Report of the Secretary-General:
On the Implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015) and 2332 (2016) in the Syrian Arab Republic
Date: 23 May 2017
Period: 1-31 April 2017
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), 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; to demilitarise medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities; to lift the sieges of populated areas; to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights. Pursuant to Resolution 2165 (2014), the Security Council also requests to establish a mechanism to monitor the humanitarian situation on the ground. In this vein, Resolution 2139 (2014) invites relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women (para. 30).
The report gives a detailed account of humanitarian and security situation in Syria and provides an update on the 18-19 April 2017 experts’ meeting of the three guarantor states  in Tehran and the 5 April 2017 Brussels Conference on the Syrian Arab Republic and the Region, which “reinforced the calls for unconditional support for ongoing humanitarian and resilience-building activities” (Box 2). Specifically, the report expresses concerns about growing violence in multiple areas, which results in further civilian deaths and injury (paras. 6, 7, 9, 13), and continuous attacks on civilian infrastructure including educational and medical facilities (paras. 14, 19). According to the report, continued attacks resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties fuel calls for further violence and push the parties to the conflict and supporting states away from seeking a peaceful solution (para. 13). Of the utmost importance is the use of sarin gas to attack civilians in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib that resulted in 90 people killed and 200 people injured, while none of the parties to the conflict have taken responsibility for this attack  (para. 4). Deliberate interference and restrictions by all parties to the conflict also continued to prevent aid delivery. The report notes that the majority of United Nations agencies and their partners continue to be unable to access populations in need in ISIL-controlled areas of the country, given that all plans to deliver assistance to those areas have been suspended owing to the inability to work independently and monitor activities (para. 22).
Of 52 paragraphs in the report, 1 (1,92%) include references to women and gender. References to the engagement of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board have been lost. The existing references in the report and in the annex to women’s rights and experiences disproportionately highlight their vulnerability (para 18).
The protection needs of women in Syria are not discussed in the report. The conflict in Syria has witnessed intense use of explosive weapons in highly populated areas by warring parties and their international allies. This practice has not yet been faced with this Council’s scrutiny despite causing huge civilian death, destruction of infrastructure and displacement, all with distinct, severe and disproportionate impact on women. Women affected by explosive violence often have fewer opportunities to access health care services and reconstruction processes. When heading the household, as women often do during armed conflict, they face systematic discrimination in trying to provide for their families. They also become more susceptible to further physical attack and sexual exploitation, especially when displaced from their homes. In fact, the report does not refer to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) crimes, not even once.
The risk of SGBV is heightened during conflict by aggravating factors, including the polarisation of gender roles, the proliferation of arms, the militarisation of society and the breakdown of law and order. There is no discussion on measures undertaken by relevant actors to prevent further instances of SGBV and proliferation of weapons and improvised explosive devices. The UN Secretary-General does not bring any light to the lack of international commitment to refraining from arms sales and ammunition supplies to the Syrian government and other parties to the conflict. While several Member and observer States of this Council support the Syrian peace process, many of them are nevertheless paradoxically implicated in arms transfers to all warring parties. The billions spent on technologies of war rather than on peacebuilding, development, and human rights perpetuate a militarised security approach to conflict and international relations, that has proved neither successful, nor sustainable.
While Resolution 2139 (2014) requests all relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society (para. 30), all subsequent reports are silent on this issue. The empowerment of Syrian women requires full recognition of their active role in leadership, development, conflict resolution and promotion of durable and sustainable peace, rather than perceiving them as mere victims of the conflict. The UN Secretary-General does not incorporate gender analysis in his coverage of the political and security situation and fails to highlight the main barriers to women’s participation in Syria.
Relief and Recovery
The protection and empowerment of women in Syria require a more comprehensive legal response to the crimes committed against women in particular and against civilians in general, including the fight against impunity and the change in the existing legal framework. While the existing political dead-lock significantly limits the possibility of adjusting legal system and addressing impunity in Syria, the UN Secretary-General’s report, at the same time, makes no specific references to the women, peace and security (WPS) agenda and fails to account for the lack of services provided for women in the context of the current humanitarian and security situations in Syria.
Women are the leading actors who address peace and security issues, break siege, mobilise convoys to ensure supplies, identify early warning signs of radicalisation. They are also first responders and provide medical support. Yet they are not trusted with the necessary space for meaningful participation and resources to develop and continue their work. Reporting process should be reflective of the status of women’s participation in design and implementation of all initiatives throughout the conflict cycle. The Secretary-General should call on the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria to strengthen and enhance the role of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in the peace process, and invite the Security Council to ensure its framework for operation promotes accountability for human rights violations and effectively incorporate Syrian women’s voices in all respects of the process. Moreover, the Secretary-General should urge the Office to include Syrian gender experts in all expert meetings under the technical consultative process to ensure that a gender perspective is taken into account in discussions on constitutional and legal issues.
The report must include information not only on cases of violations of the ceasefire agreement and the use of weapons against critical infrastructure. Also it should discuss the efforts that are made by all parties to the conflict to end all forms of violence and attacks against civilians (S/RES/2139, para. 2). If there are no efforts made, it also has to be clearly stated and further addressed by the Security Council. An update on the ways to address restrictions on humanitarian aid to women in hard-to-reach and besieged areas and prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence, including in IDP camps is also required.
The report confirms that militarisation is on the rise in Syria. The UN Secretary-General should urge Council Members and observer states to start adopting a different approach that addresses the root causes of the unending conflict in Syria, and confront the ongoing transfer of weapons to all parties in the conflict using the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty as a basis for action. Such approach is guaranteed to prevent and reduce gender-based violence in Syria, and facilitate a new, nonviolent, effective, community-driven, and sustainable peace process.
The lack of references to the WPS resolutions in both UNSG reports and UNSC resolutions on Syria further complicates the implementation of the WPS Agenda in the country-specific context. It is imperative that the UN Secretary-General’s reports on the situation in Syria integrate gender analysis throughout each section of the report to ensure women’s concerns are adequately represented, providing a balance between the protection and participation aspects.
 The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Russian Federation and Turkey.
 The OPCW fact-finding mission in the Syrian Arab Republic is investigating the attack and is ready to deploy to Khan Shaykhun should the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic facilitate the visit and the security situation permit.