Period of Time and Topic: Covering the period from 26 January to 27 April 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/2016/77), both in terms of quantity (from 11 to 10 references) and scope. References to women broadly focus on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) serious abuses and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, with the Secretary-General “condemning in the strongest possible terms the continued killings, kidnappings, rape, and torture of Iraqis by ISIL, which may constitute crimes against humanity war crimes and even genocide” in the Observation section (S/2016/396, para. 78). Unfortunately, the report does not offer any analysis on the gender dynamics of the conflict itself, and overall, is gender blind, missing key opportunities to identify women’s protection concerns, particularly in regard to military offensives and inter communal and sectarian fighting, and women’s participation concerns, particularly in Iraq’s political reform processes.
Security Situation (including Demilitarization and Arms Management)
The Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide a gender lens to the security sector, with no references to women in the report’s discussion of the “security situation” (S/2016/396, para. 18-22). During the reporting period, the report notes that Iraqi security forces focused on expanding control in Anbar, including central Ramadi, as well as consolidating control over liberated areas in Salah al-Din and Ninewa governorates (S/2016/396, para. 2). Ideally, the report would have detailed women’s protection concerns, and provided information on liberated Yazidi women and other detained minorities and shia and sunni women, particularly in regards to government provision of security services. Most alarmingly, the Secretary General fails to provide information on the gender dimensions of the impact of anti-ISIL military campaigns. The report notes objections to the inclusion of popular mobilization forces in efforts to retake Mosul, as the result of “allegations of poor conduct in other retaken areas,” with the Government committing to ensure “neither the popular mobilization forces nor Peshmerga would enter the city once ISIL was expelled” (S/2016/396, para. 19). The report should have provided information on the kinds of abuses cited by these forces, including whether or not sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) was alleged. Similarly, the report should provide information on the gender dimensions of the “reprisal attacks” against the sunni community in Muqdadiyah (S/2016/396, para. 20), including whether or not sunni women were targets of such attacks. Finally, in its discussion of the security challenges faced by UN staff Members in Iraq (S/2016/396, para. 67-70), the report should detail if female staff face different and/or greater risks than male staff as well as provide information on whether the implementation of “extensive security management measures” by the United Nations security management system considered gender in all assessments and implementation procedures (S/2016/396, para. 68, 69). At a minimum, the Secretary-General report should provide sex-disaggregated data on cited civilian casualties, injuries, abductions, including of UN personnel, particularly the UNAMI recorded a minimum of 3,418 civilian casualties from 27 January to 31 March 2016, which brought the total number of civilian casualties since the upsurge of violence and armed conflict in the country that commenced in January 2014 to 62, 656 (21,272 deaths and 41,384 wounded) (S/2016/396, para. 41).
Political Activities and Electoral Assistance
The portion of the report reviewing the political and electoral activities of UNAMI provides a narrative summary detailing the ways in which the mission engaged women and civil society to support their participation in political, electoral, and reconciliation processes, including the implementation of the national action plan on Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325. While the report includes four references related to WPS issues, women and civil society are entirely absent from the reports discussion of the “political situation” (S/2016/396, para. 5-17).
In regards to political and reconciliation processes, the report notes that UNAMI supported civil society in three instances. First, UNAMI assisted civil society representatives, including members of the 1325 Alliance and the Iraqi Women’s Network, in pressing for women’s inclusion in national reconciliation efforts, as well as the wider national political processes (S/2016/396, para. 36). In addition, in February 2016 in Najaf, Baghdad, and Erbil, UNAMI supported Interfaith Harmony Week, attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including “civil society representatives,” in which discussions emphasized the importance of inclusive dialogue, the need for durable solutions for internally displaced persons, and education and awareness programmes to steer youth away from extremism (S/2016/396, para. 35). Further on 12 March 2016 in Baghdad, UNAMI co-organized a conference titled,“The establishment of the Civil Peace and Social Coexistence Network,” which brought together over 100 representatives from civil society organizations to discuss how to promote their active engagement in political and community reconciliation and in combating “ethno-sectarian and area-based segregation,” as well as in advancing national reconciliation and social peace (S/2016/396, para. 37). Ideally, the report would have provided information on the outcome and/or recommendations of civil society representatives for all three events. Contextual information on women and civil society challenges to participate in formal processes also would have strengthened the report, providing a greater understanding of why these UNAMI initiatives are important for the on-going processes.
During the reporting period, UNAMI also provided technical support to the government of Iraq. The report notes that UNAMI continues to support the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) (S/2016/396, para. 36). In addition, UNAMI continued to provide technical advice to the Commission in the planning of the 2017 Provincial Council elections, including supporting the Commission’s development of an institutional “gender policy” and related training (S/2016/396, para. 39). These references would have been much stronger and more effective if they provided specific information on UNAMI’s support and information on whether or not the Government of Iraq implemented UNAMI’s advice. Further, information should be provided on the implementation of the National Action Plan on Resolution 1325 as well as information on women’s inclusion in elections based on Government policy, specifically how the proposed gender policy will impact women’s access to polls and whether any contingency plan exists to ensure women displaced as the result of conflict have such access.
