Period of Time and Topic: Covering the period from 26 October 2015 to 26 January 2016, the Secretary-General report provides information on the key developments in Iraq and provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) mandate.
Women, Peace and Security
Pursuant to Security Council resolution 2233 (2015), the Secretary-General report provides an update on the implementation of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). References to WPS issues have decreased when compared to the previous report (S/2015/819), both in terms of quantity (from 12 to 11 references) and scope. Reference to WPS broadly focus on civil society and women’s participation. Women’s participation is further highlighted in the Observation Section, in which the Secretary-General urges the Government of Iraq to “promote women’s empowerment,” including through the implementation of the national action plan on women, peace and security.The report also provides some analysis of the targeting of Iraqi females working in the public sphere, but unfortunately, there are several women’s protection issues highlighted in the report for which the Secretary-General fails to provide sufficient information or analysis, particularly the range of sexul violations committed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ Da’esh). The report also does not offer any analysis on the gender dynamics of conflict itself, and overall, is gender blind, missing key opportunities to identify women’s protection concerns in Iraq, particularly in regained territories from ISIL (also known as Da’esh).
Security Situation and Demilitarization and Arms Management
The Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide any references to women and civil society in the security sector. The report notes that Iraqi security forces focused on recovering areas under ISIL control, successfully recapturing Sinjar as well as recovering other areas in Anbar, Ninewa and Salah al-Din governorates. Ideally, the report would have provided information on women’s protection concerns in military offensives, particularly whether the liberation of ISIL controlled areas also resulted in freeing of any Yazidi women held as sex slaves and other detained minority, Shia and Sunni women. In addition, the report notes that intercommunal tensions remain the major threat to national reconciliation on the ground; however, the report fails to detail violence against women committed in violent clashes, as well as information on cited abductions. The report also details the rates of targeted attacks against civilians, particularly in Baghdad, in which civilians were the main targets of 374 incidents. In addition, the report notes an increasing trend in the number of civilian casualties, with at least 22,370 casualties since 2015. At a minimum, the Secretary-General report should provide sex disaggregated data on cited civilian casualties, injuries, abductions, including of UN personnel, and unidentified bodies.
Political Activities and Electoral Assistance
The portion of the report reviewing the activities of UNAMI in the area of political activities provides a narrative summary detailing the ways in which the mission engaged women and civil society to support their participation in political and reconciliation processes, including the implementation of the national action plan on women, peace and security. However, women are entirely absent from the reports discussion on the “political situation.”
In regards to women’s participation, the report notes that UNAMI continues to promote women’s rights in Iraq by support the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). In addition, on 25 and 26 of November in Baghdad, UN-Women held dialogues with representatives of women’s groups to develop a plan of action to promote women as “agents of change and transformative leaders for reconciliation and stabilization in their communities,” which culminated in a campaign for Human Rights Day, held on 10 December 2015 by UNAMI and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq, in partnership with the Council of Representatives, under the theme, “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.” The Secretary-General should have provided information on the the number of women engaged in these initiatives, the process of engagement as well as the outcomes and recommendations from these events. In particular, the Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide gender analysis on how the consultations and the campaign impact the larger institutional issues in Iraq with regards to women’s protection and participation. Additionally, information on whether local civil society organizations, particularly women’s organizations, were consulted would have been desirable. The report also misses an opportunity to provide an update on the implementation of the national action plan on women, peace and security, including UNAMI’s support to the implementation process, as well as to clarify whether UNAMI’s “support of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000)” goes beyond support of the national action plan.
The report also details three instances in which UNAMI engaged civil society in its efforts to promote national reconciliation in Iraq. On 16 December 2015, UNAMI organized two workshops in Baghdad to explore ways to improve cooperation between the Government of Iraq, the international community, and civil society organizations in reconciliation and peacebuilding activities. Further, on 7 November 2015, UNAMI supported a meeting of officials of the recently abolished State Ministry for Women’s Affairs, representatives of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights, and civil society organizations, in which participants concluded that the abolition of the Ministry was “a setback to the fulfilment of Iraq’s international obligations to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment,” specifically in terms of implementing the national strategy on the advancement of women, the national strategy on the elimination of violence against women, and the national action plan on resolution 1325 (2000). Meeting participants recommended the creation of an independent entity, in cooperation with the Council of Representatives, to monitor the status of and promote women’s rights through cooperation with civil society organizations. Overall, the report notes that UNAMI “continues to support the Government of Iraq to ensure “inclusive national reconciliation among all Iraqi components and political groups, civil society, and local communities.”
