Date: 18 October 2016
Topic: The situation in Syria during reporting period 1 to 31 September 2016
Women, Peace and Security
This report, filed pursuant to Resolution 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and 2258 (2015), includes observations on the deteriorating situation in Syria, which the Secretary-General calls “the worst conflict of a generation” and the “world’s greatest humanitarian tragedy” (p. 41). The report, however, makes no specific reference to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda and fails to account for the specific impact that the humanitarian and security situations have on women. Compared to the last report from 1 to 31 August 2016 (S/2016/796), references to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda have remained at zero and failed to increase. While this report highlights concerns over civilian casualties, displacement and obstacles to humanitarian provisions, it fails to apply a gender lens to consider how women are specifically affected by the continuously deteriorating security and humanitarian situations. The report does not refer at all to human rights violations targeting women, including sexual and gender-based violence, and fails consistently throughout to provide sex-disaggregated data. Out of six statistics that relay information about civilian casualties in Syria, none indicate if women were among those who were killed (p. 2,4,5,9).
The Secretary-General’s report could have been stronger if it had incorporated gender as a cross-cutting issue throughout the report and specifically by including elements of the WPS agenda in the following components:
Considering the severe security situation for civilians due to continuing, deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, the report could have further specified how women are adversely affected, particularly by referring to the use of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) as a weapon of war (S/RES/1820 (2008) pp. 5, op. 1; S/RES/1888 (2009), op. 1; S/RES/1960 (2010), op. 1; S/RES/2106 (2013), op. 1, 12; S/RES/2242 (2015) pp. 11, 14). Failure to include data and analysis on SGBV in Syria is a significant oversight, as the prevalence of such violence is a major contributing factor to the humanitarian crisis; the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict has reported at sexual violence against women, girls, men and boys has been a characteristic of the Syrian conflict from its inception (http://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/countries/syrian-arab-republic/). Additionally, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Children’s Rights and Emergency Relief Organization (UNICEF) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) have all released reports regarding the prevalence and severity of SGBV in Syria; in this report, the Secretary-General should have called the Council’s attention to these publications and asked that action be taken to address this element of the humanitarian crisis (SCR 1325 (2000), OP 12; SCR 2242 (2015)).
Additionally, the report could have focused more strongly on the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs), including references to the security concerns of displaced women and the prevalence of sexual violence in IDP camps (S/2016/873 p. 16-28). Ideally, the report would have provided information on whether gender-sensitive provisions to ensure women’s safety are discussed and integrated into any human rights monitoring and protection efforts, including in IDP camps.
Due to lack of detail in reporting, it remains unknown throughout this report if women or women’s local civil society organizations were consulted at all in the design and implementation of humanitarian assistance. This report also misses an opportunity to recall Resolution 1889 (2009), which details the importance of women being integrated into aid management and planning, and how not only Member States, but also international and regional organizations, should take further measures to improve women’s participation in this regard.
The report would have greatly benefited from commenting on whether any of the UN agencies or partner organizations, including OHCHR, WFP, WHO, UNICEF, UNRWA and UNHCR, 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, as per Resolution 1325 (2000), OP 12. In its mention of the continuous challenges regarding humanitarian access, including administrative difficulties in obtaining visas, the report would have been stronger had it specified whether any international or national non-governmental organizations were targeting women’s health issues, including reproductive health and family planning provisions and women’s rights advocacy, and if they faced additional challenges or restrictions (S/2016/796 p. 29). Additionally, the report should have noted the participation or lack of participation by women’s groups in the design and provision of humanitarian aid, as per Resolution 2242 (2015) (S/RES/2242 op. 16).
Inability to access a majority of areas needing medical support is detailed across the report. The discussion would have been stronger if it was inclusive of information specifically regarding women’s needs, such as: secure access to sanitation and hygiene facilities; physical and mental health assistance, including reproductive health, family planning; providing medical and psychological support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV); and provision of maternal health services. Future reporting should apply language contained in Resolution 2242 (2016), which recognizes the importance of gender programming in humanitarian responses and urges relevant actors to ensure women and women’s groups participate meaningfully in the programming and provision processes (S/RES/2242 (2015), op. 16). Further, the report would have benefited from detailing whether specific provisions have been made or are planned to assist women in hard-to-reach areas and besieged areas (S/2016/873, p. 22).
Ideal Transformational Asks
Future reports must reaffirm, enhance and strengthen the Security Council’s commitment to fully and effectively incorporate the WPS agenda into all conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts in Syria, including through women’s participation and leadership in all decision-making processes and support for women’s civil society organizations. Given the deteriorating security and humanitarian situations in Syria, including the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, specific attention must be paid to women’s participation in all security-related matters, including addressing the security needs of internally displaced women and girls. Future resolutions and reporting on the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, including by the ISSG ceasefire task force and ISSG humanitarian task force, as well as on the likely establishment of ceasefire monitoring mechanisms must be reflective of the voices of local populations and account for women’s participation in design and implementation strategies per Resolution 2106 (2013) op 12 (S/RES/2106 (2013) op. 12).
Given the rapid dissemination of violent extremist ideology and the unimpeded attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Daesh), Al Nusrah Front (ANF) and individuals, groups and entities associated with Al-Qaida, future resolutions must be reflective of the latest WPS Resolution 2242 (2015), which recognizes the importance of women’s participation in countering violent extremism (CVE) (S/RES/2252 (2015), pp. 13, 14, op. 11, 12, 13). Recognizing the adverse impact of terrorism and violent extremism on women’s and girls’ human rights, future resolutions on Syria must consider consultations with women’s civil society organizations and ensure women’s participation and leadership in developing and implementing CVE strategies. The Security Council must further mandate international actors to conduct and support gender-sensitive research on the drivers of radicalization, particularly for women, and on the impact of counter-terrorism strategies on women’s rights and the operation of women’s civil society organizations.