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Press release: Conference of Syrian women, convened by UN Women and the Netherlands, ends with strong recommendations for upcoming peace talks

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For immediate release
Date: 13 January 2014

Geneva —

A two-day meeting to support women’s participation and voice in the Syrian peace process, convened in Geneva by UN Women together with the Government of the Netherlands, ended today with a statement by Syrian women civil society members and activists.

Photo: UN Women
Approximately 50 Syrian women surround UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, (centre-left) and UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi (centre-right) at the conference in Geneva. Photo: UN Women

The Outcome Statement calls for support of the political process, urging all parties to transcend their differences to reach an agreement for a free, pluralistic and democratic Syria that respects human rights, including the rights and equality between men and women; and for decision-makers to respect Syrian women’s right to full political participation in all matters related to shaping the future of their country. 

“We cannot remain silent regarding events in Syria, such as daily death, massive destruction, starvation, displacement of hundreds of thousands of families (in Syria and abroad); and the spread of terror, violence, ongoing detentions, acts of kidnapping, destruction of infrastructure and the spread of disease, particularly among children,” said Sabah Alhallak, who together with Kefah Ali Deeb, Rafif Jouejati and Delsha Ayo, were selected by approximately 50 women from inside and outside Syria who participated in the meeting to address the media on their behalf.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, thanked the participants who travelled far distances and at great personal risk to attend the meeting. “These women worked day and night to identify solutions to bring back security, rights and dignity to the suffering Syrian people”, she said. “Women have a critical role to play in creating the foundations for a sustainable peace and a pluralistic Syria based on democracy and respect for human rights. UN Women will continue to be a strong partner for Syrian women to support their collective voice and peace initiatives in the political process,” Mlambo-Ngcuka added.

The meeting was part of UN Women’s long-term efforts to support Syrian women and civil society’s active participation in the Syrian peace process, and to create spaces to hear and advance women’s voices and perspectives in peace efforts, consistent with Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 2122 and the Geneva Communiqué I, which call for the full inclusion and engagement of women in peace processes.

UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, joined the women during the conference’s opening session, which was held 10 days before the expected start of the “Geneva II” talks on Syria.

“This meeting conveys to both parties that will sit together at the negotiating table the importance of listening to the voices of Syrian women and incorporating women as a key player in the efforts leading to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis,” said Mr. Brahimi, during the meeting of Syrian women civil society.

Mr. Brahimi is expected to meet again with the participants on 14 January to receive the Outcome Document and hear in person about the Syrian women’s collective asks and conclusions.

Frans Timmermans, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands sent a message to the participants congratulating their efforts and courage "I am pleased to hear that Syrian women are letting the world know that the future of Syria should not exclusively be decided by those who carry the arms. Women have a crucial role in implementing a future peace agreement. That is why their voice matters."

Watch the archived version of the live webcast:


The full text of the Outcome Document [download PDF in English or Arabic] reads as follows:

Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace and Democracy

11-13 January 2014

Geneva

Syrian women and men, as well as the international community, are focused on the Geneva II peace conference.

We are Syrian women of diverse backgrounds and positions, and we represent a broad range of women’s and civil society organizations. We have come together to prepare this set of demands and priorities based on our first-hand experience of the suffering of the Syrian people, which has become intolerable. We share the hopes of the Syrian people that the Geneva II conference will be a serious step towards ending the violence and bloodshed in Syria.

We believe that the Geneva I Communique provides a foundation to end all forms of tyranny and to initiate the transition to a civil, democratic, pluralistic, and united state.

Priorities as related to ending the fighting, promoting the peace process and improving the humanitarian situation

1.            Adopt the Geneva 1 Communique (stop the fighting and achieve a cessation of armed violence, the release of arbitrarily detained women and men, freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists, respect for freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully). To this we add: release the women and men who have been abducted by the various armed groups.

2.            Lift the siege and allow for the timely provision of humanitarian and medical aid to all affected regions, under the supervision of an independent commission with international oversight.

3.            Implement an immediate ceasefire as a first step towards the permanent cessation of military operations. This can be achieved by relying upon mutually reinforcing negotiation tracks at local, national and international levels, with the robust participation of Syrian civil society.

4.            Call upon the United Nations Security Council to support the efforts of the UN Arab League Joint Mission, by authorizing the appointment and deployment of negotiators, observers and peacekeepers, as needed.

5.            Take immediate measures to stop gender-based violence as per UN Security Council Resolutions 1820 1888, 1960; adopt gender-sensitive policies and protect women and girls against sexual exploitation, early marriage, human trafficking and rape.