In its discussion of support to civil society participation in on-going political activities, the report would have been much stronger if it had specified whether women’s civil society organization and/or civil society organizations focused on women’s issues in Iraq participated in these UNAMI supported initiatives as well as specified UNAMI’s support of civil society beyond these few events. The report also should have provided information on the outcomes of these engagements with civil society, particularly if civil society discussed any concrete recommendations. The references to the meeting on the abolishment of State Ministry for Women’s Affairs could be used as a best practice example, as it does provide at least the outcome of the engagement. Ideally, the report would have also included information on the governance challenges and how to specifically address these issues in relation to women’s rights, particularly in regards to the abolishment of State Ministry for Women’s Affairs, and whether UNAMI intends to support an independent entity, in cooperation with the Council of Representatives, to monitor the status of women’s rights, as recommended by the participants.
The report further misses an opportunity to discuss women’s protection and participation concerns in efforts to consolidate sunni communities representation, the stalled reform processes and protests, the political reconfiguration of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and electoral assistance. In its mention of government efforts to fostering “a collective vision for reconciliation” within the Sunni component and on establishing mutual understanding on the meaning of reconciliation with Sunnis, the report should have detailed how Sunni women are represented and engaged in reconciliation. In addition, given the demands to address the status of Sunni detainees held without charge in the post-ISIL period, the report should have detailed women detainee protection concerns and challenges to women’s amnesty. Further, the report notes the continuation of protests over delays in civil servants’ salaries, stalled reform processes on delivery of services and corruption, and oil revenue disputes, which erupted in violence in Sulaymaniyah; however, the report fails to provide information on women’s participation and/or violence against women protesters as well as underline the gender dimensions of the protests. Ideally, the report would have also provided information on the gender dimensions of the tensions between the federal government and the Kurdish Regional Government, particularly the decision to reconfigure the Kurdistan Regional Government over political deadlock, and how such reconfiguration will affect women’s participation and access to Government. Most alarmingly, women are entirely absent from the discussion of UNAMI’s “targeted and specialized security support,” in which the Secretary General missed an important opportunity to outline how women will be supported in the scheduled 2017 election.Overall, the situation of women is unknown in regard to ongoing political crises and their participation in pre-electoral processes.
With regards to humanitarian activities, the report discusses the progress of protection monitoring teams, which have reached around 140,000 and provided 30,000 women and girls with access to women’s shelters. This reference would have been much stronger if it provided background information on why 30,000 women and girls required shelter as well as information on the kinds of services women and girls receive in these shelters, particularly sexual and reproductive health services. Ideally, given the reports of ISIL (also known as Da’esh) sexual abuse, the report should have noted whether or not survivors have access to sexul and gender-based trauma services, including sexual and psychosocial services, within the framework of protection monitoring teams.
The report also notes that the International Organization for Migration delivered trainings on community policing, which benefited 20 communities, and also trained 42 government officials and members of civil society on the issues of migration, trafficking, and humanitarian border management. However, the report provides no information on how these trainings affect humanitarian service provision and/or policies on humanitarian aid in Iraq. Ideally, the report also would have detailed whether women’s civil society representatives were trained to partake in community policing and/or whether trainings also outlined women’s specific protection concerns, namely sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
The report missed an opportunity to provide information on the gendered dimensions of the humanitarian situation in its discussion of food insecurity, the cholera outbreak, access to education, or on how gender-specific needs are being taken into account in the distribution of humanitarian aid. The report would have benefited from discussing whether any of the UN agencies or cluster partner organizations conducted gender-sensitive needs assessments to identify how women are affected differently in order to effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to their needs as well as collaborated with local civil society organizations, particularly women’s organizations, in the design and implementation of delivery mechanisms for humanitarian assistance. The report also lacks a discussion of the gender-sensitivity of emergency response and contingency planning. At a minimum, reporting should provide sex-disaggregated statistics on the 3.2 million people displaced, 470,000 returnees, and the 250,000 Syrian refugees.
