'Efficient Brutality' Remains Hallmark of Widespread Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts, Secretary-General Tells Security Council
'Efficient Brutality' Remains Hallmark of Widespread Sexual Violence in Armed Conflicts, Secretary-General Tells Security Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6180th Meeting (AM & PM)
‘Efficient Brutality’ remains hallmark of widespread sexual violence
in armed conflicts, Secretary-General tells Security Council
Report Recommends Mechanisms to Eradicate Practice, End Culture of Impunity
Parties to armed conflict continued to use sexual violence with efficient brutality, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council today as it held a day-long debate on the agenda item “Women and peace and security”.
“Like a grenade or a gun, sexual violence is part of their arsenal to pursue military, political, social and economic aims. The perpetrators generally operate with impunity,” he said as he introduced his first report on the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict.
Secretary-General Ban said that, despite some progress over two decades, the deliberate targeting of civilians through acts of sexual violence continued on a widespread and systematic basis. Beyond the enormous toll on victims, sexual violence in armed conflict hurt recovery and peacebuilding. “I will not relent in calling on States and non-State parties to prevent these terrible crimes,” he stressed, calling on the Council to focus on concrete actions to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
He said the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict required a multisectoral response, and assured Council members that he was committed to strengthening the United Nations system to ensure its ability to “deliver as one”. He urged the Council immediately to authorize the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry, supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which would focus on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the conflicts plaguing Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan, saying that “[v]ictims of sexual violence are among the world’s most vulnerable and traumatized people. For the sake of these innocent women and men, their families and their societies, we must come together and act.”
Opening the debate, the representative of the United States said, “We must […] better protect women and girls, and halt the impunity that perpetrators enjoy.” It was necessary to identify and punish the perpetrators, increase sexual awareness training and provide treatment to survivors of rape and abuse. At the same time, it was important to collect more data, she said, urging the Council to consider the report’s recommendations seriously and act on them quickly. International accountability mechanisms should be considered, especially in countries unable effectively to carry out justice.
She said targeted measures were needed to combat sexual violence as a weapon of war. To curb violence by military personnel, awareness and accountability was needed among national forces. Perpetrators must not be promoted, and an effective vetting mechanism was needed in that regard. The United Nations must lead by example by enforcing its zero-tolerance policy on abuse by peacekeepers. Efforts to combat sexual violence should be placed squarely on the political agenda when countries sought peace, and included from the very start of negotiations. Women should be included as mediators and participators in peace talks.
While several speakers echoed the call for targeted measures against individuals and parties who systematically used sexual violence as a weapon of war, China’s representative said he was not in favour of the Council’s “all too frequent use” of sanctions. Rather, it should handle the issue in the context of relevant political situations, focusing on conflict prevention.
The Secretary-General’s proposed appointment of a senior system-wide official to address sexual violence was welcomed by many speakers, as was his call for the Council to include measures to address the issue in new and renewed mandate resolutions. Belgium’s representative suggested that the Organization also appoint a female mediator for women and peace and security, who would bring a gender perspective to peace processes.
Commenting on the Secretary-General’s proposal of a strategy to “deliver as one” in preventing and responding to sexual violence, Turkey’s representative said relevant bodies and programmes should first consider more efficient implementation or sharpening the existing tools, including taking advantage of all mechanisms and tools of the Human Rights Council and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Austria’s representative said that, given the complex nature and sensitivity of data collection, which was vital to the prevention of sexual violence, more consistent and comprehensive reporting on sexual violence in the Secretary-General’s country-specific reports would enable the Council to address the protection of women and children in a more systematic manner. To that end, the Council should include specific reporting requirements in its mandates.
Many speakers addressed the culture impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of systematic sexual violence, saying that affected national Governments needed assistance in strengthening their capacity to tackle impunity. Where appropriate, cases should be referred to the International Criminal Court; an important step had been taken recently by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which had been the first to pronounce convictions on the charge of sexual slavery, and to treat forced marriage as a crime against humanity.
Rwanda’s representative remarked that perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in his country, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), had disrupted security and stability in the wider Great Lakes region, while survivors lived with the consequences of the genocide with little assistance from the international community. He urged the international community to complement efforts by the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to eliminate the threat they posed and to provide assistance to the survivors.
Other matters addressed today included assistance to victims of sexual violence; the importance of including women in conflict resolution, peace processes and post-conflict peacebuilding; the need to establish a commission of inquiry with an appropriate follow-up mechanism of the Council; the importance of incorporating a gender perspective in dealing with situations of armed conflict; and the need to promote gender equality and address the root causes of conflict, such as poverty and competing struggles for resources.
Also speaking today were the representatives of France, Japan, Libya, Uganda, Russian Federation, Mexico, Viet Nam, Croatia, Costa Rica, Burkina Faso, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Israel, Brazil, Switzerland, South Africa, Finland, Liechtenstein, Canada, Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Bangladesh, Germany, Australia, Italy, Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Nigeria, Argentina, Netherlands, Sierra Leone, Iceland, Afghanistan, Peru, Timor-Leste, United Republic of Tanzania and Kenya.
