Prepared By Colleen Bromberger
Reporting Period: 1-31 October 2018
Reena Ghelani, Director of the Operations and Advocacy Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefs the Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East (Syria). (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)
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 (OP 6); to demilitarise medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities (OP 10); to lift the sieges of populated areas (OP 5); to end impunity for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights (OP 13). Pursuant to Resolution 2165 (2014), the Security Council also requests to establish a mechanism to monitor the humanitarian situation on the ground (OP 3). In this vein, Resolution 2139 (2014) invites relevant actors to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society, including women (OP 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 (OP 1).
During the reporting period, hostilities against civilians continued to take place both in the Idlib province (para 1) and the southeastern Dayr al-Zawr Governorate, where civilians in the latter were affected by displacement, deaths and collapse of infrastructure (para 2). Deployment of humanitarian aid continued to be a concern, with several children dying in the Rukban camp as a result of a lack of access to resources (para 3). As in the previous report, no convoys were deployed and the bi-monthly humanitarian program was not approved by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic; however, UN agencies and humanitarian partners continued to provide services both in the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as cross-border (para 4).
Of the 46 paragraphs in the report, only seven (~15%) made any reference to women, gender and/or sexual and gender-based violence. While this report marks an end to the recent downturn of gender-sensitive references in the Secretary-General’s reports on the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, the references themselves were largely unsubstantial and focused on women as recipients of aid or victims of atrocities. Overall, the Secretary-General has increased his references to Women, Peace and Security issues since the first report of 2018 in January of 2%; however, the recent downturn in percentages of gender-sensitive references is concerning for fulfilling the mandate of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2139 (2014).
As in the previous two reports, the Secretary-General made no references to participation, including and excluding gender. The Syrian political process is mentioned briefly by the Secretary-General in his reference to the meeting in Istanbul on 27 October among the leaders of France, Germany, the Russian Federation and Turkey on implementing confidence-building measures to encouraging the success of both the political process and a lasting ceasefire (para 14). While the Secretary-General does urge the concerned parties to continue with the Special Envoy working toward a political solution (para 46), this marks the fourth report in a row with no references to the importance of a inclusive political solution. Furthermore, references to the political solution in the four most recent reports have been solely top-down, without a comprehensive notation of how local organisations are being included in the peace process. Similar to the previous report, the Secretary-General references the importance of civil society organisations (CSOs) in complying with International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic (para 42); this is a welcomed addition in that it highlights the critical role of CSOs in accountability and justice.
Since the reporting period of August, there has been no increase in the functioning community centres, which offer services that assist with preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), offered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), thereby keeping the number of centres at 97 (para 32). As noted previously, and 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 is an important avenue for the prevention of SGBV; however, United Nations bodies, such as the UNSC, have notoriously avoided the linking the reduction of SGBV and disarmament in their debates.
While protection remains one of the most prevalent themes in the Secretary-General’s report, very few of these references contain substantial and concrete actions on the protection of women through gender-sensitive services. One of the few example of references to women-focused protection services is the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) provision of reproductive health and gender-based violence services that reached 290,000 people during the reporting period, an increase of 15,000 since last month’s report. While the identification of vulnerabilities, as well as the noted services to combat these injustices, are critical to developing inclusive frameworks for protecting civilians, this lens continues to ignore patriarchal systems and violent masculinities in perpetuating warfare and further entrenching gender norms of women as a vulnerable population.
Relief & Recovery
As noted in the previous report, detention in the Syrian Arab Republic remains a serious concern for the relief and recovery stage of humanitarian assistance. For example, 28 staff members of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNFPA and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) were either detained or missing during the reporting period (para 38); however, no disaggregated data was provided in his report regarding these detainees departments, missions, gender, age, last location seen, etc. Considering that 27 staff members were detained during last month alone, recent reports show that there is a trend in detention and missing persons that are working in the humanitarian sector. No information was provided on the whereabouts of the detainees from the previous report. Overall, the lack of information and focus in the Secretary-General’s reports is a huge problem considering the size and scope of detention. Furthermore, the report was a missed opportunity to highlight some of the efforts of women’s organisations, such as the group Families for Freedom, that advocate for combatting arbitrary detention in the peace negotiations. An improvement from the prior report, the Secretary-General notes that women and children are disproportionately impacted by the lack of basic services in the eastern Dayr al-Zawr Governorate (para 6), thereby disaggregating data in identifying, on a basic level, how relief and recovery services affect different demographics.
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. Future reports of the Secretary-General should note the progression and/or regression of all participation efforts, especially concerning specific women’s groups or CSOs, such as the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board, in fulfilling the request of Resolution 2139 (2014) to ensure full participation by all groups and segments of Syrian society. Specifically, women must be equally included in CSO delegations with a 50% quota, as well as include women in all stages of the campaigning, negotiations and the political process. 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. More references to the importance of CSOs in future reports would be helpful in demonstrating the necessity of local and bottom-up advocacy work in the overall peace process.
In order for conflict to be holistically preventing, disarmament efforts must be addressed at both the local and high levels. Field missions must support curbing the ongoing flow and trade of arms, including explosive and small or light arms. At the high level, the Secretary-General should encourage the Syrian Arab Republic, and the surrounding states of Turkey and Jordan, to ratify and implement the 2013 UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), as well as 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. In the context of gender-sensitive disarmament approaches, the Secretary-General must also inquire the Syrian government and the UNSC 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 CSOs 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 su
Relief & Recovery
The existing political deadlock on accountability in the Syrian Arab Republic greatly limits any meaningful measures to tackle immunity of perpetrators of grave human rights violations and crimes. In consideration of this, the UNSC should support the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on international crimes committed in Syria. 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. The Secretary-General should also continue his work of providing disaggregated data for the impact of relief and recovery services, as well as be transparent with the data.