In the Observation section, the Secretary-General calls on the Prime Minister of Iraq to continue to work to consult civil society in pursuing reform processes, while urging inclusive representation of women (S/2016/396, para. 73). However, the Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide a gender lens to the political developments, with no information on the situation of women is provided in regards to the key political developments, including in the abolishment of party quotas to appoint members of the executive (S/2016/396, para. 3), tenuous relations with the Kurdish region (S/2016/396, para. 15) and the possibility of a future referendum vote (S/2016/396, para. 17), and protests against the Government of Iraq, particularly Baghdad’s Tahrir Square in February 2016 (S/2016/396, para. 9). Women’s participation in formal political processes and sectors as well as opposition to such processes is thus largely unknown. This is particularly alarming, as all political developments mentioned impact the Government of Iraq’s abilities to finance the war against ISIL, address humanitarian challenges, and undertake reconstruction and rehabilitation activities, all of which specifically affect the livelihoods of women in Iraq.
With regards to women’s protection, the report discusses two instances in which service provision meets the needs of women. During the reporting period, protection monitoring teams of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reached hundreds of thousands of at-risk women and girls, and child protection partners provided sustained psychosocial support to over 4,000 newly registered children (S/2016/396, para. 59). In addition, the report cites UNFPA mobile support teams reached hundreds of victims, including women and girls fleeing ISIL, while UNDP-supported legal aid centres in Erbil, Sulaimaniya, and Dohuk governorates, providing free legal and psychosocial services to thousands of survivors and continued working with non-governmental organizations to raise awareness and provide training on SGBV case management, referrals, and policing (S/2016/396, para. 64). At a minimum, these references should have included specific statistics on the number of women and girls provided with services, specifying the kinds of services, particularly whether women and girls had accesses to needed health, trauma, sexual and reproductive services, and whether or not women and girls on the frontlines of military offensives and hostile military environments could be reached. Discussing whether or not UN agencies conducted gender-sensitive needs assessments prior to implementation would have also provided important information into the kinds of gender-sensitive emergency and contingency planning that exists on the ground.
Overall, the information provided on humanitarian assistance is gender-blind, failing to provide specific information on how women are affected differently by the conflict as well as how UN agencies and partners have effectively tailor humanitarian assistance to meet these needs, including in applying strategies and programs to foster gender inequality and reduce and mitigate the risks of gender-based violence, particularly in regard to continued military offenses. The report also fails to provide information on women’s participation, particularly whether or not women’s organizations have been trained, consulted or engaged in design, implementation, and monitoring of the provision of services.
Human rights issues in the report broadly focus on the human rights violations committed by ISIL (also known as Da’esh). Noting numerous reports of violations, particularly by ISIL, received by UNAMI, the report cites “women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly, as well as members of ethnic and religious communities,” as “particularly vulnerable” to serious abuses and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law (S/2016/396, para. 43). In addition, the report cites the 1,500 Yazidi women and children that remain in ISIL captivity. During the reporting period, UNAMI also noted allegations of ISIL’s use of weaponized chemical agents, which reportedly killed a three-year-old girl and a nine-year-old girl in an attack in in Tazah district, Kirkuk governorate on 8 March 2016 (S/2016/396, para. 46). The report could have further specified how women are adversely affected by ISIL, particularly by referring to the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a strategic objective of the organization. Additionally, the report should have provided gender analysis on the threat ISIL poses to women and girls, particularly in regards to their acquisition of more lethal means of violence. Ideally, the report would have also provided information on the specific vulnerabilities of populations, as the current conflation of “women” with “children, persons with disabilities and the elderly, as well as members of ethnic and religious communities” suggests the impact of ISIL on women’s protection is linked with that of other populations, which may serve to obscures these populations unique needs and ignore the intersectionalities of the vulnerability of these identities.
Although the report cites numerous attacks on civilians by the military and other armed militias (S/2016/396, para. 48-49), the Secretary-General misses an opportunity to provide any information on women’s human rights abuses, including sexual and gender-based violence, in regards to military offensives, including airstrikes, as well as violations perpetrated by armed groups. This conflict may have different root causes of violence separate and apart from the ISL, including political and economic drivers. As such, it requires analysis, particularly in regard to the relationship between gender-based violence and the violence, which may jeopardize peace and the promotion of gender equality on a larger scale.
Rule of Law
The report provides no information on the gender dimensions of the judicial system, making only one reference to legal developments, citing the sentencing of 40 individuals to death in the Speicher Three trial (S/2016/396, para. 51). At a minimum, the report should have provided contextual information about how this trial has affected community relations and detailed women’s involvement. However, given the repeated mentions throughout the report of military and associated forces alleged abuse and misconduct, the Secretary-General misses an important opportunity to detail the rule of law issues around these allegations as well as to call on the Government of Iraq to ensure all investigations are conducted in accordance with international standards and no impunity is granted for military personnel, including in cases of sexual and gender based violence and violence against women.
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, and cite how to address the impact of anti-ISIL military campaigns. 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. Overall, gender analysis is needed to understand the relationship between gender-based violence and violent conflict in regards to all parties, but particularly ISIL.
Analysis is forthcoming.