The meeting began at 10:30 a.m. and was suspended at 1:10 p.m. It resumed at 3:10 p.m. and ended at 5:40 p.m.
For its consideration of “Women and peace and security”, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1820 (document S/2009/362). Resolution 1820 (2008) requested the Secretary-General to report, among other things, on situations of armed conflict in which sexual violence has been widely or systematically employed against civilians and proposals for strategies to minimize the susceptibility of women and girls to such violence. The preparation of the report was entrusted to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which established a coordination group at Headquarters, led by a senior focal point, with participation of all agencies, funds and programmes and in consultation with Member States.
According to the report, conflict environments, characterized by a breakdown in the rule of law and a prevailing climate of impunity, create the conditions whereby parties, emboldened by their weapons, power and status, essentially enjoy free reign to inflict sexual violence, with far-reaching implications for efforts to consolidate peace and secure development.
Sexual violence is deeply dehumanizing, inflicts intense mental and physical trauma, and is often accompanied by fear, shame and stigma, states the report. For those reasons, victims do not easily disclose their experiences, leading to gross underreporting, acerbated by the difficulty in gathering information during conflict situations. Any lack of comprehensive information, however, should not preclude efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence. In a number of contemporary conflicts, sexual violence has taken on particularly brutal dimensions, sometimes as a means of pursuing military, political, social and economic objectives, perpetrated mainly against civilians in direct violation of international humanitarian, human rights and criminal law.
The report states that sexual violence can prolong conflict by creating a cycle of attack and counter-attack, especially when it is perpetrated on the discriminatory grounds of, for instance, race and religion. Sexual violence is also committed to terrorize and punish and as a form of reprisal. It is a form of discrimination that inhibits and restricts the ability of women to exercise their rights on the basis of equality with men, and to fully and effectively participate in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes. It is often accompanied by abduction, enforced prostitution and enslavement of victims. The perpetrators of sexual violence in contemporary conflicts include members of State armed forces and the police, along with militias and other non-State armed groups.
The Secretary-General concludes that, in bringing together available data, no matter how incomplete, the present report shows a “disturbing picture” of the use of sexual violence in armed conflicts and their aftermath. Member States, the United Nations system and civil society all have a role to play in moving towards a comprehensive understanding of the problem and the adoption of effective, multisectoral response strategies. The continued leadership of the Council will be critical in that regard.
The Secretary-General urges the Council to call for strict compliance by parties to armed conflict with international criminal, humanitarian, human rights and refugee law and to ensure that mandates under Chapter VII of the Charter contain provisions on the prevention of, and response to, sexual violence, with corresponding reporting requirements to the Council. The Council should ensure that sanctions committees are mandated to address sexual violence, and receive information of lists of names and parties who perpetrate sexual violence. Enhanced communication with other subsidiary bodies, such as the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, is also urged. The Council’s Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians should also address sexual violence, as appropriate.
The Council is further urged to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate and report on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, with a dedicated focus on sexual violence in conflict situations in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan. The Council should consider establishing such commissions, supported by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in other conflicts where sexual violence occurs. It should ensure that all data on sexual violence is reviewed by an existing working group of the Council.
The President of the Security Council, JOHN SAWERS (United Kingdom) welcomed the Secretary-General, as well as three female United Nations police officers from United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) who were there to observe the debate. He said that resolution 1820 (2008) built on resolution 1325 (2000), confirming the Council’s readiness to address more systematically the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence and underlining the vital contribution that women themselves could make, as peacekeepers and peacebuilders.
United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, introducing his report, said that, despite some progress over two decades, the deliberate targeting of civilians through acts of sexual violence continued on a widespread and systematic basis. Parties to armed conflict continued to use sexual violence with efficient brutality. “Like a grenade or a gun, sexual violence is part of their arsenal to pursue military, political, social and economic aims. The perpetrators generally operate with impunity.”
He said he had met victims of sexual violence and was haunted by their testimony. “I will not relent in calling on States and non-State parties to prevent these terrible crimes.” Beyond the enormous toll on victims, sexual violence in armed conflict hurt recovery and peacebuilding. The report highlighted where States and other parties must act. He also called on the Council to focus on concrete actions. Preventing and responding to sexual violence required a multisectoral response, the pillars of which were interdependent. The efforts of the United Nations system reached across its main work areas ‑‑ from the normative to operational. He was committed to strengthening the United Nations system to ensure it would “deliver as one”.
Sexual violence must also be addressed from planning to implementation of mandates, he said. He welcomed the fact that the issue would be included in the Terms of Reference for Technical Assessment Missions and the Integrated Mission Planning Process.
He said that yesterday, in a meeting with the Force Commanders, he had given a clear and strong instruction that the military leaders should keep the issue as a top priority. He called on Council members and other States, as well as civilian and military leaders, to join forces to address the grave problem. “I repeat: no act of sexual exploitation and abuse by any UN personnel will be tolerated.”
