civilians by ISIL, “with members of diverse ethnic and religious communities, women, children, and people with disabilities remain[ing] especially vulnerable.” While the provision of this information is positive, the report misses an opportunity to detail the numerous violations committed by ISIL, particularly ISIL strategic use of sexual and gender-based violence, as well as whether or not women have reported being targeted by ISIL/Da’esh alleged use of chemical weapons. Additionally, the report notes a number of human rights violations by the popular mobilization forces, including the death of four women in an airstrike, which reportedly hit a residential area in Fallujah on 19 May 2016. Although the provision of this information is positive, the report fails to detail the gender dimensions of popular mobilization violations of human rights, particularly whether or not the reports confirmed by UNAMI and the committee formed in the Governor of Anbar and Provincial Council of Anbar findings of civilians deaths and unlawful detentions and ill-treatment are purely the experience of men and boys.
The report makes only one references to women’s participation in human rights. On 24 May 2016, UN-Women launched an online awareness-building and mobilization campaign called “We are here,” aiming to inspire women activities from Iraq and the region to share their stories and document their roles in building their countries;however, the report misses an opportunity to discuss women’s engagement in the design, implementation, and monitoring of the report as well as to note how many women have shared their stories thus far and the public response to the campaign.
The report should provide some basis for UNAMI’s activities to promote and protect women’s human rights, particularly in regard to ISIL and allegations of popular mobilization forces’ abuse. As UNAMI is mandated to promote and protect human rights through judicial and legal reform in order to strengthen the rule of law in Iraq, the report should detail how UNAMI is actively supporting women survivors in judicial and legal reforms to strengthen the rule of law in Iraq, including by promoting investigation, prosecution, and punishment of perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence,and ensuring that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice. Given the reports of security forces abuse of human rights, UNAMI should consider how its human rights activities can further strengthen military justice systems in Iraq to address violence against women, including sexual violence, as part of broader efforts to strengthen institutional safeguards against impunity. In particular, reports should specify UNAMI work to identify women’s and girls’ needs and priorities to design concrete strategies and to address those needs and priorities, covering support for greater physical security and better socio-economic conditions, in particular health services, including sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, in consultation with women’s civil society.
The report does not provide any analysis of either the gender dimensions of the humanitarian situation, or the ways in which the humanitarian response, including emergency responses and contingency planning, are responding to gender-specific needs. The report only generally mentions protection concerns for women and girls who are still trapped in Fallujah, missing an opportunity to detail women’s particular humanitarian needs in regards to evacuation, forced displacement, and entrapment as the result of continued military campaigns against ISIL/Da’esh. The report would have benefited from commenting on whether any of the UN agencies or partner organizations had conducted gender-sensitive needs assessments to identify whether and how women are affected differently in order to effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to their needs, particularly in regards to the changing nature of the security situation. Additionally, information on whether local civil society organizations, particularly women’s civil society, were consulted in the design and implementation of delivery mechanisms for humanitarian assistance would have been desirable. The report also fails to provides sex-disaggregated data for the 10 million Iraqis currently in need of humanitarian assistance as well as the more than 470,000 people in Anabar and 830,000 in Mosul who are likely to require assistance in the event of military campaign gains At a minimum, there should be sex and age-disaggregated data provided for all statistical points.
In anticipation of operations to retake Mosul and other ISIL controlled territories, the report should detail how UNAMI, in its coordinating capacity, integrates gender-mainstreaming across humanitarian activities and takes into account the particular needs of women and girls, including in life-saving response measures and in the design of camps and settlements, as well as how UNAMI will enhance consultations with women and women-led civil society organizations to develop effective mechanisms for providing protection from violence. The report also should have reiterated the responsibility to ensure access to provision of services for survivors, including “provision of access to protection and the full range of medical, legal and psychosocial and livelihood services, without discrimination,” including sexual and reproductive and women’s health services.
Future Secretary-General reports on the situation in Iraq must ensure both the protection and participation aspects of the WPS agenda are fully represented in all sections, and provide a gender lens to the report, particularly in sections that detail the security, human rights, and humanitarian situations. A comprehensive analysis of violence against women, including sexual and gender-based violence should be provided in regards to both ISIL widespread and systematic human rights violations. Reports must also include information on women’s human rights violations and abuses carried out by Iraqi forces, militia and tribal forces, and Peshmerga, and provide observations for how to address the impact of anti-ISIL military campaigns. It is critical that each section of the report also detail UNAMI specific assistance to women, particularly in regards to ensuring their full and equal participation in political and electoral process. Reports should also provide comprehensive update on the implementation of Iraq’s National Action Plan (NAP) on SCR 1325 (2000). At a minimum, Secretary-General reports on the situation in Iraq must provide sex and age disaggregated data for all cited statistic within reports, including civilian casualties. Overall, gender analysis is needed to understand the relationship between gender-based violence and violent conflict in regards to the changing security dynamics.