Peace and security
In times of conflict, women’s experiences differ drastically from men’s. Rape and sexual gender-based violence are increasingly being used as a war and terror tactic. Pre-existing gender inequalities combined with the tearing of the social fabric exacerbate the vulnerability of women and girls, both economically and by further limiting their mobility and their access to basic services.
Three of the world’s worst humanitarian crises are in the Arab world: in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Other countries, such as Libya, Palestine, and Tunisia, are also faced with the impact of conflicts. Neighboring countries share the suffering as populations of conflict areas seek refuge beyond their borders. Recent reports show that Syria has climbed to become the top source of refugees in the world.
The wars of the region are “fought over the bodies of women and girls” as described by Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Sexual Violence in Conflicts, after her mission to the Middle East. The consequences of conflict are greatly disproportionate for women. Girls lose years of education and maternal mortality rate rises to 2.5 times higher than the global average. With the rise of violent extremism in countries such as Syria and Iraq, women are subjected to sexual enslavement, abduction, rape as well as forced and child marriages.
When the time comes for peacebuilding, transitions and recovery, women are often excluded from these processes that end up shaping their lives. Women also have marginal presence in the ranks of mediators, peace negotiators and peacekeeping further entrenching gender inequality in post-conflict communities. Their survival and wellbeing tend to be an afterthought in post-conflict recovery efforts. Female voters are four times as likely as men to be targeted for intimidation in elections in fragile and transitional states.
The international community recognizes women’s participation as vital to achieving and sustaining peace. In 2000, the UN Security Council passed the historic Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, followed by seven others that add depth and context. Similarly the Global Study on the implementation of 1325 provides recommendations for all stakeholders regarding the need to accelerate implementation of the resolutions and meet obligations to women and girls in conflict around the world. All of the resolutions emphasize the positive impact of ensuring women’s participation in peacebuilding, protection from human rights violations, and having access to justice and services to eliminate discrimination.
UN Women is mandated to monitor and promote the women, peace and security agenda, guided by a series of commitments to women’s rights, to which most Arab States are signatories. These include UN Security Council resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, and 2242. Other key reference points are the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Working at the regional as well as country levels, UN Women partners with governments, civil society organizations, female leaders and activists, and communities in conflict areas to promote and ensure women’s active role in peacebuilding, as well as the protection of their rights and persons during conflict.
UN Women supported the League of Arab States and the Arab Women Organization to develop a women, peace and security regional strategy that provides a framework within which member states will operationalize their commitments through national action plans with the goal of addressing what has become a regional issue. Through this integrated approach, the needs of women and girls living in or fleeing from conflicts can be addressed in a coordinated fashion. To date, UN Women supported Iraq in developing and endorsing its 1325 National Action Plan, the first in the region, and is providing similar support to other countries, including Palestine and Jordan.
In Libya, Syria and Yemen, UN Women has supported women politicians from across the political spectrum in forging unified peace agendas as the first step towards protecting their right to engage in the peacebuilding processes in their respective countries. UN Women will continue to work with all actors in the region to identify opportunities for women to have access to those peace and decision making platforms that will impact their futures.