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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 . 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
Forgotten Freedoms: The Right to Free Expression in Areas Controlled by Non-State Armed Actors
In this article, Melina Fidelis-Tzourou and Anki Sjöberg from Fight for Humanity, explain why it matters so much to protect this essential right in territories controlled by non-State armed actors. This article was published as part of a symposium on Compliance in Armed Conflict "New Avenues to Generate Respect for Humanitarian Norms" hosted jointly by the Opinio Juris and Armed Groups and International Law blogs. To read the article on the Armed Groups and International Law blog, please click here.
Video: the protection of cultural heritage in conflict situations: an opportunity for peace ?
by Fight for Humanity and ALIPH foundation In this video, Alexandra Fiebig, Project Manager at the ALIPH Foundation and Anki Sjöberg, Co-Director at Fight for Humanity give concrete examples of projects protecting cultural heritage sites and artefacts in Syria including in Raqqa and in the North East part of the country. They also analyse how vital it is to preserve and promote this heritage, not only for its historical values but also for its unifying power. By promoting the common heritage of different communities living in a same region, these protection projects contribute to peace-building efforts and a better social cohesion. Featuring: Alexandra Fiebig, Project Manager at the ALIPH Foundation Anki Sjöberg, Co-Director at Fight for Humanity
A reflection on the prevention of Sexual Violence in conflict through Positive Role-Modelling
In the context of the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security, the journal of International Peacekeeping is publishing a series of articles entitled “Peacekeeping Prevention: Strengthening Efforts to Preempt Conflict-related Sexual Violence”. Anki Sjöberg, Fight for Humanity’s co-Director, contributed to this forum with an article on experiences from the prevention of Conflict-related Sexual Violence (CRSV) with non-State armed actors. “When encouraging armed actors to prevent sexual violence and promote gender equality, it is also important to highlight positive examples, research in neuroscience has shown that only showcasing violations may have a counterproductive effect – contributing to more, not fewer violations” she says.
In her article, she provides lessons learnt from her long experience on advocating the prevention of sexual violence towards non-State armed actors and she draws a set of recommendations on how to be more successful: Working on gender issues can be a door opener with non-State armed actors, as discussions exclusively on CRSV are sensitive, provides high risks and limited incentives for them. Focusing on sexual violence and not just CRSV could help create and maintain the interest of non-State armed actors interlocutors, as they may be facing challenges that don’t relate in direct terms to the conflict, such as domestic violence and abuse. Context-specific and targeted data on violations provides a basis for advocacy work towards non-State armed actors and allows them to find solutions that fit the actual problem. If well done and acknowledging efforts undertaken it can also help build confidence in the dialogue process. Positive role-modelling is a as way of helping non-State armed actors accept a change in behaviour. “To be able to approach armed actors on this issue it is also essential that peacekeeping forces and policies support the creation or expansion of space for human rights actor such as Fight for Humanity” she stresses. To read all the articles click here and for Anki Sjöberg's article go to page 562. 20 years ago, on 31 October 2000, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted resolution 1325 that reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping. The International Peacekeeping is an international peer-reviewed journal that examines the theory, practice, outcomes and consequences of peacekeeping operations throughout the world.  Olsson, Louise, Angela Muvumba Sellström, Stephen Moncrief, Elisabeth Jean Wood, Karin Johansson, Walter Lotze, Chiara Ruffa, Amelia Hoover Green, Ann Kristin Sjöberg and Roudabeh Kishi. 2020. FORUM. Peacekeeping Prevention: Strengthening Efforts to Preempt Conflict-related Sexual Violence, International Peacekeeping.
The Syrian Democratic Forces pledge to protect cultural property in North East Syria
Read the Arabic version here. On October 12, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) issued military instructions to protect cultural heritage during armed conflict. It is the first time a non-state armed actor issues specific military instructions concerning the protection of cultural heritage. Fight for Humanity welcomes this important step that follows a sustained dialogue with the SDF on this issue. “Protecting cultural heritage is also protecting what the different communities living in the region have in common. We encouraged the SDF to issue these instructions and provided legal advice, we now hope that other armed actors will follow suit in Syria” says Mehmet Balci, Fight for Humanity co-Director. In the preamble of these military instructions, the SDF states that "in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict (in particular the 1954 Hague Convention), the 2015 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 regarding respect for cultural properties […], the SDF pledges to ensure respect for cultural property during armed conflict. The SDF also pledges to ensure that cultural properties are not affected in areas under its security and military control.” Upon a request from the SDF, Fight for Humanity consulted several experts on international law and the protection of cultural heritage and provided legal and technical support on the writing of these instructions. The organization will now support their implementation in collaboration with the Directorate of Antiquities of the Self-Administration in North East Syria. A roadmap is under development to plan activities including an awareness-raising campaign towards the different communities on the importance of preserving this common heritage. Fight for Humanity will also work on starting up a dialogue with other non-state armed actors in Syria on this topic and encourage them to take similar measures. The organization calls upon all parties to the Syrian armed conflict to respect and protect cultural heritage for future generations and for its peacebuilding potential, as it can help re-forming bonds between communities. Since 2011, cultural heritage in Syria has been seriously damaged by armed conflict. Several non-state armed actors operating in Syria have been involved in the destruction of cultural heritage sites and in illicit trafficking of artefacts. Fight for Humanity is currently implementing a project to protect a historical site in Tell Beydar and to safeguard artefacts found during past excavations or seized from smugglers. This project is implemented with the support of the ALIPH foundation.