He urged the General Assembly to conclude its deliberations on the creation of a United Nations institution to advance gender equality and women’s human rights. He was also in discussions with the United Nations system partners on appointing a new senior system-wide official to address sexual violence. Monitoring, investigation and documentation must be improved to address the many challenges in gathering information and reporting on sexual violence.
He urged the Council to immediately authorize the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry, supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which focus on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in conflicts in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan. The Commission should recommend to the Council the most effective mechanisms to ensure accountability for those egregious crimes. He also drew attention to the brutal, predatory and deliberate targeting of civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army, whose activities had destabilized civilians in the Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He said, “Victims of sexual violence are among the world’s most vulnerable and traumatized people. For the sake of these innocent women and men, their families and their societies, we must come together and act.”
SUSAN RICE (United States) said she had had an opportunity to speak to some victims of sexual violence in situations of conflict, who had asked, with tears in their eyes, that an end be put to such crimes. “We must end these atrocities, we must better protect women and girls, and halt the impunity that perpetrators enjoy,” she said. It was necessary to identify and punish the perpetrators, increase sexual awareness training and provide treatment to survivors of rape and abuse. At the same time, it was important to collect more data and share information on the matter. The report before the Council contained some useful recommendations. She urged the Council to consider them seriously and act on them quickly. International accountability mechanisms should be considered, especially in countries unable to effectively carry out justice.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, interlinked problems of sexual violence and impunity were particularly grave, she continued. Some 65 per cent of sexual violence cases there involved children, but Congolese courts addressed only 2 per cent of such cases. It was important to do more to ensure justice. A commission of inquiry deserved serious consideration. The Council should also consider sending technical assistance teams to the areas of conflict. She welcomed the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recently announced zero-tolerance policy for members of its Armed Forces who committed such crimes. Her Government would continue to insist on complete resolution of the five cases discussed by the Council earlier this week. She encouraged the United Nations Mission there to work with the Government on the problem.
Next, specialized leadership and high-level attention at the United Nations needed to focus on the implementation of 1820, she continued. She believed that an appointment of a high-level representative on women would help focus the Secretariat’s efforts. Targeted measures were needed to combat sexual violence as a weapon of war. To best apply targeted measures, information sharing among all bodies was essential. Relevant special representatives and emergency coordinators should contribute to the drafting of policies and include relevant information in their reports. To curb violence by military officers, awareness and accountability was needed among national forces. Perpetrators must not be promoted, and an effective vetting mechanism was needed in that regard. The United Nations needed to lead by example by enforcing its zero tolerance for abuse by peacekeepers. Efforts to combat sexual violence should be placed squarely on the political agenda when countries searched for peace and included from the very start in peace talks. Women should be included as mediators and participators in peace talks. Reporting by the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict zones was of critical importance. Beyond the measures by the Council, it was important to pursue the issue in other bodies, including a General Assembly discussion of new gender architecture.
FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) said the numbers of civilian casualties in armed conflicts was on the rise and the international community was having an increasingly difficult time securing a safe environment for women in different parts of the world. Sexual violence, particularly against women and children, was also on the rise in this context and he strongly condemned attacks against innocent civilians, as well as any kind of sexual violence or abuse used as a tool of war. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the issue, as it gave a comprehensive account of the huge tasks the international community faced in tackling the issue.
“We should have a collective effort to prevent sexual violence against women with the primary obligation and responsibility resting first and foremost with the States,” he said, adding that, while the Secretary-General’s report contained some useful recommendations, his delegation believed it was also necessary for the Council to take a “fresh look” at matters pertaining to the protection of civilians, especially women. A few days ago, the Council had adopted a resolution bolstering the protection of war-affected children. While that had been a welcome step, Member States should be careful, since establishing a plethora of new mechanisms risked a duplication of effort.
Further, taking into account the Organization-wide strategy to “deliver as one” to prevent and respond to sexual violence, perhaps relevant bodies and programmes should first consider more efficient implementation or sharpening the present tools, including taking advantage of all mechanisms and tools of the Human Rights Council and Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He went on to call for more efficient and systematic data collection and analysis. Turkey also believed more needed to be done to protect the civilian nature of camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.
The United Nations and host countries are responsible for the preservation of that status, and violation of it, by those inside or outside the camps, jeopardized vulnerable persons, including women. Finally, he called for enhancing the fight against impunity and addressing the issue of discrimination against women in both legislation and in practice. He stressed that the long-term and lasting protection of women could be secured only through strengthening the rule of law, enhanced political participation, human rights, democracy and good governance.
JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX (France) supported the position of the European Union and said that the United Nations had a special role to play in responding to sexual violence. Of particular importance were mechanisms to provide assistance to victims and prosecute those responsible. The Organization should also encourage local authorities to act along those lines. During the Council’s visit to Africa in May, France had argued for five officers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo accused of sexual violence to be brought to justice. They had since been removed from command and prosecution had started. That was an important signal. The United Nations and MONUC had played an important role, in that regard. He also welcomed the adoption of resolution 1882 (2009) earlier this week, which allowed an additional response capacity for the Council.
