Tag Archives: women peace and security

#R2P Weekly:27-31 July 2015

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Infographic on Women, Peace and Security 

While the focus of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and the Responsibility to Protect differ in terms of scope and agenda, there are several ways in which they overlap and that work in these sectors can reinforce each other. Click here to see our latest infographic.

To learn more about how RtoP relates to other sectors, view our publication “RtoP And… (English and French) and readArms and Atrocities: Protecting Populations by Preventing the Means”.

Catch up on developments in…

Burma/Myanmar
Burundi
Central African Republic
Gaza
Iraq
Libya
Nigeria
South Sudan
Sudan/Darfur
Syria
Yemen
Other


Burma/Myanmar:

Student victims of the government crackdown on those protesting education reform earlier this year met with the Myanmar Human Rights Commission to discuss the violation of their Constitutional right to peacefully assemble. Local aid workers in Burma/Myanmar condemned the Burmese military for blocking aid to the estimated 1,000 newly displaced civilians from renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army, saying such action was a violation of international humanitarian law.


Burundi:

Pierre Nkurunziza won his third five-year term in the heavily disputed presidential election with 69.41 % of the vote. Nkurunziza’s main opposition leader, Agathon Rwasa, accepted his elected seat as a deputy speaker of parliament in the Burundian National Assembly despite his refusal to legitimize the presidential election.

The UN electoral monitoring mission in Burundi, MENUB, released a statement saying that “while election day was relatively peaceful and conducted adequately, the overall environment was not conducive for an inclusive, free, and credible electoral process.” Reporters without Borders reported that elections took place under a massive media blackout imposed by President Nkurunziza. Burundi’s Forum for Strengthening Civil Society (FORSC) stated that Nkurunziza should not be part of any national unity government, as he has broken the Arusha Accords. Burundian refugees reportedly are not returning home after elections, fearful of continued violence.

Over 40 child soldiers surrendered to Burundian security forces after being unwittingly recruited by a rebel militia. They are currently imprisoned in Burundi, but many human rights defenders are calling for their release, citing Burundi’s ratification of the International Convention on the Rights of Child.


Central African Republic:
Clashes between ex-Seleka and Revolution Justice armed groups resulted in the deaths of 26 people.The International Committee for the Red Cross and CAR Red Cross reported that over 1000 people are still searching for missing loved ones. Amnesty International found that displaced Muslims returning home are being forced to abandon their religion by the anti-Balaka.


Gaza:
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced a severe financial deficit, meaning many Palestinians may be cut off from access to much-needed humanitarian services. Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture released new evidence showing that Israeli forces, in retaliation for the capture of an Israeli soldier, may have committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during “Black Friday” last year in Rafah. The Israel Defense Forces declared that they would widen their investigation into their soldiers’ conduct during last summer’s war in Gaza, including through examining the bombing of a civilian clinic.


Iraq:
The U.S. and allies conducted a series of 26 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq   on Sunday in their continued fight to eradicate the group from the region. Turkey launched a campaign against Kurdish militants in Iraq, striking the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) base in northern Iraq. Turkey’s direct targeting of Kurdish armed groups in Iraq has effectively ended their fragile peace process with the Kurds, which began back in 2012.


 

Libya:
Libya’s internationally recognized Information Minister, Omar Qweri, called for the UN Security Council to remove the arms embargo against Libya, claiming that this would enable the country to defeat the Islamic State in Libya by next year.

The Libyan court ruled that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and eight other Gaddafi associates will receive the death penalty for crimes committed during the 2011 revolution. In total, over 30 of Gaddafi’s allies were tried and now have 60 days to appeal their sentence. However, UN human rights officials announced that the trial did not meet international standards.  Libya’s minister of justice also condemned the trial as illegal, claiming judges in the case were acting under duress. ICRtoP member, Human Rights Watch, among several other civil society organizations, also objected to the death sentences and the way in which the trials were conducted.


Nigeria:
Militants, suspected to be Boko Haram members, conducted raids and kidnappings of an estimated 30 people surrounding Lake Chad, in which three civilians and thirteen Boko Haram militants were killed. A child suicide bomber detonated herself in a crowded Damaturu city market in Yobe state, killing at least 16 people with an estimated 50 others injured. Two other would-be suicide bombers were reportedly arrested. Nigerian soldiers halted a Boko Haram attack in the town of Buratai in Borno State, while also rescuing 30 civilians, mostly children, in another part of the region. Nigeria appointed Iliya Abbah as the General for the Multinational Joint Task Force to fight Boko Haram, though there is still no clear date for the force’s deployment.


