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Webinar Report: “Women’s rights in times of conflict"
Perspectives of women leaders from armed and political movements. On 19 November 2020, Fight for Humanity organized a webinar to discuss the progress and challenges faced by women leaders when trying to protect, promote, and defend the rights of women and girls in times of conflict. The event took place in the context of the 20-year anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. In its webinar report, Fight for Humanity recalls the discussion points and the main conclusions & recommendations that came out of this webinar. To read it please click here.
Annual report 2020 - Advocating respect for human rights
How to talk about 2020 without starting out with COVID-19? Yet, 2020 was so much more: it was our second year of existence during which we consolidated our work, but also, like many other organizations, faced the various challenges posed by the pandemic. Operationally, we streamlined our work into four main areas of human rights that we estimate especially important to support peace efforts: freedom from discrimination and the promotion of the rights of women and girls, child rights and children’s right to education, cultural rights, including the protection of cultural heritage, and freedom of expression. We implemented four projects and several activities to promote the respect for these rights in Syria and beyond. On the one hand, the human rights challenges in a post-pandemic context may seem daunting – reports of increased levels of child recruitment and use, domestic violence against women and children, crackdowns on freedom of expression and democratic processes, etc. On the other hand, many organizations – local, regional, and global – are also coming out of the health crisis with a mindset that change is needed and indeed possible, if we work together and rethink what is not working. These organizations can count on Fight for Humanity and its passion for human rights in this struggle. >> Read our annual report here >> Read our financial audited statements here
North East Syria: launch of a platform to advocate for the rights of ISIS victims
On 27 May 2020, 50 representatives of victims, victims’ organizations, and the different communities in North East Syria, announced the creation of a platform to promote and defend the right to truth, accountability and just reparation for the thousands of victims of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region. The victims of the ISIS-related conflict have not been well included in the advance towards political or judicial procedures. In their final declaration, they explained that “the platform advocates for a process of criminal justice in NES in conformity with the requirements of fair trial guarantees as well as the meaningful involvement of victims as part of their right to effective remedy.” It will be governed by a committee of 13 members: men, and women, representing the different minorities, including Arabs, Kurds, Yazidis, and Christians. A steering committee of three members has also been elected. In their founding document, the committee formulated 11 main demands for ISIS victims, notably the need: - to be part of any judicial process - for support from the international community - for processes to be conducted according to international judicial standards, and - for crimes to be investigated and documented, notably the cases of missing persons. “This achievement is a start of an important process for all the victims and for peace in the region: victims of armed conflicts and their families are at the core of any recovering process for the community and their role is pivotal for any meaningful transitional justice in the post-conflict era” said Mehmet Balci, Fight for Humanity Co-Director. The committee will meet again to define the actions to be undertaken, notably training of victims’ organizations on international justice mechanisms, victims’ rights and the advocacy initiatives. The platform is also expected to establish local antennas in North East Syria. Fight For Humanity will continue to support this platform, through capacity building and advocacy efforts. This founding meeting, organized by Human Rights Defense Initiative, with the support of Fight for Humanity and Medico International, follows a series of meetings with civil society organizations defending the rights of conflict victims in North East Syria. In August 2020, Fight for Humanity organized an exchange between Syrian organizations and members of the Coalition for Just Reparations (C4JR), an alliance of Iraqi civil society organizations. This process began following a 2019 experts' meeting in Geneva, on the legal solutions for members of the Islamic State detained in Syria.