The Secretary-General encouraged dissemination of best practices, and the role of peacekeeping operations was essential in that respect, he said. As much as possible, missions should have ambitious programmes on sexual violence. The parties should be made aware of their obligations, in that regard. He hoped relevant information would be provided to the Council in the Secretary-General’s next report.
France welcomed the work by the sanctions committees, he continued. The Council must systematically consider including sexual violence as a reason for sanctions. He recalled the role of France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the United States in listing four members of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda on the list of individuals targeted for sanctions. His delegation welcomed the set of recommendations by the Secretary-General and was ready to play an active role in the initiatives to ensure action on them. Among the issues of particular importance, he mentioned the proposals on submission of an annual report on the implementation of 1820. He also awaited proposals on modalities of action by the Council in the fight against impunity. France was in favour of the establishment of a commission of inquiry, with its competence limited to sexual violence. The work of that body should be coordinated with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. In that connection, he wondered about the criteria that had led the Secretary-General’s report to focus on three specific geographic situations. Another proposal that he highlighted related to the appointment of a person in charge of fighting sexual violence across the United Nations system.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING (Austria) said systematic attention needed to be paid to the prevention of and protection against sexual violence in the daily deliberations of the Council. As women and girls presented the majority of victims of sexual violence, there was a need to ensure that reporting was not strictly limited to victims under the age of 18. He would, therefore, welcome a follow-up report on an appropriate monitoring and accountability mechanism to be established by the Council. More consistent and comprehensive reporting on sexual violence in the Secretary-General’s country-specific reports would enable the Council to address the protection of civilians from sexual violence, and particularly of women and children, in a more systematic manner. To that end, the Council should include specific reporting requirements in its mandates.
He said that guidelines on information gathering must take ethical and safety concerns into account. Short- and long-term assistance to survivors of sexual violence should be a priority. It was of great concern that perpetrators of serious violations against women and girls still went largely unpunished. That situation demanded further action by the Council, to strengthen the rule of law and to end impunity, including through the establishment of commissions of inquiry, referrals to the International Criminal Court and the imposition of targeted measures. Mission directives, such as had been issued by MONUC, could also be a useful tool to clarify the tasks of peacekeeping missions. Further efforts were needed to include women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding. His delegation supported the appointment of a senior official to attend to the prevention and response to sexual violence across the United Nations system.
NORIHIRO OKUDA (Japan) said sexual violence used as a war tactic not only caused physical and psychological harm to victims, it also significantly set back any momentum towards achieving peace and security. In the year since resolution 1820 (2008) was adopted, it was clear that some progress had been made in protecting civilians from such violence. In adopting resolution 1882 (2009), the Council had strengthened its response to rape and other sexual violence against children in armed conflict. There were challenges, however, to implementing resolution 1820. He expressed deep concern that grievous sexual violence continued to be rampant in several countries, including the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad. Now was the time to translate commitments made in resolution 1820 into concrete action. To achieve that, accurate and timely data collection and reporting on the ground were vital. He welcomed the Council’s decision to take action to “ensure more coherent, comprehensive and regular reporting on sexual violence” through the senior-level mission focal point system.
United Nations agencies concerned with sexual violence must increase cooperation with the monitoring and reporting mechanisms led by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), he said. Protecting victims’ privacy was the first priority when collecting data on sexual violence. It was important to carefully consider the feasibility of establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate sexual violence in conflict countries, specifically how information would be collected and shared, and whether the aim would be to facilitate prosecution of perpetrators or simply to build a strong informational resource. He strongly urged the Governments of countries in conflict to adopt comprehensive legal and judicial reforms in order to end impunity and ensure accountability for perpetrators. He stressed the importance of capacity-building assistance, as well as strengthened coordination within the United Nations system to implement resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).
Applying the concept of human security, which focused on protection and empowerment at the individual and community level, was needed to respond effectively to the needs of female victims of sexual violence, he said. At the sixth meeting of Friends of Human Security, held in June and co-hosted by Japan and Mexico, the subject of sexual violence against women in armed conflict was a major theme on the agenda. Through the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, Japan had supported projects that addressed that issue and its root causes in a comprehensive, multisectoral way in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burundi.
IBRAHIM O.A. DABBASHI (Libya) said resolution 1820 (2008), as well as resolution 1882 (2009), about children and armed conflict were important steps in forming a system of practical measures for the protection of civilians, in particular the protection of women and children, in situations of armed conflict and were part of efforts to codify international law. Sexual violence stripped the victim of her humanity and caused acute physical and psychological shock, accompanied by shame that prevented victims from reporting the crime. Sexual violence also undermined efforts for reconstruction and peacebuilding.
He said that Council resolutions should be implemented in areas of conflict, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where severe violations of human rights against women and children had taken place. He would have hoped the report would have addressed violence against women in general and include the violations against women, including starvation and harassment, in the Palestinian territory. The violations perpetrated in Afghanistan and Iraq should also be included.
