Implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and 2258 (2015) (S/2016/272)
Date: 23 March 2016
Topic: This report is on the humanitarian situation in Syria, pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014), and 2258 (2015). The Secretary-General’s report gives an account of major developments in Syria, including both human rights and humanitarian aspects, and recognizes that, while the situation has seen some positive changes on the ground following the cessation of hostilities which started on 27 February, “the conduct of hostilities by all parties was characterized by a widespread disregard for the rules of international humanitarian law and the obligation of all parties to protect civilians.”
Women, Peace and Security
While the report gives a detailed account of human rights violations against civilians by both the Syrian government and non-state armed groups and information on humanitarian provisions, 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 only sporadically reports on women casualties, in four instances. Unlike in previous reporting periods, this report does not refer to human rights abuses against women, including sexual and gender-based violence, at all. The only other reference relating to the WPS agenda is made in the observation section, calling for the release of detainees, “including women and children.” Given these limited references to the situation of women, 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 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.
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 organizations, 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 areas and besieged areas. In its mention of the number of national and 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 deteriorating 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 weapon of war. Additionally, the report could have focused more strongly 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.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Future reporting and resolutions must reaffirm, enhance and strengthen the Security Council’s commitment to fully and effectively incorporate the WPS agenda into all conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts in Syria, including through women’s participation and leadership in all decision-making processes and 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. Future resolutions and reporting on the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, including by the ISSG ceasefire task force and ISSG humanitarian task force, as well as on the likely establishment of ceasefire monitoring mechanisms must be reflective of the voices of local populations and account for women’s participation in design and implementation strategies.
Given the rapid dissemination of violent extremist ideology and the unimpeded attacks by ISIL, Al-Nusrah Front (ANF) and entities associated with Al-Qaida, future reports and resolutions must be reflective of the latest WPS resolution 2242 (2015), which includes women’s participation in countering violent extremism. Recognizing the adverse impact of terrorism and violent extremism on women’s and girls’ human rights, future reports and resolutions on Syria must consider consultations with women’s civil society organizations and ensure women’s participation and leadership in developing and implementing CVE strategies. The Security Council must, further, mandate international actors to conduct and support gender-sensitive research on the drivers of radicalization, particularly for women, and on the impact of counter-terrorism strategies on women’s rights and the operation of women’s civil society organizations.