Human rights issues in the report broadly focus on the human rights violations committed by ISIL (also known as Da’esh). The Secretary-General notes 1,500 women and children, mostly from the Yazidi community, are still held captive by ISIL, and recognizes the vulnerability of members of diverse ethnic and religious communities, women, children, people with disabilities and the elderly to ISIL control. In addition, the report notes ISIL continued targeting of women in the public sphere, citing two incidents of targeted violence that resulted in the deaths of three women. On 9 December, ISIL murdered a female secondary school teacher in Mosul for purportedly refusing to teach the new curriculum issued by the group. Similarly, on 25 and 30 November, respectively, ISIL publicly murdered a female former candidate to Parliament and a female former candidate to the Provincial Council in Mosul. In the report explanation of women’s human rights violations and vulnerability, women are coupled with other groups of populations, including children, which suggests that the impact of ISIL (also known as Da’esh) abuse is linked to that of other populations, serving to diminish the recognition of each population’s unique needs. Although the report provides some analysis to why specific women were targeted, the report does not provide any gender analysis of ISIL (also known as Da’esh), particularly in regard to their controlled territories. In addition, in the observation section of the report, the Secretary General condemns the “continuous killing, kidnapping, rape and torture of Iraqis by ISIL.” The human rights section of the report misses an opportunity to detail the sexual crimes committed by ISIL. The language used by the Secretary-General suggests that rape by ISIL is not only experienced by women, which should be further addressed in the report.
The report also provides a narrative summary detailing the ways in which the mission engaged civil society and women to support human rights. In follow-up to the universal periodic review of Iraq conducted by the Human Rights Council in March 2015, UNAMI held consultations on 23 November in Baghdad and on 14 December in Erbil with members of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq, the Independent Board of Human Rights of the Kurdistan region, and civil society representatives to support the development of Iraq’s second national action plan on human rights.In addition, the United Nations led a series of events and activities in Iraq to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign and highlight the plight of women as the group most affected by armed conflict.Ideally, the Secretary-General would have provided information on outcomes and recommendations from these engagements and detailed whether or not women’s organizations participated. Additionally, the Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide analysis on the context of these events, particularly the state of affairs in regards to human rights and gender-based violence in Iraq outside of ISIL-controlled territory; however, information on how the conflict and terrorism has exacerbated such violations and violence would have been desirable.
Rule of Law and Judicial Matters
The report misses an opportunity to provide information on the gender dimensions of the Iraqi judicial and penal system. The report notes that the Council of Representatives concluded its second reading of the draft of gender amnesty on 14 November 2015, citing continued disagreements over its content. The report, however, fails to provide information on women’s protection issues as well as how the law would be applied to women. It is also unclear if the law is purely stipulated for individuals living under ISIL-controlled territories. In addition, the report notes the drafts for the justice and accountability act, the banning of the Baath Party act and the national guard law remain stalled in Parliament. Similarly, the report fails to provide information on the impact of these laws on women’s protection and participation in government.
In the “Observation” section of the report, the Secretary-General notes “gender-based violence regrettably continues to occur frequently and is also having a major impact on girls’ access to education.” The report provides no information on the justification or context for the inclusion of this reference, as increases in gender-based violence and/or analysis of how girl’s education has been affected by violence are not outlined in the report. This reference is indicative of a larger issues within reporting on the situation of Iraq, in which gender-based violence and crimes are often cited, but no analysis is provided on the perpetration of such crimes, consequences, and/or redress.
Future Secretary-General reports on the situation in Iraq must ensure both the protection and participation aspects of the WPS agenda are fully represented in all sections. Women’s protection concerns must be clearly identified in the security, human rights, and humanitarian situations, with a comprehensive discussion of sexual and gender-based violence committed by ISIL (also known as Da’esh) and other groups, individuals, and entities within Iraq. The Secretary-General should also recognize in reports that violence against women in conflict is part of a continuum of violence and seek to provide context analysis for all cited instances of violence against women, particularly in regards to SGBV. Reports must also include information on women’s human rights violations and abuses carried out by Iraqi forces, militia and tribal forces, and Peshmerga. It is critical that UNAMI-supported initiatives and events to facilitate women and civil society participation outline the major recommendations of both groups. Reports should also provide comprehensive update on the implementation of Iraq’s National Action Plan (NAP) on SCR 1325 (2000). Reports must apply a gender lens to the humanitarian assistance efforts and and advocate for provision of medical care, ongoing psychosocial counseling and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, as mandated by SCR 2122 (2013), for women and girls. Similarly, a gender lens must be applied to all information on elections and legal changes in the country, with a focus on women’s right to vote, access to justice for survivors of SGBV, and legal documentation status women, including in the humanitarian sector. At a minimum, Secretary-General reports on the situation in Iraq must provide sex and age disaggregated data for all cited statistic within reports, including civilian casualties.