URGENT CALL: Syrian women’s inclusion in Geneva II is not negotiable
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) is gravely concerned by the lack of inclusion of women in the Syrian peace process. Despite the existence of seven UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security calling for the meaningful participation of women in all UN peace efforts, no women have been included in the Syrian negotiations. We echo the call from the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace that women’s presence at Geneva II is imperative.
The latest UN Security Council Resolution 2122 (UNSCR 2122, 2013) recognises a need for ‘a significant implementation shift’ (Point 15). Considering this, women’s absence from the Syrian peace process seems all the more unacceptable. UNSCR 2122 has been heralded as a ‘high water mark’ in women, peace and security commitments, but these commitments remain meaningless if not acted upon.
The tragic situation of the Syrian conflict provides an opportunity to turn paper commitments into reality.
Women members of civil society have come together – putting aside the deep rifts that conflict has fostered in Syrian society – as the Syrian Women’s Forum for Peace (SWFP). SWFP was formed to give voice to women within Syria and in response to a lack of attention from the international community. SWFP have created the Syrian Women’s Charter and laid out a seven-point road map for a gender-sensitive peace process. The points of the Charter are aligned with the intentions the women, peace and security agenda. Furthermore, the content of the seven-point road map by SWFP calls out for actions which follow the Secretary-General's report on Women’s Participation in Peacebuilding. (A/65/354–S/2010/466).
We endorse the work of SWFP, their seven-point road map, and their Syrian Women’s Charter. Women’s charters are a demand for improvement in the status and lives of women; they are an articulation of the need for gender justice . The Syrian Women’s Charter is one such articulation, a cry against women’s exclusion from the institutions of peace building. We urge you not to ignore this call.
We reiterate SWFP’s demand for women to be properly represented at every stage and level of the peace process. Without such representation, women are discriminated against and excluded. Women must be present in order to ensure their rights are protected and promoted in any political solution. Furthermore, omitting women negates the possibility of a true sustainable peace in Syria. History has shown time and time again that when sections of society, particularly women, are excluded from peace negotiations that the latter are doomed to fail.
With this in mind, we reiterate that women’s involvement in the Syrian peace process should not be negotiable.
We also view women’s lack of inclusion at Geneva II as symptomatic of the tendency to pay lip service to women’s involvement. We implore you to put an end to this. Those with political and military power – despite the atrocities committed by them and in their name – have been given a place at the table unquestioned. The women who toil daily - holding communities together and struggling for peace - have to battle to have their voices heard.
We urge the United Nations, and those present at Geneva II: please do not let this be another failed peace process, executed without the involvement of one of the largest and most significantly affected groups of stakeholders – women.
We respectfully urge the United Nations and its member states to implement the UNSCRs on women, peace and security and to use all efforts to follow the road map for a gender sensitive peace building process and ensure the inclusion of women from Syrian civil society – in clear and meaningful roles – at Geneva II.
We respectfully urge the United Nations Security Council to:
· Ensure it enquires into support for this engagement with all relevant actors, including the UN/Arab League Special Envoy, and relevant Member States;
· Make the women, peace and security agenda central to any future Security Council Resolutions passed relating to the end of the Syrian conflict; and
· Ensure that envoys and mediators consult with women leaders and civil society organisations at every stage of the peace process
We join the women of Syrian in calling the whole world, particularly international players involved in the Syrian crisis, to make 2014 a year of peace and security in Syria.
 Rashida Manjoo, Women’s Charters and Declarations: Building Another World (WLUML, forthcoming 2014)