Webinar report: preventing the recruitment of children associated with non-state armed actors
Watch the recording by clicking here and read the main conclusions and outcomes of the event by clicking here. On April 29, Fight for Humanity and Independent Diplomat co-organized a webinar on the prevention of recruitment of children by non-state armed actors. Five panelists including experts on children and armed conflict, diplomats, and representatives from non-state armed actors from Mali and Sudan discussed the challenges and progress made to protect children from use and recruitment in conflict. “Since 2018, close to 40’000 children have been released from parties to conflict”, and “10 Action Plans [to prevent child recruitment and use and other grave violations against children] are currently being implemented with non-state armed groups” stressed Virginia Gamba, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict in her declaration. She also reminded the audience that despite this positive result, in 2019, 7’747 children were reported to have been recruited and used, most of them by non-state actors. “As a military actor, we should no longer believe it’s enough to state things on paper; but we need to implement and make use of existing instruments […] to protect children in conflict. […] We are non-state actors but can complement the work of the state in protecting children.”, said Mr. Attaye Ag Mohamed, Head of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Member of the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord, Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) in Mali. “While signing UN Action Plans or making unilateral declarations can demonstrate non-state actor’s desire to address problems, they can lack the capacity and support, to do so meaningfully ” explained Guillaume Charron, Geneva Director at Independent Diplomat. Anki Sjoeberg, Co-Director at Fight for Humanity, then listed key practical measures to ensure that non-state actors not only commit to the ban on child recruitment, but also implement it. For her, it is key to help build internal capacity through trainings, training of trainers and awareness-raising: everybody within the movement and the related communities should be aware that recruiting children under 18 is prohibited by the leadership of this movement. Rita French, UK Ambassador for Human Right stressed that “child protection is central for conflict prevention and resolution” and “protecting education […] is essential in preventing child recruitment and use, as it supports post-conflict reconstruction, reintegration, and peace.” She also underlined that “children’s involvement in conflict has a profound impact on their lives and […] societies’ wellbeing long after the conflict has ended.” Therefore, it is necessary to develop “long-term prospect and practical projects to allow these children to be reintegrated in daily life, to be really socialized” according to Dr. Mohamed Salih Mohamed Yassin, representative from the SPLM-N High Committee of the Joint Peace Agreement. In his concluding remarks, Guillaume Charron highlighted the importance of improving communications with non-state actors at every level: in the field, Geneva, Brussels, and in New York, as “only by engaging directly with the actors in the field we can understand the challenges”, which puts us in a better position to “empower them to create the change that we all want to see” for children. Watch the recording here and read the main conclusions and outcomes of the event here. This event, the fifth edition of Fight for Humanity’s webinar series, was sponsored by Belgium, the principality of Liechtenstein and the United Kingdom and was attended by more than 130 participants.
World heritage day: protecting an antique palace in North East Syria
On the occasion of the World Heritage Day on 18 April, Fight for Humanity published a video about the work it conducted with its local partner, the Orient Association, to protect the historical site of the Nabada Palace at Tell Beydar in North East Syria. This palace was built around 2500BC and covers about 25 hectares. Archaeological missions worked there for 17 years before the Syrian conflict broke out. In 2020, urgent measures were taken to protect the site from damages caused by weather, lack of care and vandalism. Watch the video report of this project.
Webinar: Preventing the recruitment and use of children associated with non-state armed actors
Webinar series: first-hand views on human rights and peace Event sponsored by Thursday 29 April - 14:00 CET – Webinar - To register click here.
Language: English and interpretation into French
Speakers: Ms Virginia Gamba, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Mr Attaye Ag Mohamed, Head of Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Member of the Comité de Suivi de l’Accord, Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), Mali Dr Mohamed Salih Mohamed Yassin, SPLM representative to the High Committee of the Joint Peace Agreement, Sudan Ms Anki Sjoeberg, Co-Director and Founder, Fight for Humanity Mr Guillaume Charron, Director, Independent Diplomat Geneva About the event In follow up to the recent interactive dialogue on children in armed conflict with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG-CAAC) during the 46th regular Session of the Human Rights Council, Fight for Humanity and Independent Diplomat are organizing an online event with the participation of the SRSG, and sponsored by Belgium, the United Kingdom and the Principality of Liechtenstein to discuss the promotion of children’s rights in conflict settings, from the first-hand perspectives of actors that are working on the prevention and ending of recruitment and use of children, notably in Mali and Sudan. In this debate the participants will reflect upon the progress, challenges, and way forward to end recruitment and use of children in armed conflict to strengthen children’s rights and protection in situations of armed conflict and peacebuilding. To register click here.
Shared Learning: the Separation and Reintegration of Children from the FARC-EP
Fight for Humanity is releasing a study presenting the lessons learned from the process of separation and reintegration of children from the ranks of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army (FARC-EP) in Colombia. Based on these lessons learned, it makes practical recommendations for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which have committed to the United Nations to separate minors from their ranks. The Colombian experience was analysed through the existing literature and the lived experience of some people who participated in the separation and reintegration process. Based on interviews and participatory meetings with key actors in the same process, this paper formulates lessons learned and recommendations for the parties to the conflict or the parties in negotiation on the one hand, and for the implementing agencies, on the other.
Sharing these reflections makes it possible to understand how fundamental the non-recruitment of children is, finding other forms and participatory routes for their separation, reintegrating them into civilian, family, social, and community life, respecting and valuing their participation, contributions and decisions on issues that affect their lives.
