Friday the 17th of January was a historic day for Syrian women. Three Syrian women civil society leaders briefing the UN Security Council in a special closed Arria Formula meeting demanding women’s meaningful inclusion in upcoming Geneva II peace talks and ongoing transitional peace processes.“We want peace and we want to part of it. This is the bottom-line,” said a representative of the Syrian Women’s League to the highest body on international peace and security.
“As Syrian women, we believe that the negotiations cannot be successful without our participation,” said Sabah Alhallak, emphasizing their key role as leaders in the Syrian revolution and in ongoing community peace efforts. “Participation is not merely an end but a means to ensure that women’s rights are included in all outcomes and agreements, and that those outcomes are effective for sustainable peace,” stated WILPF PeaceWomen Director, Maria Butler.
The women demanded:
1) and independent women civil society presence at Geneva II talks scheduled to start this week,
2) 30% women on all negotiating bodies, and
3) strong and effective gender expertise to ensure gender is mainstreamed throughout all outcome documents and processes.
While brutal violence continues in Syria, the male-led regime and opposition have delayed again and again getting to the table to negotiate a ceasefire or peace. This week, they have both finally agreed to begin discussions, but the outcome remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the ongoing situation in Syria continues to worsen with at least 130,000 killed, and a civilian population continues to be killed, tortured, and their rights violated.
While men with guns have been unable to meaningfully move peace processes forward, women have shown that they can make it happen. Just a week ago, 50 women from diverse backgrounds met in Geneva convened by UNWomen and developed a concrete set of goals. They presented these demands to the Security Council Friday.
“Do not leave your resolutions in a drawer,” said one delegate. “They do not deserve only lip service but implementation.”
The Council has adopted seven resolutions on the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, from 1325 (2000) to 2122 (2013). However, translating these rhetorical commitments into action has faced challenges. Special Envoy on Syria Brahimi only this week has announced that he will have a gender advisor, and expectations for women’s participation in proposed Syrian regime and opposition delegations is token.
“No peace agreement can be implemented if it is just the two sides,” said Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, highlighting the need to support the voices of independent women in Geneva II peace talks.
This week, there will be a women’s peace summit in Geneva January 20th to 22nd. Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and women from Syria as well as Bosnia, Colombia, Ireland, Liberia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Uganda will gather to model what peace processes should look like and demand women’s meaningful inclusion in Syrian peace processes, Geneva II and beyond.
Women leaders will be in Switzerland during the Geneva II peace talks this week. They have already shown – indeed, more than the men involved – a creative process and plan for peace.
Now it is up to the governments to stop being gatekeepers and let these brave and creative women dedicated to peace and human rights be a real part of the process.
How to Contribute
If you would like to support these women and their right to speak, join the campaign Women Lead to Peace and sign the petition to include Syrian women at the table. This campaign is led by a coalition of women’s organisations including WILPF that are working to ensure that Syrian women play a vital role at the Geneva II peace talks as a third formal party to the current two parties led by the opposition and Syrian government.