Date: 26 April 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 account on major developments in Syria, including both human rights and humanitarian aspects, and recognizes that while the number of military operations has seen a clear decrease due to the cessation of hostilities agreement, which has been in place since 27 February, OHCHR has nevertheless documented “attacks by all parties to the conflict, including government forces, non-State armed opposition groups and designated terrorist groups.”
Women, Peace and Security
While the report gives detailed account on human rights violations against civilians from both the Syrian government and non-state armed groups, and informs 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, precisely in two instances. Stating that reporting on human rights violations and abuses has decreased during this reporting period, owing to a general decrease in fighting, the report does not refer to human rights abuses against women, including sexual and gender-based violence, at all. 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 cater to 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 highly 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 cater to 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 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 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 process of planning at IDP sites.
Ideal Asks for WPS Transformation
Future 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 resolutions must be reflective of the latest WPS resolution 2242 (2015), which included women’s participation in countering violent extremism. Recognizing the adverse impact of terrorism and violent extremism on women’s and girls’ human rights, future 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.