Letter dated 17 February 2016 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council (S/2016/152)
Date: 17 February 2016
Topic: This report by the Secretary-General is the 60-day report on the implementation of resolution 2254 on a political solution to the Syrian crisis, pursuant to Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).
Women, Peace and Security
In its efforts to ensure “the adequate participation of women in the negotiations in line with relevant Security Council resolutions”, the report provides accounts of meetings between the Special Envoy and the women’s advisory board nominated by Syrian women’s organizations, as well as with 17 representatives of Syrian civil society organizations. Drawing on the provisions made in resolution 2254 (2015), the report further reiterates the urgent need to release arbitrarily detained persons, “in particular women and children.”
References in Need of Improvement and Missed Opportunities
The report could have been much stronger overall if it had specifically referred to the WPS agenda to reconfirm the Council’s commitment to women’s full and meaningful participation in all decision-making processes and conflict resolution efforts. However, given that resolution 2254 (2015) itself only refers to women’s participation in the preambular paragraphs, calling for “the meaningful participation of women in the UN-facilitated political process for Syria”, the report can be viewed as a reflection of the rather non-inclusive language of the mandate.
Ceasefire/Cessation of hostilities
Recognizing the close linkage between securing a ceasefire and the ongoing political process, the report does not mention whether women are part of the ceasefire task force under the auspices of the UN. Women must be at the forefront of implementing confidence building measures for the viability of the political process and lasting ceasefire in order to strengthen trust and social cohesion between different societal groups. The report neither refers to any measures that are specifically targeted towards women nor mentions whether women representatives were engaged in the decision-making process regarding their implementation. More precisely, the report could have demonstrated awareness for women’s specific security concerns, particularly in view of rampant sexual and gender-based violence, by discussing the security threats that prevent women from taking part in political processes and impede their free movement.
Humanitarian assistance and human rights
The report completely fails to incorporate a gender lens in its consideration of the severe humanitarian situation and provisions made in resolution 2254 (2015) regarding unhindered humanitarian access. Ideally, the report should have mentioned whether any of the UN agencies or implementing partners operating in Syria have conducted or will conduct gender-sensitive needs assessments to identify how women and girls are adversely affected by the humanitarian crisis in order to effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to their specific needs. Additionally, the report should have spelled out the concrete ways in which it is a priority for the UN system to engage with civil society organizations, particularly women’s civil society, in the design and implementation of delivery mechanisms for humanitarian aid to ensure that gender is considered in all humanitarian measures. Moreover, considering the grave human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detainments as well as “massive and systematized violence, torture and death in captivity”, the report does not recognize the occurrence of sexual violence, particularly in government detention centers, as repeatedly mentioned in previous reporting periods.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
All UN Security Council action and all related reporting should reiterate the importance the UN system places on fully and effectively incorporating the WPS agenda into all conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts in Syria, including fostering women’s participation and leadership in all decision-making processes and providing support for women’s civil society organizations. Given the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Syria, including the indiscriminate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, specific attention must be paid to women’s participation in all security-related matters, including addressing the security needs of internally displaced women and girls. Recognizing the linkage between implementing a ceasefire agreement and a Syrian-led political dialogue, future resolutions and reporting on both the implementation of resolution 2254 (2015) and the cessation of hostilities must specifically account for women’s participation in the design and implementation of ceasefire monitoring mechanisms.