While democracy is classically defined by the presence and health of its institutions – such as political parties and independent elections – it is growingly acknowledged that democracy is deficient if public decision-making is not equally shared by women and men. According to international human rights standards, there is a state obligation to ensure the equal participation of women and men in political and public decision-making. The absence of women is thus problematic both from a democratic and human’s rights perspective. In conflict and a post-conflict context, where society has not had the conducive environment to foster an egalitarian conception of gender roles, the voting system can be a decisive factor to favor the participation of women. Indeed, the choice of an election system can provide the possibility to have women’s voices heard, ensuring that the historical imbalance in their political participation as candidates or voters is corrected in a fair manner.
The electoral system that promotes women’s political participation also reflects on the social structures and affect positively the entire democratic process in the country. Indeed, such a process incorporates an effective strategy of transparency, integrity, and comprehensiveness of the elections in all stages; starting with the electoral system and management of the electoral process, as well as ensuring the electoral environment that guarantees civil peace, non-violence, and participation. The role of independent civil society in political transition is particularly important. As it does not seek political power, it is often the only voice promoting human rights values and concerned with monitoring the power of the State. Despite the state of repression, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ongoing violations of human rights in Syria, human rights activists have been able to organize and play an important role in the struggle for freedom and democracy. Since 2012, the Coalition of Syrian Women for Democracy has been working to prepare for the future political phase in Syria. With the support of the EuroMed Feminist Initiative (EFI), the Coalition has worked on building gender-inclusive constitutional principles based on respect for and implementation of women’s rights and gender equality.
The International conference "Electoral Systems and Gender Equality in Democratic Transitions" was organized by the Coalition of Syrian Women for Democracy and EuroMed Feminist Initiative on the 27 -28th February 2018 at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève (CICG), Switzerland. The conference took place in the frame of the program “Towards Sustainable Peace and Democracy in Syria Through Strengthening Civil Society and Women’s Rights” funded by Sweden.
The conference provided an interactive space for the exchange of knowledge and lessons learned from good and bad practices and experiences of existing electoral systems. It enabled an open discussion on the optimal electoral system promoting the political participation of women in Syria as voters and candidates, supporting the efforts of Syrian human right, women’s rights activists to form alliances and advocate for best options, taking lessons from other countries. Three working groups shared analyses and ideas and provided recommendations for an electoral system favoring women’s participation and gender equality in Syria in regards to the composition of the lists and electoral procedures, quotas and electoral environment.