Inadequate measures pertaining to the prevention of sexual violence, combating immunity and combating discrimination against women, had contributed greatly to the spread of sexual violence, he said. Countries should strengthen their national capacities to combat that phenomenon through reform of the legal system according to international legal standards. Perpetrators must be exempt from any amnesty or immunity. Awareness-raising must also be undertaken, so that victims were not marginalized or shamed. There was also a need to increase the participation of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding.
PATRICK S. MUGOYA ( Uganda) said that his country deplored sexual violence and supported the efforts to eradicate its use as an instrument of war, advocating that at the regional and other levels. Incidence of widespread violence tended to escalate where State institutions were broken down. Therefore, it was a symptom of a much larger problem. There should be no impunity, and culprits should be held accountable. Only then would the victims heal and develop a measure of confidence that they had not been abandoned. It was necessary to raise awareness of the fact that sexual violence was not acceptable. The most effective way to counter sexual violence was to restore peace and security. Institutions of the State needed to be strengthened, including police, prisons and army. Law enforcement would then be enhanced.
Most issues of drawn-out conflicts should be addressed in a holistic way, he continued. Counselling, training and capacity-building should be part of a response. Also, perpetrators should be removed from the armed forces. The United Nations and civil society needed to work together to find good mediators, including female ones. He supported the creation of a mechanism to find a solution to the problem. United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict was a first step towards coordination of existing activities. He welcomed the Secretary-General’s commitment to submit an annual report on implementation of resolution 1820 (2008).
IGOR N. SHCHERBAK (Russian Federation) said that sexual violence was a heinous crime which required condemnation and harsh punishment. Despite the adoption of 1820 (2008), women continued to be victims sexual violence. He supported the Secretary-General’s appeal for strict compliance with existing provisions of international law. The diverse nature of violence required proper attention to all its manifestations. A balanced approach was reflected in the resolution on children and conflict, which had been adopted three days ago. By that text, the killing and maiming of children and sexual violence had been flagged as requiring particular attention.
A number of proposals before the Council were interesting, but he wondered if it would be fair to establish a commission of inquiry or create a mechanism on sexual violence alone. Wasn’t that an excessively narrow approach? Should the Council really turn a blind eye to other crimes against civilians? The issue of sexual violence also should not be separated from other questions of gender equality. Among other things, he advocated women’s active participation in the peace process, as well as more consistent implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on Racial Discrimination and other human rights treaties. He believed that, through joint efforts, it was possible to not only reduce sexual violence, but also promote gender equality.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico) said that doing nothing in the face of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict was not an option. The international community and the Council must show clearly that acts of sexual violence would not remain unpunished. The brutal dimension of sexual violence in such areas as the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo was alarming, including the use of sexual violence against men. He underlined the importance of the International Criminal Court to prosecute those responsible for certain act of violence. The Secretary-General’s report showed clearly the complexity of collecting information on sexual violence. In that regard, he supported the proposal to establish a commission to investigate crimes against international humanitarian and human rights crimes, as proposed.
Taking note of other recommendations, he agreed on the need for Council resolutions regarding measures, under Chapter VII, to prevent and respond to sexual violence, and the obligation to report to the Council. A discussion was necessary, however, to see whether appointing a high official to oversee the response of the United Nations system would be the best option. The United Nations response must have a multisectoral nature. A thorough analysis was necessary of the work carried out by the various bodies of the United Nations. He underlined the need for full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and the importance of incorporating a gender perspective in dealing with situations of armed conflict. The inclusion of women in mediation processes was crucial in guaranteeing a sustainable peace.
BUI THE GIANG (Viet Nam) said that Council resolution 1820 (2008) had led to improved awareness about sexual violence across the United Nations system, in the international community and in conflict areas. Since then, the issue had been dealt with in many reports by the Secretary-General and outcome documents by the Security Council, as well as many other United Nations forums. Resolution 1882 (2009) on children and armed conflict this week had once again reaffirmed the Council’s resolve to halt those violations. He supported the efforts to translate into practice the 2007 initiative “UN Action against Sexual violence in Conflict” and other measures aimed at preventing and responding to sexual violence, as well as ongoing efforts by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and other agencies to integrate sexual violence into the protection of civilians mandates and develop important materials such as gender guidelines for military personnel in peacekeeping operations and an inventory of responses by such personnel to war-related violence against women.
Much remained to be done, however, he said. Greater efforts should be made to promote the empowerment of women and improve their participation in the early stages of peace processes. Along that line, he supported a more proactive engagement of the United Nations in increasing women’s participation in political and peacekeeping missions. Measures to protect women and girls from sexual violence in conflict should be designed and implemented as part of a broader strategic framework, which covered social, economic and development issues. One of the best ways to prevent and respond to sexual violence was to further mainstream gender in early recovery planning and financing at the national level. The United Nations, particularly the Peacebuilding Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and donors should further assist Governments in building gender-related capacity and developing gender-sensitive programmes. Underlining the high importance of international assistance and cooperation, his delegation remained of the view that States bore the primary responsibility to protect their populations from all types of violations, including sexual violence. And, concerning the ideas to create new mechanisms and structures, he believed that, to ensure the most cost-effective performance of the whole system, it was more important to promote efficient use and better coordination of existing ones.
RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) reiterated his full support for the unequivocal implementation of resolution 1820 (2008) and he reiterated his call to all parties to armed conflicts to strictly adhere to relevant international law. Despite wide-scale support, the Secretary-General’s report showed that its overall implementation remained weak and that the deliberate and targeted use of sexual violence against women and girls in conflict-affected situations continued to be a key challenge. In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and other parts of the world, the levels of brutality of widespread and systematic sexual violations were beyond belief. The increasing trend of abducting, enslaving and forcing such victims into prostitution was also disturbing.
Croatia had its own painful memory of sexual violence as a war tactic, having experienced it first-hand during the 1990s, he said. The Secretary-General’s report highlighted important hurdles and gaps that were keeping effective protection elusive and preventing genuine change on the ground. He appreciated the Secretary-General’s candour about the report’s limitations, particularly as they concerned data collection on sexual violence.
He welcomed measures to implement resolution 1820 (2008), but said there was a need for a wider Council focus on the issues referred to in that resolution. It would be crucial to create a regular reporting cycle, and further develop the Organization’s capacity to strategically collect and analyse sexual violence against women and girls in conflict situations. Calls to set up a commission of inquiry warranted serious consideration. Resolution 1882 (2009) was an important milestone for the children-in-armed-conflict agenda and a valuable mechanism for monitoring implementation of 1820, especially for women and girls age 18 or younger. He urged greater efforts in field operations to fill existing gaps, especially by better integrating gender perspective into peacekeeping, peacebuilding and the humanitarian arena to strengthen women protection mandates.
JORGE URBINA (Costa Rica), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Human Security Network, said that, while his delegation welcomed the significant steps taken to address security and gender equality by the Security Council, as well as relevant actions taken by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and Human Rights Council, progress towards implementing commitments to curb, penalize or protect against sexual violence and abuse had been “slow and uneven”. That had been the result of a number of factors, including weak coordination within the United Nations system, insufficient funding and human resources, ineffectiveness of accountability measures and lack of political will.
The Human Security Network believed that a more comprehensive and strategic approach was needed in critical areas, including prevention, protection, women’s participation, accountability, victims’ assistance, and data collection. On prevention, he said every effort must be made to eliminate prejudice, discriminatory social patterns and harmful traditional and cultural practices that condoned sexual violence, all of which exacerbated the ill-treatment of women. In addition, community awareness must be raised and more direct engagement by traditional and religious leaders promoted.
He went on to say that it was important to strengthen the protection capacity of both States and United Nations personnel on the ground. Security sector reform and the rule of law could play a vital role in that process. International cooperation should increase assistance and mentoring for training military, police and other security forces to deal with cases of sexual violence. Turning next to accountability, he said all parties, State and non-State actors, must always refrain from committing or condoning sexual violence. Further, all the necessary steps should be taken to protect individuals, punish perpetrators and provide a remedy for victims. While “zero tolerance” policies were important, the real commitment of civilian and military leaders was crucial to reducing sexual violence. International cooperation must bolster local efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and ensure equal and effective justice under internationally agreed standards.
International justice mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court could also support national efforts to fight impunity, as appropriate, he said. As for the Security Council, that body had recognized that sexual violence in conflict situations constituted a threat to international peace and security in some circumstance. As such, his delegation believed the Council should include gender equality concerns, as well as provisions to prevent and respond to sexual violence when establishing or renewing peacekeeping mandates. Targeted and effective means to ensure compliance should be considered. In addition, the Council should improve communication and exchange of information among its subsidiary bodies to ensure a more coherent approach to combating sexual violence.
LIU ZHENMIN (China) said that, in recent years, concepts such as gender equality and the fight against sexual violence had gained ground. However, women remained the first victims in many conflicts today. He urged parties to conflict to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law and to bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against women. They should also accede, if they had not yet done so, to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. As a primary organ for maintaining international peace and security, the Council should handle the issue in the context of relevant political situations, focusing on conflict prevention. The General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Human Rights Council and other bodies should play their roles, as well. He was not in favour of the Council’s all too frequent use of sanctions. In all stages of peace processes, greater attention should be paid to the status and role of women.
He said Governments bore the primary responsibility to protect women and the international community could offer constructive assistance. Situations varied from country to country, and the international community should respect the Governments concerned. Countries emerging from conflict needed assistance in capacity-building. Efforts should continue to encourage and support the participation of civil society in the protection of women. He took note of the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish commissions of inquiry in certain countries, but suggested that the Secretary-General first seek prior consent from the Governments of those countries. The Council should not only regard women as victims, but also consider the important role women could play in peace processes.
PAUL ROBERT TIENDRÉBÉOGO (Burkina Faso) said that several measures had been taken to put an end to sexual violence, including the adoption of resolutions 1820 (2008) and 1325 (2000). Unfortunately, however, sexual violence continued, being committed deliberately by all parties to conflict, including members of State armed forces and police. The weight of social and cultural factors was still an obstacle to estimating the full extent of the harm. The responsibility to address that scourge primarily belonged to States and parties to conflict. Among other things, it was important to establish viable national justice systems. Also essential was assistance to victims. But, any care, however effective, could not permanently erase the scars incurred by victims. Reform of the security sector and justice system and development of institutions were important steps to address the situation.
