Prepared by Colleen Bromberger
Reporting Period: 1-30 June 2018
Pursuant to Security Council Resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), 2258 (2015), 2332 (2016), 2393 (2017) and 2401 (2018), 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 (para. 6); to demilitarise medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities (para. 10); to lift the sieges of populated areas (para. 5); to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights (para. 13). Pursuant to Resolution 2165 (2014), the Security Council also requests to establish a mechanism to monitor the humanitarian situation on the ground (para 3). 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). Moreover, Resolution 2401 (2018) demands that all parties cease hostilities without delay, and engage immediately to ensure full and comprehensive implementation of this demand by all parties (para 1).
The Secretary-General notes several key developments during the reporting period. First, violence and attacks against civilians continued to occur, with a notable instance on 17 June where air strikes in the southwest region of the Syrian Arab Republic resulted in 65 deaths and the displacement of an estimated 271,800 people (para 1). Moreover, medical facilities continued to be a target of attacks and civilians were increasingly affected by insecurity in the Idlib governorates (para 2). The Secretary-General notes that despite the adoption of Resolution 2401 (2018), hostilities between both state militia and non-state armed groups, as well as between non-state armed groups, continued in the governorates of Aleppo, Idlib, Ladhiqiyah, Dayr al-Zawr, Homs, Hama, Suwayda’, Dar‘a and Qunaytirah. Humanitarian assistance continued, with an assessment conducted by the Department of Safety and Security and the Mine Action Service in Raqqah (para 3), and a deployment of three inter-agency humanitarian convoys of life-saving relief, food and medical supplies that reached 218,500 people in the areas of Duma, Yalda, Babila, Bayt Saham and Rastan (para 5).
Out of the report’s 43 paragraphs, only ten (23%) made references to women and girls. This report reflects a 10% increase in references to gender and women from the previous report of May 2018, with nine (90%) of the ten focusing on women and girls as victims of armed conflict or recipients of humanitarian aid. While it is important for sexual and gender-based violence to be highlighted in the Secretary-General reports, women’s contributions to ending conflict must also be highlighted in order to work toward ending negative stereotypes of women as passive recipients of assistance. Additionally, adopting a consistent gender analysis in the context of Syria would help all stakeholders better understand these violations and address different needs, constraints and opportunities to ameliorate gender relations. In essence, it would provide the basis for developing gender-sensitive policies and approaches in response to the crisis in Syria.
The participation of women is referenced by the Secretary-General in one (2%) of the 43 paragraphs, noting his support for the Special Envoy’s call for a quota of 30% for women in the constitutional committee (para 43). While this reference is a notable increase from the the previous report, this call does not extend to the full inclusion of women’s participation in the peace process and political inclusion. Women must be equally included in civil society organisation delegations with a 50% quota, as well as include women in all stages of the campaigning and negotiations at all levels of the political process. As noted in previous reports, there was no reference in this report to any specific women’s groups or civil society organisations, including the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, despite the request of Resolution 2139 (2014) to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society. While the Secretary-General previously committed to incorporating gender in his reports, there remains a lack of gender analysis and discussion on the main barriers to women’s participation in Syria.
During the reporting period, the UNHCR oversaw the same number of programmes on prevention-related activities as the previous reporting period, including the functioning of 95 community centres, as well as 76,244 individuals reached through approximately 2,388 awareness-raising campaigns across 12 governorates on the prevention of/response to SGBV (para 30). Additionally, the UNFPA reached 360,000 people with their activities relating to the prevention of/response to sexual and gender-based violence and youth-related violence. Despite the continued assistance that the UN entities provide in outreach programmes, the report failed address the link between SGBV and armament, particularly in armed conflict settings. Arms control in an important avenue for the prevention of SGBV; however, United Nations bodies, such as the Security Council, have notoriously avoided the linking the reduction of SGBV and disarmament in their debates.
Given the increase in violence during the reporting period, the Secretary-General reports the increase of protection-related services from UN entities, including aid, psychosocial support services (para 20) and assistance to internally displaced persons (para 30). Protection was also offered in the form of identifying SGBV victims. It is imperative that gender is mainstreamed across humanitarian efforts, particularly where vulnerable persons do not have access to the full range of critical humanitarian services, including legal services like humanitarian visas and access to fair hearings.
