Date: 14 June 2016
Topic: This report includes an assessment of the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006) and developments on the ground, including security and political environments, since the last report of 26 February 2016 (S/2016/189).
Women, Peace and Security
Although the situation in United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) area of operations was relatively calm and stable during the reporting period, the Secretary-General notes that there has been no progress towards a permanent ceasefire, as called for in Resolution 1701 (2006). Equally so, there is no indication that the situation for women has progressed. The UNIFIL mandate includes only one provision for the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda: complying with the UN zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) therefore subsequent reporting has included the WPS agenda on an ad-hoc basis, largely outside of the mandate. The present report is no exception but it does represent an increase in references to the WPS agenda since the last report (from five to six) and is skewed towards participation (S/2016/572, paras. 3, 17, 48, 55, 73) with only one reference to protection (S/2016/572, para. 56).
Protection of humanitarian/UN personnel and facilities/free movement of personnel and equipment
UNIFIL conducted many activities with the local population to improve awareness of the mission mandate and install preventative measures for SEA. Despite that a UNIFIL convoy was attacked twice in the area of operations, the relationship between UNIFIL and the local population “remained largely positive,” as indicated by the outreach initiatives aimed at raising awareness of UNIFIL mandate activities among local populations, including on International Women’s Day, World Water Day and Mine Awareness Day (S/2016/572, para. 17). Additionally, preventative measures have been put in place by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon including a standardized process for responding and assessing risk of sexual abuse and exploitation, in collaboration with local and international non-governmental organizations and authorities. It is considered a “victim-centred approach within the zero tolerance policy.” SEA activities are being developed and strengthened within UNIFIL and a “community-based complaints mechanism for Lebanon is under development on a pilot basis” (S/2016/572, para. 56). Additionally, it is worth noting that the gender distribution of UNIFIL troops is skewed towards men and the proportion of women in UNIFIL and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) has decreased since the last report (S/2016/572, para. 55, S/2016/189, para. 54).
These references are rhetorical and could be improved through including analysis, outcomes or impacts of the gender imbalance and outreach activities. In previous reports, this reference to sex-disaggregated data included a clause stating that UNIFIL is working to reduce gender imbalance in the mission by increasing the number of women deployed (S/2015/837, para. 59; S/2015/475, para. 51; S/2015/147, para. 60). However, this clause is omitted in the present report, which sends a message that addressing gender issues in the mission no longer a priority, and could have negative repercussions for women. The presence of women UN personnel can encourage women in local communities to report acts of sexual violence, and women and children affected by all armed conflict may feel more secure working with women in peacekeeping missions (S/RES/1960 (201), PP. 16, S/RES/1888 (2009), PP. 15). Considering that the sole reference to the WPS agenda in the mandate is to SEA and UN personnel, future reporting should consider including language or provisions from WPS resolutions. Additionally, reports should be using the accepted term, “survivor,” instead of “victim,” to empower agency of individuals exposed to SEA.
Municipal elections were held in Lebanon during the reporting period for the first time since 2010. Although there is no mandate component to cover them the report addresses women in this context twice. The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, in collaboration with international and national partners, “led the United Nations system” in a series of events across Lebanon to support Lebanese women to engage in politics and increase political representation, including training for women candidates with the goal of “strengthening the role of women in the democratic process and to raise awareness about gender issues.” In comparison to 2010, the number of women candidates increased slightly, from 5.6% to 6.4% and the number of elected women also rose, from 4.6% to 5.2%. In preparation for parliamentary elections, the Office is continuing these efforts (S/2016/572, para. 48). In the “Observations” section, the Secretary-General “encouraged strengthened women’s participation and effective representation in the elections with the highest turnout possible” (S/2016/572, para. 73).
Overall, the report could be improved by including analysis of the political situation for women, and outcomes of the political representation events. The reference in “Observations” would have been stronger if it noted measures taken to improve representation of women in elections and whether technical support by the UN was taken into account during the elections, as was offered in the previous report (S/2016/189, para. 73).
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
The WPS agenda should be prioritized in Lebanon. An especially potent juncture to enable the WPS agenda is the observations section, where the Secretary-General calls on all parties in Lebanon to “shield the country from the impact of the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic” and expresses concern over risk of radicalization among the Lebanese population, urging all stakeholders to work with the UN to formulate a comprehensive approach to preventing violent extremism (PVE) (S/2016/572, para. 70). This is “magnified considerably” by arms proliferation (S/2016/572, para. 71), and the report should have noted the differentiated impact that mines and arms have on women here and multiple other places (S/2016/572, para. 31, 41, 50, 63). Moreover, and despite several references to the dangers and threats posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al- Nusrah Front (ANF) (S/2016/572, para. 33, 34, 36, 39, 41), the report could be improved by recognizing that terrorism and violent extremism have a differential impact on the human rights of women and girls, including in the context of health, education and participation in public life, and are often targeted directly by terrorist groups (S/RES/2242 (2015), PP. 14). At the core of the UN’s strategy to prevent violent extremism is empowering women through developing strategies and interventions to counter terrorism and violent extremism. Funding should be committed to projects which address gender dimensions and women’s empowerment in this regard (S/RES/2242 (2015), OP. 13).
To seriously address the gender imbalance in UNIFIL forces, future reporting and mandates should consider including language from the Secretary-General reports A/69/779 and A/70/729, which were partially implemented in Lebanon. In particular, the initiative to increase representation of women among military personnel in peacekeeping, includes a target of 6% women representation by 2018, and should be integrated as part of joint strategies by UN and the government of Lebanon (A/70/729, para. 71).
To help women over low representation in politics, the Secretary-General could have pointed out obstacles to women, and how the UN can help to overcome them. In this regard, future reporting and mandates should include references to WPS resolutions, particularly Resolution 2122 (2013) which details how gender equality and women’s empowerment should be promoted through provisions in mission mandate renewals, especially to facilitate women’s full participation and protection in election preparation and political processes (S/RES/2122, OP. 4).
Finally, Lebanon is hosting over 1 million refugees at the time of reporting. As reported on page 20 by the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan Overview 2016-2017, a plan that Lebanon is signatory to and was referenced throughout the report (S/2016/572, para. 44, 45, 76, 77), “The unemployment rate of young women is particularly high in the region, as it exceeds that of young men by as much as 22 percentage points” (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Regional Refugee Resilience Plan Overview 2016-2017,” (p. 20). ). The livelihood projects for refugees that were mentioned make no reference to women (S/2016/572, para. 45, 77), but providing women with jobs should be prioritized, to empower women to be productive and have more control over their lives.