The seriousness of the problem required a common strategy, he continued. He welcomed the actions undertaken by the United Nations, including the global sensitization campaign. The Organization should continue to strengthen its coordination capacities in order to better assist actors in the field, with the participation of members of the United Nations system. The appointment of a coordinator on the issue would be beneficial. Also interesting were other recommendations by the Secretary-General. It was essential to design and implement an appropriate training programme. Integrating women in the staff of peacekeeping operations and measures to prevent violence should remain among the priorities. Peace agreements should take into account the aspect of sexual violence. He welcomed concerted efforts to integrate sexual violence into mediation processes and include women as mediators. He also welcomed a recent symposium on sexual violence and peace negotiations. The Council had an important role to play, as part of the collective effort. The adoption of resolution 1882 (2009) had been an important step.
Speaking in his national capacity, Mr. SAWERS said that, sadly, the report confirmed much of what had been suspected about the extent of conflict-related sexual violence. “If we are serious about preventing and resolving conflict, then we need to be serious about addressing conflict-related sexual violence.” There were, however, still gaps in information, capacity, coordination and imagination that needed to be bridged. The June Arria meeting had highlighted the critical importance of enhancing women’s contribution to peace processes.
He said that short-term measures to improve protection and enhance women’s participation in decision-making must be accompanied by longer-term efforts to establish accountability and the rule of law. More effective monitoring of patterns of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict should allow the Council to identify and mandate the necessary action. He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that better use be made of commissions of inquiry. The Council should ensure that conflict-related sexual violence got the attention it deserved in the Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians and in the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict. The time to act was now. The perpetrators wanted to diminish women and exclude the role of women in peace processes. The courage and determination of women who wanted to contribute to peace should be encouraged.
MORTEN WETLAND (Norway) said that, daily, there was violence, molesting and suffering. There were reports of villages where every single female was raped ‑‑ where a girl’s capacity to have children was taken away from her. Impunity must end and perpetrators of sexual violence must be held accountable. The responsibility lay with the Government and military leaders, who too often had turned a blind eye to it. He called for comprehensive legal and judicial reforms, in conformity with international standards, without delay. While collecting evidence was difficult, it must be given the highest priority. Unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for victims would help, as would security sector reform, where the number of trained women police officers should be increased.
He said that victims should be given better medical and psychosocial assistance. They should be ensured of socio-economic rehabilitation and economic compensation, as well as support when taking their cases to court. He supported the appointment of a Special Representative on Women, Peace and Security to drive system-wide prevention of, and response to, sexual violence in conflict. He also supported the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, with a focus on Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan. He also supported a Council mechanism to monitor how parties to armed conflict complied with obligations under international law. Sexual violence in armed conflict was also a political and a security question, and required a political and security response. The Council should, therefore, keep the matter prominently on its agenda.
ANDERS LIDÉN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said effective implementation of the landmark resolution 1820 (2008) was essential. He asked the Secretary-General to report annually to the Council on progress in implementing it. He condemned sexual violence in all its forms, including as a tool to advance political and military objectives. He called on leaders of all countries and organizations to take firm action to combat sexual violence. The United Nations system must address conflict-related sexual violence in a coordinated manner, based on the vision proposed in resolution 1820. Gaps must be identified and accountability established. The Organization must develop better capacity to gather information about sexual violence cases, and address victims’ needs. He took note of the idea to appoint a senior representative with responsibility to integrate the United Nations response to conflict-related sexual violence, and welcomed creation of a follow-up mechanism.
He called for improving the ways women and gender aspects were integrated into broader humanitarian and peacekeeping strategies. Women must be represented at every stage and level of peace negotiations, and civil society actors should be consulted throughout them. Peacekeeping missions should support national efforts and prepare themselves in advance. Addressing sexual violence, gender equality and respect for human rights must be integral to peacekeeping and pre-deployment training of peacekeepers. There should be no alternative to a zero-tolerance policy on that issue. Sexual crimes being committed in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sudan were unacceptable. Such crimes committed by military personnel should fall under the jurisdiction of civilian courts.
Short-term measures to improve protection must be accompanied by long-term efforts to establish the rule of law, he said. Respect for human rights and gender justice must be reflected in national laws and upheld in practice. Much more could be done to ensure Member States’ commitment in that regard. Impunity for atrocities must end. Institutions must be built to bring perpetrators to justice and address discrimination against women and children. He supported development of a comprehensive United Nations strategy to combat impunity for sexual violence. The European Union would continue to implement resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) through targeted steps to protect and support women and children, and by mainstreaming a gender-sensitive approach into all policies and activities, especially those concerning crisis management and long-term development cooperation. It would strongly focus on the rule of law and the responsibility to rebuild effective and gender sensitive justice systems, which delivered justice to sexual violence victims and helped end impunity.