South Sudan:
The SPLM-in Opposition, led by Riek Machar, announced that it would hold a consultative meeting in the first week of August to discuss the new IGAD-Plus peace proposal circulated last week. The latest proposal included clauses maintaining that no amnesty would be granted to individuals responsible for committing crimes after December 15, 2013. South Sudan’s rival parties claimed to have made significant progress compromising on key issues and are hopeful of the prospect of reaching an agreement.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, urged all parties in South Sudan to lay down their arms and commit to sustainable peace. A local official reported that South Sudanese government troops stole food aid and killed seven people in an attack in Unity State that forced 35,000 civilians to flee into the bush. Men, suspected to be from the Murle tribe, abducted three children in Jonglei state.

Obama held a multilateral regional meeting on South Sudan and counter-terrorism in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. South Sudan’s foreign minister announced a plan to petition the AU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for a breach of protocol for not insisting that the South Sudanese government be invited to the meeting with Obama. The Obama Administration is reportedly considering implementing new sanctions and an arms embargo on South Sudan if leaders fail to reach a peace agreement by mid-August.


Sudan/Darfur:
The African Centre for Justice and Peace accused the Sudanese army in West Darfur of torturing a captive to death for allegedly providing information to the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Two other captives are at risk of suffering the same fate. JEM-Dabajo and the ruling party met in attempts to end the historical tensions between the two groups. JEM-Dabajo reiterated their plans to run for chairmanship of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA) to ensure better distribution of reconstruction projects.


Syria:
Days after Turkey launched its first attack against the Islamic State in Syria, the Turkish Prime Minister blamed the rise of the Islamic State on the international community’s inaction against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Early in the week, the US, Turkey, and Syrian insurgents, agreed on a plan in which they would work together to target IS militants in the northern region of Syria bordering Turkey to create an “ISIS free” zone. However, there are multiple conflicting reports on whether the U.S. has actually agreed to the plan, what the plan would entail, how it would be implemented, and its ultimate goal.

Following the establishment of the plan for an “ISIS free” zone, NATO met to discuss Turkey’s campaign not only against ISIS but also Kurdish armed groups in Iraq. The two targets are uniquely opposed to one another, but Turkey has grouped them together under its campaign to fight terrorism in the region. NATO members ultimately expressed support for Turkey’s recent military actions against IS as well as the Kurdish armed groups.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) accused Turkish forces of shelling a Kurdish village in northern Syria, a claim denied by Turkey.

In his first public speech in a year, President Assad spoke on the ongoing war in Syria and admitted that the government has suffered some recent military setbacks and a shortage of soldiers.

Stephen O’Brien, the head of OCHA, briefed the UN Security Council on the dire humanitarian situation in Syria and called for a political solution to the ongoing crisis. He noted that attacks by government and allied forces in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani has led to a high number of civilian deaths and displacement. The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, also presented recommendations to the UN Security Council for achieving a political solution in Syria, which would strengthen progress on the “Geneva Communique” by creating a Syrian-owned framework for implementation.


Yemen:
A vehicle exploded just minutes before a fragile five-day humanitarian pause was set to take hold on Sunday, killing 10 Houthi rebels and prompting a Houthi-led shelling of residential areas in the city of Taiz in retaliation. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition seized a key town in its fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen, following the arrival of hundreds of additional Yemeni fighters trained in Saudi Arabia.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the UN Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Saudi-led bombings in Yemen, actions which may amount to war crimes. HRW also found that attacks by pro-Houthi forces have indiscriminately targeted civilians in Aden, killing dozens with mortar shells and rockets.


What else is new?

The Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect published a blog written by Obinna Ifediora on “Continental Sovereignty: Challenges and Opportunities for Implementation in Africa.”

UNelections.org Campaign and Information Center noted this week that “The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) Group has distributed a revised version of a non-paper which calls on all member states to take “timely and decisive action” in cases of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The non-paper is endorsed by the 27 states who are members of the ACT group, as well as the Netherlands and Spain. In a meeting on 29 July, the group presented the draft and invited all member states to provide feedback and join the list of endorsing states. The group hopes to finalize the text, with input from member states and civil society, this coming October in connection with the 70th anniversary of the UN.”

Human Rights Watch released a report describing Guinea’s security forces use of excessive lethal force, abusive conduct, and lack of political neutrality during election-related protests that took place during April and May of 2015.


