Arab women leaders criticize Sustainable Development Agenda for failing to respond to the situations of women in conflict

Posted on: September 22, 2015, by :

Cairo, Egypt (August 28, 2015) – Arab women leaders from ten countries issued a joint statement highlighting lack of action on critical issues for women in conflict and post-conflict situations in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, set to be adopted in September. While the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are more responsive and comprehensive than the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire this year, they still fail to create clear indicators and set urgent priorities with regard to the achievement of sustainable peace and mitigation of consequences of war for women and others made vulnerable by conflict.

“There is still a gap between links of violence against women, women’s participation, and the SDGs,” said Fatima Outaleb, who directs a women’s shelter in Morocco through civil society organization Union de l’Action Feminine. “Most focus is on violence without deeper analysis, and dealing with development issues rather than linking them together.”

Convened for a three-day consultation in Cairo, the group shared, “Our daily realities, as women, citizens and non-citizens, refugees and internally displaced peoples, teachers, lawyers, and professionals from other sectors, activists, academics, etc. belonging to this region, reflect the devastating and systemic issues affecting our countries. While we acknowledge Goal 5 and Goal 16, dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment and building peaceful and inclusive societies, these targets and indicators fall short of meeting the challenges of conflict-affected countries and communities.”

The reality for women living in conflict situations is complicated by a lack of access to basic resources and exacerbated by existing cultural, social, economic, and political infrastructures that marginalize women. “We lack the right to mobility, the right to life, the right to security. Palestinian women in Gaza face the closure since 2007, which many of them are deprived of travel to continue their travel or access health services. We struggle for self-determination and sovereignty for our nations. But we are first citizens,” said Palestinian civil society leader Amal Kreishe.

UN Member States, after lengthy deliberations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, established an outcome document on 2 August 2015 for adoption at the 69th General Assembly at the United Nations. With 17 Goals and 169 Targets, the document attempts to respond to the challenges in the MDGs, while also reflecting a number of new trends and priorities in economic, social and environmental development. However, the lack of concrete, time bound and achievable commitments toward ending war and conflict, addressing fanaticism and extremism, and eradicating illicit arms flows, as well as with regard to prevention of conflict, and rebuilding and rehabilitation will no doubt hinder positive, long-term development, and the achievement of security and stability in the Arab region and beyond.

Thirty-two leaders from Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon emphasized critical issues that must be tackled in the Post-2015 landscape. Their recommendations included: 1) increasing investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment; 2) pressuring donor countries to ease debt burdens of countries in conflict to ensure public expenditure on social protection and economic and social rights is not reduced; 3) the full implementation of international agreements to protect women in conflict, increase their participation in public life, ensure access to education, and protection from violence against women – including the criminalisation of early marriage; 4) increased accountability at the national-level to uphold gender-sensitive budgets and implement key articles of international agreements to which countries are signatory; 5) ensuring women have access to justice and that crimes against women conducted during conflict and post-conflict are punished; and 6) the inclusion of women in decision making, peace making and reconciliation bodies and dialogues at the highest levels.

“Many men and people in power still use the excuse that women aren’t educated so they can’t make decisions,” said Sudanese activist Sarah Awel James. “UN Security Council Resolution 1325 has been positive for South Sudan, however there is still a long way to go in its implementation.”

The three-day consultation, hosted and convened by Karama, and sponsored by the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition in partnership with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, was held from August 25-27 in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting activated dialogue linking gender equality , gender-based violence in peace and conflict situations, and priorities in the region to the Sustainable Development Goals and Resolution 1325. Looking forward to the next fifteen years, participants agreed that it is imperative to assess the critical gaps in international platforms, and design a regionally-responsive strategy to see real results and impacts, in the place of well meaning rhetoric that brings little action.

“What we need are women’s networks—who are organized but not even recognized or legitimized even though they fought in the war and are active in rebuilding…Women’s organizations need financial and technical support, along with spaces in decision-making…the women’s movement needs a mechanism for its sustainability and continuation,” said Ms. Awel James.

For the full statement issued at the August convening, please click here.

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Karama is the Arabic word for ‘dignity’ and a growing movement working to stop violence against women in all its forms. In the wake of region-wide revolution, Karama continues to emphasize women’s political participation and involvement in decision-making and peacemaking, as well as women’s security and protection. For more about Karama, please visit its website at

The Post 2015 Women’s Coalition is made up of feminist, women’s rights, women’s development, grassroots, peace and social justice organizations, networks and individuals. It focuses on feminist movement building within and beyond the framework of the evolving post 2015 development processes to ensure that identified and articulated multisectoral priorities related to gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment are influencing and framing discussions and debates at all levels to ensure a strengthened, more inclusive and participatory international feminist coalition to advance women’s rights and gender equality.