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GAPS Newsletter: February 2024

Welcome to GAPS February wrap up.

In February, with the continuation of the genocide, GAPS continued through its feminist mandate to call for an immediate and full ceasefire in Gaza and end to the occupation in Palestine. The UK Government continually fails to uphold its commitments the protection of women and children, as outlined in the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, through its inconsistent and incoherent response to Gaza. The events of February 22 highlight this, as the UK Parliament vote on a ceasefire resulted in members from both SNP and the Conservative Party leaving in protest after the speaker sought amendments to the bill, including an “immediate humanitarian pause”. Horizontally to this, GAPS joined other international humanitarian, peacebuilding and human rights organisations in writing to the UK Prime Minister, urging Sunak to use the UK’s full diplomatic pressure to demand that Israel stops its offensive into Rafah and to call for a ceasefire. 

The UN-convened meeting of Special Envoys and Special Representatives on Afghanistan took place on 18-19 February in Doha, Qatar, to discuss how to move forward on the independent assessment on Afghanistan. Civil society, such as the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, harnessed this as an opportunity to push for the diverse representation of Afghan women voices, especially human rights defenders, LGBTQIA+ persons and peacebuilders. There was wide apprehension over whether it could be an effective discussion considering the lack of local voices, and how accountability could be ensured due to its status as a closed meeting. GAPS hope that there will be further opportunity for a more inclusive and impactful meeting- a space for States to learn from the lived realities of WROs, without tokenisation, and publicly condemn the violations of the rights of Afghan women. GAPS continues to monitor the situation on Afghanistan, elevate the voices of local Afghan partners, and hold States to account. GAPS is in the process of organising consultation workshops with Aghan partners and network members to better understand the needs and priorities of women and girls in Afghanistan and develop clear recommendations for gender-informed approaches to work. 

GAPS expresses deep concern for the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in the DRC. As a focus country of the UK NAP, there is governmental responsibility to reflect on its colonial legacy in the region and its financial contribution to ongoing exploitation- the UK Government must increase aid to the DRC. With the M23 militia group in the DRC relying on financial and military support from Rwanda, and the UK government’s continual efforts to pass the Rwanda Asylum Bill, there are inexplicable connections between these forms of violence. The UK Government is currently working to prove the safety of the Rwanda Bill; in consideration of the ongoing human rights violations in Rwanda, there is a clear avoidance of domestic responsibility from the UK to support asylum-seekers and reflect on its ongoing contributions to exacerbating instability. GAPS will be working to expand its current work on the DRC to interrogate the gendered dynamics of the humanitarian crisis in the DRC and better facilitate the work of our partners. 

The African Aid Symposium was held from February 26 to March 1 in Tunisia with the presence of 21 African nations. Members nations voted to integrate WPS initiatives into the association and WPS representatives attended the event. Notably, the UNDP military advisor, as the keynote speaker, emphasised the importance of integrating WPS into military services. This celebration of women’s involvement in the military, such as seen in the Israeli Occupational Forces, reflects the coopting of the WPS agenda by hard security approaches. This provides a space for reflection on how the agenda should be reharnessed by the feminist agenda. GAPS calls for a centring of gender justice in issues of peace and security, to disrupt the continuum of violence and ask, security for whom?  

February Reads

In the Shadow of the Taliban: Untold Stories of LGBTIQ+ Persecution in Afghanistan

The situation of the LGBTQI+ community in Afghanistan has been a concealed tragedy for decades. With the resurgence of the Taliban, their peril has only intensified, often evading international attention.This report strives to shed light on sixteen heart-wrenching testimonies of LGBTQI+ Afghans who have reported sexual assaults at the hands of the Taliban. Read full report here. 

On International Women’s Day: Why challenging the narrative is more important than ever

In this insightful Q&A with Maha Batran, WILPF’s MEL & Partnerships Advisor, she delves into the heart of the Palestinian struggle, exploring its historical roots, the ongoing challenges faced by Palestinians, and the importance of challenging prevailing narratives. Through candid reflections and expert analysis, she uncovers the gendered impact of occupation, the nuances of Palestinian resistance, and the global solidarity movements demanding justice and accountability. Read the full article here. 
UK aid’s international climate finance commitments

ICAI review finds £11.6 billion target will be challenging to meet, with 55% to be spent in the last two years of the pledge. The government “moved the goalposts” by changing the way meeting the target is calculated, and reviewing existing spend to include all eligible ICF. Altogether this amounted to an additional £1.724 billion, of which none was additional to recipient countries.ICAI also warns that ICF has not championed women and girls through its spending, despite commitments in the International Women and Girls Strategy. Read the full report here.

In case you missed it

GAPS has issued a statement in response to UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Pramila Patten’s report on sexual violence in Gaza and the West Bank. Read GAPS’s response here.

Five members of the Special Air Service (SAS) have been arrested by British military police on suspicion of allegedly committing war crimes while on operations in Syria. Amnesty International said allegations of war crimes should be fully investigated. Read the full article here. 

A UN expert today urged the UK Government to take urgent action to end all forms of violence against women and girls, as the country labelled it a “national threat”. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about how grassroots organisations and specialised frontline service providers working with women and girls are struggling to meet the needs of the most vulnerable women and girls. Read the report here.

Job Board

Women for Women International

Global Policy and Advocacy Manager, (Remote). 18 March.
Program and Partnership Coordination, (Palestine), 15 March.

International Alert
Middle East and North Africa Director (Lebanon/Tunisia), 13 March.

Advocacy Assistant (Ethiopia), 21 March.

Care International

Programme Officer, (London). 18 March.

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