 

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#R2P10: The Impact of the Syrian Conflict on Women

The international community has begun to recognize the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls, and the necessity to include women in the prevention and resolution of crises. In 2000, the UN Security Council adopted historic Resolution 1325 – the first resolution on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS). Since then, the UN Security Council has adopted Resolutions 1820(2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), and 2106 (2013), which address sexual violence in conflict, and Resolution 2122(2013), which focuses on women’s participation, empowerment, and human rights.

The scope and purpose of the WPS agenda and the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) are different. Nevertheless, there are several ways they overlap and have the potential to reinforce one another. Firstly, gender-based human rights violations can serve as early warning indicators for atrocity crimes. Secondly, RtoP crimes and violations have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, and can amount to atrocity crimes as recognized in UNSC Resolution 2106. Thus, both agendas also work to strengthen mechanisms to prevent such violations from occurring. Additionally, WPS and RtoP seek to increase the recognition of women’s role in the prevention and response to mass atrocities.

The following is the latest submission for the #R2P10 blog series. ICRtoP had the privilege of speaking to Laila Alodaat, a human rights lawyer and MENA Project Coordinator at Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, to discuss the impact of the Syrian conflict on women.

 

The Syrian crisis continues to show the detrimental impact that the spread of arms and the use of explosive weapons has on civilian populations. How has the widespread use of such weapons impacted women in Syria and what are likely long-term consequences?

The Assad regime spared no effort to turn the peaceful uprising that called for freedom and dignity into an armed conflict. While brutally targeting pacifist activists,  lawyers and political figures who were demanding civil and legal reforms, it also applied indirect measures like releasing extremist convicted criminals from prisons, turning the political seen into chaos. Such actions, combined with aggressive repression, abuse, torture and use of propaganda, resulted in civilians taking up arms as self-defence, a phenomena that later on turned into an element of the armed conflict feeding on the uncontrolled influx of arms to the country.

Today, the increased militarisation and the proliferation of arms have devastating impacts on the structure of society and on the wellbeing of civilians who are suffering far beyond numbers of casualties. And while small arms have a devastating impact on women, the greatest threat still revolves around the extensive use of explosive weapons, which has been the main strategy of the Assad regime to impose corporal punishment on entire communities and to retain control of areas that fell out of its control.

Since the beginning of the uprising in 2011, 53% of civilians died by explosive weapons. As a result of the Assad regime doubling the use of explosive weapons in 2014, over 35% of the death toll in Syria (76000 of an estimated 220000 casualties) took place in that year. Furthermore, almost half of the global casualty by explosive weapons in the world between 2011-2013 occurred in Syria. This has a devastating impact on women and girls, as 74% of the casualties are a result of explosive weapons and 17% of small arms.

UN observers document damage done by shelling in Homs, Syria

UN observers document damage done by shelling in Homs, Syria

Beyond casualties, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas has a great impact on health care systems due to the destruction of infrastructure and hospitals, and a general fear of moving around in an armed conflict setting. This is particularly right in the Syrian context where attacks on health facilities and personnel by different parties to the conflict have become commonplace. A recent publication showed that between February 2014 and February 2015, at least 83 separate attacks on health facilities were reported.

As for women, the lack of access to reproductive health can be a death sentence especially in places where maternal mortality is already high. No recent information on maternal mortality in Syria is available. However, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) stated that 80% of maternal mortality could be prevented by better access to health care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. We believe similar, if not worse, statistics are applicable to Syria.

It is also crucial to mention that the survivors of explosive weapon attacks suffer from long-term challenges such as disability, psychological harm, and thus social and economic exclusion that have a greater impact on women in a society where they have less access, more restrictions and limited freedom of action compared to men.

To what extent has the failing rule of law and rampant impunity in Syria disproportionately affected women and what issues need to be prioritized to address these matters going forward?

During the armed conflict, the already shaky rule of law completely failed; firstly when the Syrian regime transformed the judiciary into a tool of repression through a combination of unconstitutional laws and emergency military courts, and secondly when it gave unlimited power to the notorious security branches that took pride in the horrifying reputation of torture, abuse and being the place where the best and brightest disappear.

This failure resulted in more power given to arms and force against those who do not have access to it (women, children, elderly civilians, disabled people) or do not wish to use it (again women, ideologically pacifists, etc.) leaving them marginalised, disempowered, and with no access to justice.

