Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and 2258 (2015) (S/2016/60).
Date: 21 January 2016
Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is on the humanitarian situation in Syria.
Women, Peace and Security
The Secretary-General’s report gives an account of major developments in Syria, including both political/military and humanitarian aspects, and recognizes that the situation continues to be defined by the parties’ “widespread disregard for the rules of international humanitarian law and the obligation of all parties to protect civilians.” While the report gives detailed accounts of human rights violations against civilians from both the Syrian government and non-state armed groups, and information on humanitarian provisions and protection of civilian measures, it does not apply a gender lens to consider how women are specifically affected by the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation. The report does not include any specific references to the WPS agenda, such as mentions of WPS resolutions, and – unlike previous reports – does not report on women casualties at all and refers to human rights abuses against women only in one instance when accounting for the deteriorating conditions in the women’s section of a prison in Damascus. The prevalence of sexual and gender-based violence is only mentioned once when accounting for the grave human rights violations inside government detention centers.
Regarding the humanitarian response, the report accounts for the delivery of “reproductive health-care services and services relating to gender-based violence to 18,000 people” by UNFPA partners and the delivery of “health and midwifery kits for over 200,000 people” by UNICEF. Given these very limited references to the situation of women, which has not seen any improvements compared to the last reporting period, one can assume the continuance of an overall unawareness for the importance of gender-sensitive reporting to assess how women, men, girls and boys are affected differently and to address their specific security and humanitarian needs.
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
Reporting on women’s concerns in accordance with the WPS agenda could have been stronger on several occasions.
While the report concludes by calling for a “genuine Syrian-led political settlement based on Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva communiqué,” the report does not emphasize the importance of ensuring women or women’s civil society participation. Additionally, in its consideration of the negotiations over local agreements between the government and non-state-armed groups, the report fails to mention whether women representatives were part of these processes to ensure that women’s voices are heard in any decision-making process regarding conflict resolution and the facilitation of humanitarian relief. Ensuring women’s participation in all decision-making processes is crucial as only a gender-balanced view on the deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situation on the ground can ensure that the varying needs of women, men, girls and boys are adequately addressed.
The report would have greatly benefited from commenting on whether any of the UN agencies or partner organizations, including WFP, WHO, UNICEF 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. Additionally, information on whether local civil society organizations, particularly women’s civil society, were consulted in the design and implementation of delivery mechanisms for humanitarian assistance would have been desirable.
In its mention of the continuous challenges regarding humanitarian access, including administrative difficulties in obtaining visas, the report would have been stronger if it had specified whether organizations working on women’s health issues, including reproductive health and family planning provisions, face additional challenges or restrictions. Ideally, the report would have included information on how to specifically address women’s needs, such as secure access to sanitation facilities as well as hygiene and health assistance including reproductive health, family planning and maternal health services. Further, the report would have benefited from detailing whether specific provisions have been made, or are planned, to assist women in hard-to-reach and besieged areas. In its mention of the number of international NGOs that have been authorized to partner with national humanitarian organizations, the report should have, ideally, included whether these include organizations that provide specific assistance to women, including women’s rights advocacy and women’s health services.
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 as a tool of war. Additionally, the report could have focused more on the situation of IDPs, including references to the security concerns of displaced women and the prevalence of sexual violence in IDP camps. Ideally, the report would have provided information on whether gender-sensitive provisions to ensure women’s safety are available or in the planning process at IDP sites with input from women and women’s organizations.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Pursuant to resolution 2043 (2012), which mandates UNSMIS to monitor and support the full implementation of the Envoy’s six-point proposal (annexed to resolution 2042 (2012)) to bring an immediate end to all violence and human rights violations and securing humanitarian access, resolution 2139 (2014) and resolution 2165 (2014), future reports by the Secretary-General must reflect the Security Council’s commitment to the WPS agenda and provide updates on the implementation of gender-sensitive programming regarding both participation and protection concerns. Applying a gender lens throughout the report will ensure that all genders are adequately represented and their particular needs in regards to the severe security, political and humanitarian situation are being met.