Advisory Board to the UN Special Envoy to Syria is first of its kind; members met on sidelines of UN Women Executive Board second regular session 2016
New York – On the sidelines of its Executive Board second regular session, UN Women today organized a panel discussion with members of the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, established in February this year and composed of 12 independent Syrian civil society representatives from diverse backgrounds. At the event, representatives of the Women’s Advisory Board shared their experience in and contributions to exploring solutions for lasting peace.
“Syrian women continue to bear the brunt of the humanitarian crisis, mass displacement and terrorism. Together, we must ensure that Syrian women do not have just a “presence” in the political process, but that they have impact”, said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The establishment of the first of its kind Women’s Advisory Board is a powerful step forward in this direction and we are very proud to be associated with it.”
Moderating the event, Ambassador Karel van Oosterom, the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Netherlands to the United Nations added: “The women in the Advisory Board have engaged in constructive dialogue and delivered useful recommendations, providing a glimmer of hope in a situation of atrocity. That alone showcases how crucial participation of women in the peace talks is”.
At the event, the members of the Women’s Advisory Board highlighted that the shared principles of inclusion, democracy, and equality are more important than the differences amongst them. They also emphasized that while Syrian women and girls have been disproportionately affected by this crisis, they are not only victims but also leaders and a strong constituency for peace.
“The establishment of the Women’s Advisory Board is a significant achievement for strengthening women’s role in the peace process. There is also the ‘Civil Society Room’—a group composed of representatives of various civil society organizations, which now has almost 50 per cent women’s representation”, said Monira Hwaijeh, one of the members of the Board present at the event.
Insaff Hamad, another representative of the Advisory Board, expressed her hope for a united Syria: “Women can and may well be the backbone of the Syrian reconciliation. I know I have forgiven everyone for my own loss, for the good of the children who are still alive. The shared wish for Syria to live in peace is stronger than what divides us.”
Over the past three years, UN Women, with support from the Netherlands and Norway, has been engaging in high-level advocacy, coalition and capacity building efforts to support the meaningful participation of Syrian women as a strong constituency for peace at all level of peace efforts. As a result, the Syrian Women Advisory Board, the first of its kind, was established; its members have since submitted position papers on common positions and recommendations to the Special Envoy and his team of advisors and provided a gendered analysis of items under discussion.
Other milestones achieved in the process include the successful organization of the Syrian Women Peace Makers Conference in May 2016, which brought together the most diverse and representative group so far in terms of allegiances, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, age and geographic distribution. Over 130 Syrian women, including political and civil society activists, came together and forged a statement of unity despite significant political divides.
While in Geneva, the Women’s Advisory Board also engaged in high level advocacy and outreach to Syrian civil society. During the last round of talks, the Women’s Advisory Board met with US, German, Dutch, French, Canadian, Russian, Danish, UK, Norwegian, EU and Italian Special Envoys and representatives who showed strong interest in regular dialogue with the Board on substantive topics including on the issues of humanitarian access, detainees, and sanctions.