As the state completely abandoned its role in protecting citizens, constructing a fair society and ensuring safety and security, arms became the sole source of power and justice. And while they are only available to men, Syrian women were left with no power or protection and had to retreat quickly from being active right-bearers into subjects in need of protection by men, reaffirming masculine stereotypes that harms men and women alike.

The empowerment of women requires recognition and criminalisation of gender-based crimes and a comprehensive approach to combat impunity for crimes perpetrated by all groups in control. Dealing with these crimes requires adapting a culture of reform, restitution and rehabilitation, rather than mere punitive justice. Only a victim-centred approach to justice will allow space for rehabilitation, social and psychosocial support, empowerment and growth for both women and men.

Conflicts often force women to take on new roles and responsibilities as a result of the gendered impact of war and the commission of atrocity crimes. Can you explain how this has been the case, particularly with regards to the economic impact on Syrian women?

It is crucial to adapt a viable political economy approach to understand the depth of women’s suffering in the on-going conflict. The Syrian conflict is yet another example of how women’s experiences of violence cannot be separated from the new roles dictated upon them by the emerging war economy.

The Syrian regime’s targeting of civilians and civilian-populated territory with explosive weapons among other devastating means resulted in a widespread destruction of infrastructure. The enormous increase in military expenditures and the subsequent collapse of traditional income sources and local currency gave place to emerging war trades that enforced masculine constructions and resulted in a war economy that brought additional burdens on women. These women now bear new responsibilities as heads of household and primary carers for a large number of children, elderly and orphans while their rights to work, education and movement have been almost entirely compromised.

Today, with 12.2 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, 7.6 million people internally displaced by violence, and 4 million registered refugees (statistics of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as of March 2015) and only 15% of the required fund met (US$ 1,135,217,169 received of the US$ 7,426,692,851 required), Syria is a case study of the feminisation of poverty. Women form the majority of poor people not solely due to the lack of income or inability to work, but also due to the lack of access to productive resources and gender biases in law and practice.

It is widely acknowledged that women are crucial actors in peace processes and that equal participation in such efforts is necessary to uphold the rights of all civilians and ensure the sustainability of peace agreements. That said, women remain disproportionately represented in efforts at all levels to prevent and respond to atrocity crimes. How have women in Syria organized to impact global peace processes, and how has the international community received such efforts?

Syrian women showed great abilities when equipped with the space and choice. In January 2014, 47 Syrian women of diverse backgrounds and positions came together to set up the Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace and Democracy with the aim of contributing to a peace process that ensures an immediate stop of the fighting, lifts the siege in civilian areas, releases political detainees and ensures effective participation of women on all levels of decision making as well as the negotiation process and transitional period. They have also offered to send a delegation to observe the Geneva II negotiation process and ensure that demands and experiences of Syrian women will be respected.

The document issued by the Initiative proved to be the most inclusive, balanced and civilian-centred document since the Syrian uprising started, however, despite the tireless efforts of the initiative’s members, the consecutive UN envoys to Syria failed to translate their promised support into action. Hence, Syrian women continue to be absent from formal negotiations.

The participation of women in opposition fronts also continues to be minimal and the concerns of women remain sidelined. This marginalisation has had devastating consequences, including the lack of gendered aspect in the emerging policy, absence of women experiences, and an emphasis on arming and militarisation vs. development, conflict resolution and peace making.

 

What steps must domestic and international actors take in order to address the war’s impact on women and ensure women’s full participation in resolving this crisis as it wages into its fifth year?

A sustainable peace in Syria cannot be achieved without the active participation of women and the incorporation of their perspectives at all levels of decision-making. We cannot afford to wait for a resolution to the conflict in order to start containing its devastating impact on women. It is imperative that all stakeholders stop compromising the effective participation of women at all levels, whether in constitutional and legislative councils, temporary or permanent local councils, judiciary, local courts, law enforcement and police authorities.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, briefs the UNSC on the situation in Syria.

Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, briefs the UNSC on the situation in Syria.

National and international organizations must take women’s issues and experiences into account and act effectively to support and rehabilitate them to allow for full and substantial participation, whether individually or through groups and initiatives. This would also be in line with UN Resolution 1325, which calls upon all conflict parties to include women in the management and resolution of armed conflicts.

Finally, the participation of women in solving the Syrian dilemma should go beyond mere token representation to focus on structural changes that allow space for women issues to be tackled, as well as for their opinions, and that of civil society and peaceful actors, to weigh as much as those of parties to the conflict.

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