22 September 2011

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, in Remarks to Mini-Summit, Hails ‘New Dynamism and Cohesion’

of United Nations Approach towards Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the mini-summit on cooperation with Member States on preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict, in New York on 22 September:

I particularly welcome the contributors of civil community, who have been working very hard on this issue; I really appreciate it.

In 2009, I visited the HEAL Africa hospital in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  What I saw there shocked, saddened and angered me deeply.  I met women, girls and boys who had been raped and horrifically abused.  Their bodies were defiled and their lives devastated as part of a systematic tactic of war.

I left the region determined to do more to help the victims, to end impunity for perpetrators and to prevent such violence in the first place.  I have been telling this experience many times, in many different places.

Sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations has increasingly occupied the attention of the Security Council.  Resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1960 (2009) have all recognized it as a grave violation of human rights and a threat to peace and security.

These resolutions demand that parties to conflict make specific, time-bound commitments to combat sexual violence, and to establish mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable.  It is now two years since resolution 1888 (2009) mandated peacekeeping missions to protect populations from sexual violence wherever conflict exists.

Much of the work of peacekeeping is now being focused on protecting civilian populations, particularly women and girls, from all this sexual violence.  This meeting is an opportunity to take stock.

You are all familiar with the work of Ms. [Margot] Wallström and her office, and I have a high admiration and support of her Team of Experts on Rule of Law and the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict network.  I thank you very much.

There is new dynamism and cohesion in the United Nations approach to this challenge.  We have kept the problem high on the agenda.  I thank Member States for supporting Ms. Wallström’s office and the Team.  I hope this summit will lead to sustained financial support.

The Experts were unique among the United Nations in being invited by the Government of South Sudan to contribute to the drafting of the Transitional Constitution.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they are supporting prosecution support cells and assisting the Government to deploy women magistrates.

Today we will hear about some commendable initiatives.  Member States are developing national strategies and adopting legislation.  They are establishing special courts and conducting public-awareness campaigns.  These examples illustrate a growing commitment to combat this evil, but they are also evidence that it remains a significant challenge.

Women, men and children continue to be subjected to sexual violence wherever conflict exists.  The majority of perpetrators remain at large.  Prosecutions and convictions are low.  We need to make even greater efforts to prevent and respond, including by providing adequate remedies, reparation and care for survivors.

In the case of the United Nations, the Organization is working to improve early warning, enhanced with targeted patrols and distress-call systems.  It is also essential that vulnerable populations are able to trust those who have been asked to protect them.  We will, therefore, continue to strictly enforce our own zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation.  Together we can prevent sexual violence in conflict, help the victims and end impunity.

I count on your leadership, and I assure you of my continued commitment on this most important issue.

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For information media • not an official record