This study is part of Fight for Humanity's project to support the implementation of the Action Plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children signed between the United Nations and the Syrian Democratic Forces in North East Syria.
The report is available in English, Spanish and Arabic.
Webinar Report: “Mind the Gap: Human Rights and Non-State Parties to Armed Conflict”
During the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, Fight for Humanity organized an online event hosted by France, Slovenia and Liechtenstein. The webinar discussed the existing gaps in the application of Human Rights to non-state parties to armed conflict. In its webinar report, Fight for Humanity recalls the discussions points and the main conclusions and recommendations that came out of this webinar. To read it please click here.
More recently, a group of independent United Nations human rights experts issued a joint statement on human rights responsibilities of armed non-state actors. As in the above-mentioned webinar, they acknowledged the existing protection gap for the rights of population living in areas controlled by these actors and encouraged the humanitarian community to “engage directly and concretely with armed non-state actors with the aim to encourage respect for human rights”. Fight for Humanity fully supports this declaration and will continue its work to advocate human rights to non-state armed actors.
Video: thousands of artefacts protected in Syria
In 2020, Fight for Humanity worked with its local partner, the Orient Association, to protect thousands of artefacts including potteries and bones found in North East Syria. The access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage are fundamental human rights, and Fight for Humanity believes it can support peacebuilding efforts by highlighting commonalities between communities. Watch the video here.
Leaving no one behind: promoting respect for fundamental human rights by non-state armed actors
Today is the International Human Rights Day and on this occasion Fight for Humanity would like to pay tribute to all human rights defenders and to highlight the need to better protect fundamental human rights in countries affected by armed conflict notably in areas controlled by non-state armed actors. Although at least 66 million people are estimated to live in these areas, there is a lack of awareness as well as tools and mechanisms to enhance the respect for human rights by many of these actors. The lack of respect for basic human rights such as the freedom of expression, religion, or assembly; and the restriction of minority rights or women’s rights make the return to peace more difficult and force many people to leave their homes and countries. Fight for Humanity has prioritized human rights that it estimates essential to support peace efforts. The freedom of expression In a recent article, Fight for Humanity explained how the freedom of expression is considered an indispensable condition for the full development of a person. Indeed, it constitutes an essential prerequisite for the enjoyment of other cardinal rights, such as freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and association or the right to vote and take part in the conduct of public affairs. In areas controlled by non-state armed and political actors, this right may be strongly reduced, preventing the realization of many other rights. In this context, human rights defenders and civil society activists live dangerously in many countries today including in areas controlled or of influence of non-state armed actors. Nevertheless, their work is crucial to help strengthen respect for the rights of people, as it helps to shed light on abuses on the ground. Cultural rights Cultural heritage is deeply connected with identity and can, as such, foster reconciliation by stressing communalities and creating bridges between communities and groups. The affirmation of cultural and minority rights and the protection/promotion of cultural heritage in non-state areas, can contribute to peace-making efforts and support the fight against any form of discrimination. In Syria, Fight for Humanity is conducting a project jointly with the local authorities to promote and protect artefacts and a cultural site. Promoting the rights of women and girls In a recent webinar on the rights of women and girls, women leaders from various non-state armed and political actors discussed measures to promote the rights of women and girls in these territories. Fight for Humanity believes that the work for gender equality from the bottom up, in addition to being a goal in itself, is the best way to fight sexual violence and promote women’s participation at all levels. In addition to these key topics the organization also works on the situation of children living in territories controlled by non-state armed actors notably in Syria. Fight for Humanity will continue to construct partnerships with like-minded organizations and to advocate human rights to relevant armed in political actors, in order to better protect the rights of the millions of people living in the areas under their control, working to make sure that no one is indeed left behind.
