The UK government is currently developing a new National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), with 6 focus countries including Syria. It is scheduled to be launched during the annual high level debate on Woman Peace and Security (WPS) in New York in October 2017 and implemented as of January 2018. WILPF, Amnesty International UK (AI UK) and the Syrian CSO Women Now for Development (WND) held consultations with Syrian women human rights defenders, gender equality advocates and civil society organisations to reflect and strategise on how best to use the UK NAP to translate the UK government’s WPS commitments into tangibly positive impacts for all women and girls inside Syria, as well as those seeking refuge abroad.

The consultations were conducted under the mandate of GAPS (Gender Action on Peace and Security), with financial support from AIUK, WILPF, and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). As such, the Syria consultations form part of a larger consultative process on the UK NAP which encompasses 3 other focus countries: Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somaliland. A summary report, Women’s Voices in the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, provides an overview of the wider consultative process on all four priority countries.

In order to substantively inform this plan and ensure that diverse voices are heard, two face to face civil society consultations were held in Beirut, Lebanon, and in Gaziantep, Turkey, in February 2017. This provided a space for Syrian women-led civil society to organise across political boundaries, with representatives from 25 civil society organisations, including: Syrian Women’s League, Dawlaty, Musawa – Women’s Study Center, Syrian Feminist Lobby, Sawa for Development and Aid, Women’s Network Initiative, Free women of Daraya, Regional Coalition for Women’s Human Rights Defenders in MENA, Amnesty International MENA, Kvina Till Kvina Lebanon, Syrian Female Journalists Network, URANAMMU, Care International Jordan, Damma Initiative, Kesh Malek, BIHAR Relief Organization, Hurass/Syrian Non violence movement, Syria Bright future, This Is My Life, Young Generation, Women Now Syria, SWATR, Syrian Women’s Network (SWN), The Day After, and Amal Center – Antakya.

A final report detailing the main findings and recommendations arising from the civil society consultations, which is available to download in Arabic and English, was delivered by GAPS to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in April. The report aims to influence the design of the new UK NAP on WPS, which is currently in the process of being drafted. In addition to the two consultations in Turkey and Lebanon, the report is based on a series of focus group discussions (FGDs) and key informant interviews conducted by grassroots activists inside Syria in areas controlled by the regime, the and opposition, and ISIS among other extremist groups, as well as with the refugee population in Turkey. A video was also produced on the Syria consultations for advocacy purposes, which is available to view below.

The report highlights the main challenges to the implementation of the international Women, Peace and Security agenda (outlined in UNSCR 1325 and subsequent related resolutions) in Syria and among host communities, as experienced by Syrian women. The needs of Syrian women and the main barriers affecting them are addressed in four priority areas: 1) participation; 2) violence against women and girls (VAWG);  3) institutions, security, justice and legal frameworks; and 4) refugees and forced displacement.

Convinced by the importance of applying a human rights perspective in States’ NAPs on Women, Peace and Security to address the root causes and the disproportionate effects of the conflict on women and girls, WILPF, AI UK and WND frame recommendations on each of the four priority areas with the aim of safeguarding and advancing women’s human rights. The recommendations are based on evidence collected through ongoing research by the three facilitating organisations and the 25 participating Syrian CSOs. They are designed to be realistic and attainable, addressing the root causes of violence and its exacerbation and calling for women’s meaningful inclusion in securing a political solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

The final report and video form part of a wider advocacy strategy which will be carried forward to follow up on the delivery of the report to the UK government with events at the UK parliament, as well as bilateral and round table meetings with the UK government, advocacy events at the Human Rights Council and bilateral and multilateral meetings with Member States’ diplomatic missions in Geneva.