6.            Cooperate with neighboring states and secure international guarantees to ensure the expulsion of all non-Syrian combatants.

7.            Put an end to all arbitrary detentions, court rulings and administrative decisions, and lift all travel restrictions on activists and politicians so as to assure their freedom of movement.

8.            Ensure the safe and dignified return of all refugees and internally displaced people to their former cities and places of residence, with provisions for compensation, family reunification, and guaranteeing gender equality in this process.

9.            Put an immediate end to the recruitment of child soldiers as per UN Security Council resolutions 1261, 1612, and 1882. Immediately establish a national education program that suspends all ideological curricula and which adopts modern unified curricula that respect human rights, the equality of citizens regardless of gender, and which addresses the issue of children who have been unable to attend school.

10.          Demand the lifting of economic sanctions on the Syrian people immediately upon signing of the agreement between the parties and the launching of a transitional process. This demand does not include the lifting of sanctions imposed on individuals and private corporations.

11.          Dismantle all arbitrary tribunals, terror-related courts, as well as sharia commissions, and reinstate civil law throughout Syria.

12.          Develop a national plan that protects vulnerable structures, including economic, security, administrative and cultural sites, as well as the country’s infrastructure.

13.          Take measures to secure all official records and documentation in cooperation with appropriate civil society organizations.

14.          Restructure and reform security and police institutions in line with international norms of human rights and gender sensitivity.

15.          Bring to justice and render accountable the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and launch the process of transitional justice.

Demands on the Negotiation Process

1.            Adopt the Geneva 1 Communique as the baseline for a political solution and as the starting point for the negotiation process that seeks to build a comprehensive and lasting peace, and which lays the foundation for a state based on citizenship and the rule of law.

2.            Start the democratic transition process to end tyranny in all its forms and lay the foundations for a pluralistic, civil and democratic state in which all components of society are equal, and which upholds human rights in accordance with international norms and guarantees freedom of speech and belief.

3.            Affirm that the State should be based on the principles of peaceful transfer of power, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, rule of law and neutrality of the military.

4.            Reject any political solution based on ethnicity, confessionalism, religion or military balance on the ground, to protect the territorial integrity of Syria and the unity of its people.

5.            Demand that the constitution guarantees the equality of women and men and penalizes all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

6.            Demand a constitution that guarantees the rights of equal citizenship to the Syrian people in all their diversity and affiliations.

7.            Establish a clear timetable for the negotiation phase.

8.            Urge all relevant international actors to end all forms of military support to the parties and call upon neighboring states to control their borders with Syria in accordance with international laws.

9.            Develop a national Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration program.

10.          Incorporate strategies to guarantee gender-sensitive transitional justice.

11.          Prohibit the transitional government from entering into contractual agreements that extend beyond its tenure or from signing contracts that may bind the country beyond the transitional stage or threaten its independence in any way.

Demands related to the participation of women in the peace process

1.            We call on the United Nations to uphold its commitments to implement Security Council Resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106, 2122, regarding the status of women in armed conflict. We ask the United Nations pressure on the international community and on the negotiating parties to guarantee the effective participation of women on all negotiating teams and committees in a proportion of no less than 30% for the duration of the negotiation process.

2.            Ensure that representatives of women’s organizations and civil society organizations be included as observers in the negotiations.

3.            Ensure the meaningful participation of women in the entire political process, including in the formation of the transitional governing body, the constitutional drafting committee, the drafting of the election law, mechanisms of transitional justice, the local administration and local committees for civil peace.

4.            Appoint a Syrian gender advisor to the mediation team and establish communication channels to enable joint action and coordination with women’s and civil society organizations.

5.            Exert pressure on all the parties and mobilize public opinion campaigns to uphold international commitments and ensure the implementation of the outcomes of the Geneva 2 conference.

6.            Work with the mediation team to ensure that the negotiating parties adopt the document produced by this meeting.

7.            Take all necessary measures to protect women who participate in negotiations and throughout the political process.

8.            Build the capacity of Syrian women activists and civil society organizations in the areas of negotiation and peacebuilding skills.

 

Related links:

Press statement: Syrian Women’s Joint Statement on Engagement in the Syrian Political Process

The full text of the Outcome Document [in English or Arabic]

Flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/unwomen/sets/72157639721419024/

Closing remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Syrian women conference in Geneva on 13 January, 2014

Opening Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a conference for Syrian women in the peace process, held in Geneva on 12 January, 2014

Audio clip of the Executive Director's speech: