Mr. Jeffrey Feltman, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Council on the situation in the Middle East, focusing on renewed negotiations
between Israel and Palestine, the need for a political solution in Syria, and the spillover effects of the Syrian conflict upon Lebanon and the Golan. Mr. Feltman
recognized the recent meeting of the Quartet principals and leadership from the League of Arab States as positive developments in Israel-Palestine negotiations, but
also acknowledged challenges with continuing settlement construction, security incidents, collective demolitions, detentions, the Gaza blockade and illegal tunnel
construction. The Syria portion of the briefing emphasized the need for an inclusive and Syrian-led political process, with hopes being tied to the upcoming
“Geneva II” conference. With the exception of recent bomb attacks in Lebanon, the situations in Lebanon and the Golan Heights were referenced predominantly in
the context of the Syria crisis, especially with more than 1/5 of the population of Lebanon now being made up by Syrian refugees.
Mr. Feltman’s briefing offered minimal attention to women, peace and security, with only the occasional reference to gender-disaggregated data. Several Security
Council members and participating States, on the other hand, did acknowledge attacks against women and children in Syria (Republic of Korea, Brazil); the
displacement of Syrian women and children within Syria and abroad (Holy See, Botswana); the situation of Palestinian prisoners, including women and children
(Turkey, Bolivia); the impact of Israel’s evictions upon Palestinians, including women and children (Syria); and the need for humanitarian assistance to be delivered
in Syria irrespective of gender (Israel). The US, in particular, stressed the urgent need of humanitarian access to reach Moadamiya, Syria, where 12,000 people –
including 7,000 women and children – have been trapped for almost one full year. The US also recognized the impacts of the Syrian conflict upon medical
neutrality, with two northern governates now lacking female staff to cope with reproductive health emergencies or to respond to gender-based violence. Togo also
highlighted that the recent emphasis upon the destruction of chemical weapons within Syria should not overshadow continuing human rights violations such as rape
and sexual violence.
Israel attacked Iran’s record on women’s human rights, and Venezuela suggested that the “warmongers” financing and encouraging of terrorist groups in Syria have
thereby promoted hatred and the suppression of women.
Finally, the European Union pointed to the important role of women in Syrian society, and Iceland more specifically accentuated women’s roles as mediators and
participants in peace negotiations, and called for women to be actively involved in the Geneva II conference.
Although the open debate included a few brief references to women, peace and security, most speakers missed the opportunity to address widespread sexual violence
occurring against women within Syria, to respond to the gender-specific effects of the Syrian IDP and refugee crises that have predominantly affected women and
children, and to promote the role of women in all stages of peace processes in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, including within the “Geneva II” conference.
There is also no mention of the gender-based impact of the illicit transfer of arms within Syria and across the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The open debate had limited overlap with recent MAPs on Israel-Palestine (August 2013), Lebanon (August 2013) and Syria (September 2013). Several of the
themes raised in the MAPs were addressed in a gender-neutral capacity, such as the need for improved humanitarian access in Syria, for the situation in Syria to be
referred to the International Criminal Court (Luxembourg, European Union, Iceland, Botswana), and for a reduction of indiscriminate attacks harming civilians in
both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, few of the gender-specific recommendations were addressed, and despite the fact that all three MAPs
(on Israel-Palestine, Lebanon and Syria) called for the increased role of women in any peace processes, only the representatives from the European Union and
Iceland made any such mention of women’s participation.
The previous briefing of 20 August 2013 (S/PV.7032) had no mention of women, peace and security. While it is encouraging that this more recent debate did
acknowledge several aspects of women, peace and security, such comments were almost entirely confined to Member and participating States, as it was an open
debate. The previous meeting was only a briefing, and so when the respective briefings are compared, there is little change, as Mr. Feltman – like Mr. Serry before
him – offered virtually no reference to women, peace and security.