Peace, security and humanitarian action
The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda has prioritized peace and security as a key cornerstone for sustainable development. The Arab States have seen peace and security issues at the forefront of the regional agenda since 2011, with occupation, political crisis and climate change fueling violence and displacement.
These challenges have resulted in the displacement of roughly 17.7 million people across the Arab States in the past 6 years, with an additional 5 million Palestine refugees living outside of their 1948 homes. Political dialogues are ongoing in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine with the aim of finding a peaceful solution to these conflicts. Concurrently, large-scale humanitarian responses operate within and around these countries to address the immediate needs created by political crisis.
Against this backdrop, women play multiple roles in driving security and peace – and are affected in a range of specifically gendered ways by the crises in which they find themselves. Women have engaged in political struggle and they have come together to work for peace. In refugee camps, displaced person camps and within hosting communities, women have adopted new roles, serving as leaders and breadwinners to support their families and communities.
At the same time, the increase in societal violence is reflected and amplified within the home – with increases in domestic violence and negative coping strategies such as early marriage reported across countries in and affected by crisis. Women find themselves further constrained in their access to public space, both in conflict setting and in displacement- and with shrinking livelihood opportunities available to them, against a backdrop of increasing personal and family food insecurity and vulnerability.
Data has proven that 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 further 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. Each of the resolutions emphasizes 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 and humanitarian action (WPS/HA) 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). 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 conflicts.
At the regional level, UN Women seeks to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment for implementation of WPS commitments, including by supporting technical exchanges between Governments, and the League of Arab States (LAS) to develop a WPS regional strategy and sustainable institutional mechanisms and capacities for monitoring and accountability. This has included supporting the League of Arab States to establish the Arab Women’s Crisis Committee, a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of WPS commitments – generously funded by the Governments of Finland, Germany and Japan. In addition, UN Women supports the Arab Women’s Organisation to roll out training and advocacy with national stakeholders across the region on WPS.
In cooperation with civil society partners, UN Women works to build regional capacity on WPS by increasing public awareness and support for WPS. For example, UN Women’s programming, through support provided by the Governments of Finland and Germany, aims at capacitating the regional media in holding governments in the region accountable to the commitments in SCR 1325, while ensuring that women’s voices are heard in conflict situations and women’s participation in political processes is highlighted.
UN Women contributes toward critical efforts to build sustainable peace through targeted interventions supporting women’s engagement and influence in peace processes. This is being achieved through direct support to women and to key actors – including mediators and their teams - engaged in peace processes in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. As a result, women in the region will have enhanced opportunities for political participation and influence in high-level peace and transition processes. One key example is a joint programme, led by UN Women, in collaboration with the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative at the Graduate Institute, the Political Settlements Research Programme at the University of Edinburgh and Justice Rapid Response. Further information on this programme is available here.
UN Women also undertakes research on several areas of WPS, including the status of the implementation of WPS commitments across the Arab region, women’s roles in conflict resolution and the status of women refugees. In partnership with Monash University and Erinne Consulting, UN Women is also developing research and capacity in North Africa on the interlinkages between gender equality and violent extremism, in particular around recruitment prevention strategies, funded by the Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
At the national level, UN Women supports national bodies, governments and civil society to call for and ensure the implementation of the global commitments on WPS. Specifically, UN Women supports countries, such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia, to develop NAPs on SCR 1325 and its subsequent resolutions, with measurable indicators, throughout the region in order to strengthen knowledge and quality accountability frameworks, which are locally contextualized, to meet emerging threats and challenges.
By creating the space, opportunities and support for women actors in the region, UN Women works to amplify women’s leadership in the areas of conflict prevention, humanitarian engagement, conflict resolution and long-term peacebuilding in the region.
In parallel, UN Women offices in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine are rolling out essential humanitarian services linked to livelihoods and protection. Through providing livelihood opportunties in a holistic manner, combined with protection and pyscho-social services, UN Women is working to support women and girls to be resilient to conflict and displacement, and to promote more equal societies. This portfolio of work is generously funded across the region by the Governments of Australia, Italy, Iceland, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands and Sweden. Complementary to this, UN Women is implementing a regional flagship programme funded through the European Union’s Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syria Crisis that aims at strengthening the resilience of Syrian women and girls and host communities in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. It is working to address economic vulnerability and violence by increasing women’s access to financial assets and recovery and income opportunities, while providing immediate and life-saving protection services.
 12.6 million displaced in and outside Syria; 4.3 displaced in and outside Iraq; 425,000 displaced in and outside Yemen; and 371,000 displaced in and outside Libya.