Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Yannick Glemarec at side event during the second Syria conference in Brussels

Remarks delivered at the side event featuring a dialogue between Syrian women and policy makers on women’s space and role in humanitarian action, resilience and political dialogue during the EU-UN Conference on “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”. The side event took place on Tuesday, 24 April, at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU in Brussels.

Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here this evening with such an extraordinary group of women’s rights champions. And I’d like to give special thanks to our host – the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU, for having us all here and dining us at the end of what has been a long but rich day of discussion.

Whereas the previous panel addressed the importance of meeting the needs of those affected by the Syria crisis in a manner that promotes women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality—this panel is to focus on the political process to end the fighting. 

To discuss this, we have an exceptional group of eminent experts.

A man who needs no introduction, Staffan De Mistura has the extraordinarily demanding and often thankless role of serving as the UN’s Special Envoy for Syria.

His Excellency Pierre Bou Assi is the Minister of Social Affairs with the Government of Lebanon.

Ambassador Niklas Kebbon serves as the Special Envoy for the Syria Crisis for the Government of Sweden.

And engaging with them on solutions to this crisis are:

Mariah Alabdeh, the Executive Director for Women Now for Development

Kholoud Mansour, a member of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement

Oula Ramadan, the Founder and Director of Badael Foundation

Ghada Rifai, the Co-founder of Moubadiroun, and

Ruham Hawash, the Deputy Director of Citizens for Syria

Before I hand over to Lina to moderate the panel, please allow me to say a few words on the double recognition that underlies it: that women have a role to play in brokering peace, and that too often they are denied the space to fully exercise this role.

The Syria peace process is one of the most complex and challenging we’ve ever faced. Despite tireless efforts from the Special Envoy and his team, parties to the conflict are increasingly rejecting political dialogues, and embracing military - zero sum, winner takes all solutions.

This fact alone, forces us to rethink how we ‘make peace’, how we disincentive military solutions and how we incentivise political compromises.

In this rethinking, we know that women, their orgnisations and their networks have pragmatic solutions to offer. And that empowering women and girls is an essential part of building peaceful communities that are less susceptible to the threat of violence and radicalisation.

As highlighted by the Global Study on the Implementation of UN SCr 1325, women’s engagement increases the likelihood of reaching a settlement and leads to more sustainable peace—with women’s participation increasing the probability of a peace agreement lasting 15 years by 35 per cent.

Women’s organizations and women leaders have the knowledge, experience and expertise needed to help broker a sustainable settlement. And we simply cannot afford to ignore this in Syria.

And all of us here are lending our support to the Special Envoy in this regard—be it financial, political and otherwise. As UN Women we have been supporting the Special Envoy in his engagement with the Women’s Advisory Board, in addition to working to create dialogue across groups in and out of Syria. We are also working in camps and hosting communities, through generous support from the EU Trust Fund in Response to the Syria crisis, the Government of Sweden, the Government of Finland and many other partners, to respond to the needs of women and girls.

Tomorrow marks the third annual conference of this type on Syria— beginning in London in 2014, and the eighth year of the Syria crisis.

Women’s potential as peacebuilders to challenge extremist narratives, to promote social cohesion and to prevent radicalisation remains an untapped resource, in Syria and elsewhere. This needs to change.

Let me end with saying that the escalation of the violence in Syria in recent weeks is deeply concerning. And heeds us all to remember that ensuring inclusive efforts towards a political solution are more important than ever.