Relief and Recovery
As demonstrated in the previous report, women are mentioned only in the capacity of receiving relief kits that help improve livelihoods, like the primary healthcare kits intended for mothers and children, during the reporting period (para 20). However, in the scale of the WPS Agenda, women were not included into the relief and recovery pillar beyond as recipients of aid. Most notably in the lack of discussion of reconstruction, security sector reform and enforcement of international law as necessary components for women’s equal participation and empowerment in the post-conflict society. The presence of a National Action Plan on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, such as in the case of Jordan, exemplifies how monitoring violations related to gender can be better enforced at the national level through security sector reform. Furthermore, the issues of enforced disappearances and detentions remain a serious problem in moving forward to the relief and recovery phases. One such report from the 35th Session of the Human Rights Council highlights that cases of detention, for Syrians and United Nations personnel, as well as the lack of access for humanitarian agencies to detention centers, are in violation of basic human rights. In this regard, several women have testified that they were detained and tortured in front of their family members in order to evoke confessions. According to the reports, SGBV was rampant in detention centers, a factor that was amplified by the lack of women working in the facilities.
The transparent, accountable and sustainable implementation of UNSCR 1325 (2000) and consecutive WPS resolutions is key to achieving sustainable peace in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Secretary-General should proactively call for and facilitate the meaningful participation of women in all relevant peace processes and peace negotiations and any future truth and reconciliation mechanisms, and advise the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria to strengthen and enhance the role of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board in peace processes. Pursuant to his mandate to facilitate an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, the Secretary-General should also stress the effective incorporation of Syrian women and civil society voices in peace dialogues and negotiations with mainstream peace and mediation organisations, think tanks and analysis groups working in and on Syria, so as to support the incorporation of gender perspectives into their policy, programmatic and advocacy work. The Secretary-General could also consider appointing a senior gender adviser at the D1 level of his office to support the work of the Special Envoy, in line with the recommendation of the 2015 UN Global Study on the implementation of Security Council 1325 and the 2015 UN High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.
There is an urgent need to curb the ongoing flow and trade of arms, including explosive and small or light arms. Adequate small arms regulation and control are important tools in reducing armed violence and promoting conditions conducive to sustainable development. Small arms also continue to facilitate a vast spectrum of acts that constitute human rights violations, including killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearance, torture and the forced recruitment of children. The Secretary-General should thus encourage the Syrian Arab Republic and surrounding states, Turkey and Jordan, to ratify and implement the 2013 UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and to establish enforceable national and regional regulations on small arms, consistent with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) General Recommendations No. 30 and 35. The Secretary-General must also inquire the Syrian government and the Council to support and provide flexible and predictable funding to women’s organisations in their work to prevent violent extremism and rehabilitate former extremists in the country. Future implementations of disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programmes must prioritise and be set up in consultation with women and girls.
The Secretary-General should call upon relevant international actors, including Jordan and Turkey, to strengthen their collaboration with women and civil society organisations to streamline coordination mechanisms and ensure the delivery of adequate, gender-sensitive humanitarian aid to vulnerable persons. He should also call for the international community to provide funding for psychosocial support programmes, with increased emphasis on trauma therapy, for survivors of sexual violence. Similarly, he should demand that parties to the conflict, over whom they have influence, release women and children held in detention, captivity, or as hostages as a confidence building measure and ensure that any women or children who have been subjected to sexual violence or abuse of any form be prioritised for specialised medical treatment, especially psychosocial care and support. Lastly, the Council should hold Member States to their total pledge of $ 4.4 billion (€ 3.5 billion) for humanitarian aid to Syria 2018, as well as multi-year pledges of $ 3.4 billion (€ 2.7 billion) for 2019-2020, at the 2018 Brussels Aid Conference.
Relief & Recovery
The existing political deadlock on accountability in Syria greatly limits any meaningful measures to tackle immunity of perpetrators of grave human rights violations and crimes. In consideration of this, the Council should support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on international crimes committed in Syria. The Secretary-General should call for long-term support from the international community to strengthen capacities of Syrian organisations and WHRDs working in the field, and provide expertise to assist in the preservation and documentation of evidence relating to sexual violence. Lastly, it is pertinent that the Council include regular briefings by the Commission of Inquiry as part of the formal agenda of the Security Council, including on the use of sexual violence, as well as support the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. Future reports should discuss, as a matter of urgency, referral mechanisms to the International Criminal Court or an ad hoc tribunal for human rights violations in the country, including enforced disappearances and detentions of civilians and United Nations personnel.