Women’s rights in times of conflict: women from armed and political movements express their views
If you missed the event, or would like to listen to the speakers again, you can watch the recording by clicking here. (original version) On 19 November 2020, Fight for Humanity organized a webinar to discuss the progress and challenges faced by women leaders when trying to protect, promote, and defend the rights of women and girls in times of conflict. The event took place in the context of the 20-year anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. Nearly 200 people participated in the event to hear first-hand views from 4 women leaders from armed and political movements: Zeyneb Muhemed, Member of the Coordination Committee of Kongra Star (North-East Syria), Dr Najwa Fadhl, STC Presidential advisor for women issues of the Southern Transitional Council - STC (Yemen), Olga Lucía Marín, former combatant and current member of the Common Revolutionary Alternative Force – FARC political party (Colombia) and Naw Wah Khu Shee, central standing committee member, Karen Women’s Organization-KWO/Karen National Union-KNU (Myanmar). When war and insecurity take hold, women bear a heavy burden of violence, poverty and inequality: “during conflict lots of women experience sexual abuse, murder, displacement”, and it “can not be ignored” recalled Naw Wah Khu Shee. Traditionally in many cultures, “men are in leadership positions” and the “problem we are facing is a mentality which is 5’000 years old, the patriarchy” said Zeyneb Muhemed. “[Women are] confronting their husband, facing domestic violence, being kept home. Change need to start from their houses.” There is therefore a need for women to be better represented in the society so that they can promote and defend their own rights, as well as those of other women and girls. The four panelists acknowledged that this representation has been enhanced over the past few years: “Women have become more involved in the structure of the STC. Each governorate has a department mandated to protect the rights of women and empowering them in society” explained Dr Najwa Fadhl. This progress is not enough: even if “there was a focus on gender in the Colombian Peace Agreement” the implementation of this agreement has not permitted to reach a greater gender equality yet. “The issue is not to note it on a piece of paper but to make it happen” stressed Olga Marín. The second part of the webinar looked at possible solutions to achieve greater gender equality in areas affected by armed conflict. For Naw Wah Khu Shee “Education plays a very important role [in achieving] gender equality […] and as KWO we focus on child development and nursery schools so that the mother can have free time and work”. For Olga Marín women “need to organize political parties or women committees” while Zeyneb Muhemed also stressed the need “to establish relations with other women’s organizations” for exchanges, including at the international level. Indeed, this change requires the support from the international community “We hope that the international society will support women especially in countries plagued by conflicts, by supporting their participation and ensuring they are adequately represented” raised Dr Najwa Fadhl. Participants also underlined the importance of awareness-raising towards reaching a broader consensus within society and to include men in the struggle. As Olga Marín said it, “We need to keep struggling for our rights. Even if it doesn’t produce immediate effect it does produce a change of consciousness in people.” Fight for Humanity will publish a report of the event in the coming weeks, based on which it will propose concrete follow up steps and recommendations. It will also work with like-minded organizations to ensure that the voices and efforts of those promoting the rights of women and girls in areas affected by armed conflict and/or controlled by non-state armed actors are heard and made visible.
Women’s rights in times of conflict: Perspectives of women from armed and political movements
Webinar series: first-hand views on human rights and peace Thursday 19 November 2020 2:00pm - 3:15pm (CET) Colombia time: 8:00am / Syria time: 3:00pm / Yemen time: 4pm / Myanmar time: 7:30pm With the participation of women leaders from the Southern Transitional Council - STC (Yemen), the Karen National Union – KNU (Myanmar), Kongra Star - the Women Movement from North East Syria (Syria) and from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC (Colombia) >> Register for the event About the event In the context of the 20-year anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, Fight for Humanity and Berghof Foundation are organizing an online event to discuss the promotion of the rights of women and girls in conflict settings, from the first-hand perspectives of women in leadership roles in territories governed by various armed and political movements. In this debate the women leaders will reflect upon the progress, the remaining challenges, and look forward towards what can be done within the next 20 years – and beyond – to implement SCR 1325, and more broadly to promote the rights of women and girls in their territories. Panelists Zeyneb Muhemed, Member of Coordination Committe of Kongra Star (North-East Syria) Najwa Fadhl, President advisor for women issues of the Southern Transitional Council (Yemen) Olga Lucia Marín, former combatant, Common Revolutionary Alternative Force – FARC (Colombia) Naw Wah Khu Shee, central standing committee member, Karen Women’s Organization-KWO / Karen National Union-KNU (Myanmar) Agenda (Central European time) 2:00pm Introduction 2:10pm Panel discussion 1. Progress and challenges on the rights of women and girls Q&A session 2. Looking ahead: What could be done to further promote the rights of women and girls Q&A session 3:00pm Concluding remarks 3:15pm End of event Moderation: Fight for Humanity and Berghof foundation Language: English and interpretation into Arabic, Burmese, Spanish and Kurmanji Event registration Registration is mandatory. Once you have registered you will receive an email with instructions on how to join the event on 19 November. You will first access the event waiting room and then the moderator will allow you to join the event at 2:00pm CET. Asking questions to the panelists Send your questions in advance to email@example.com. During the event, you can also send your questions to the moderator by chat messages. There will be no direct webcam or microphone interactions between participants and panelists during the event. >> Register for the event