GABRIELA SHALEV (Israel) said that, as a co—sponsor of 1820 (2008), her country closely followed developments around the world concerning its implementation. She welcomed increased deployment of gender advisers, routine inclusion in peacekeeping mandates of provisions for the protection of women and girls from sexual violence, and a growing awareness of the need to include women in any peace process. While all those measures were steps forward, it was clear that the international community still had a very long way to go.
Israel welcomed the Secretary-General’s initial report on 1820 (2008), she said. The use of sexual violence as a tool of war was surely a form of terrorism. Israel condemned it and strongly urged the Council to strengthen its tools for protecting women and girls. Among useful actions that could be pursued, Israel supported immediate deployment of a commission of inquiry to several areas plagued by sexual violence. It also looked forward to the joint Department of Peacekeeping Operations-Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs study on protection of civilian mandates. Mandates for peacekeeping missions in areas afflicted with sexual violence should contain explicit and unambiguous provisions for the protection of civilians from it. Before renewal of those mandates, there should be a candid assessment of results, with mandates or strategies revised, as necessary. Increasing the deployment of women and gender advisers would further increase the ability of missions to effectively protect civilians from sexual abuse. Regrettably, there had been accusations of sexual misconduct committed by peacekeepers themselves. All mission personnel should be properly trained in appropriate conduct, with transparent investigation of all allegations and swift prosecution of those who abused their position of authority. The zero-tolerance policy must be strictly enforced.
She added that, in the spirit of resolution 1325 (2000), the Women’s Equal Rights Law in Israel had been amended to mandate the inclusion of women in any group appointed to peacebuilding negotiations or work towards conflict resolution. Through Israel’s international aid agency, her Government organized programmes in women’s leadership and capacity-building for women’s non-governmental organizations.
Ms. DUNLOP (Brazil) said that the whole United Nations membership should be involved in the discussion of how to address the problem of sexual violence. The persistence of widespread rape and other forms of sexual violence in armed conflict was unacceptable. It was all the more deplorable when perpetrators were officials. Collective indignation should translate into concerted action by the international community. All parts of the United Nations system should come together to address the problem, which demanded a multisectoral approach. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration, conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women and other mechanisms provided a clear framework for effective action. Various United Nations bodies should continue their valuable work, in a coordinated manner.
The principle of national ownership and participation of civil society could not be overemphasized, she continued. The Security Council had an important role to play, and the recommendations of the Secretary-General deserved careful consideration. It was crucial that the proposed measures fully respect the functions and powers of the Council under the Charter and conformed to the scope of 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). The object of those measures must be the widespread sexual violence in armed conflict. In other cases, the fight against violations should be led by relevant actors within the United Nations system. At the same time, it was important to seek cohesion and cooperation, for example in information gathering. Data should be shared with relevant organs, as well as the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Women’s Commission, as appropriate, so that action was not merely punitive, but transformative, as well. Enforcement, prosecution or sanctions should be accompanied by efforts to address the causes of the problem, such as the lack of education, institutional fragility and lack of resources. Together, relevant actors could achieve a lot in that area. She hoped that today’s debate would lead to improved action by the Council and the United Nations as a whole.
HEIDI GRAU (Switzerland) said it was deplorable that sexual violence continued to be used on a widespread basis, including as a tactic of war. She urged the Council to call on all parties to armed conflicts to strictly comply with their obligations under international law and to use the instruments at its disposal, such as targeted sanctions and the mandates of peacekeeping operations. Welcoming the adoption of resolution 1882 (2009) on children and armed conflict, she said it was another landmark in the efforts to strengthen the protection agenda. It was regrettable, however, that that structure of protection did not apply after a victim turned 18.
She said that States should make greater efforts to reform their legal systems, in order to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice and that victims were protected and treated with dignity. Continued support of the international community in assisting States in that regard was required. In order to achieve a sustainable impact of resolution 1820 (2008), an integrated approach had to be applied. An increased participation of women in peacekeeping missions would render protection and support to victims of sexual violence more effective. It was also of great importance for the prevention of and combating sexual violence that women were more involved in peace processes. Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 should be jointly implemented.
BASO SANGQU (South Africa) said women were active agents of change and were central in the promotion of democracies, good governance and reconciliation and in peacebuilding and development after the guns fell silent. Their participation should thus, be promoted in the whole continuum of conflict resolution. The present reality, though, was that women and girls were the first casualties of war. Sexual violence in conflict areas was inextricably linked with gender inequality. It was, therefore, imperative to strongly advocate for full involvement of women in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. His country’s ratification of Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union and other international gender mainstreaming instruments underlined its commitment to gender equality and, in particular, to gender mainstreaming in conflict prevention, resolution and management and post-conflict reconstruction and development.
He said that United Nations Member States should develop enhanced policies and strategies for local ownership and implementation of resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). In that regard, he recommended establishment of a coordination group. The impunity associated with sexual violence was of great concern. The promotion of sound systems in areas of transitional justice, rule of law and judiciary reform should be prioritized, so as to ensure that countries prosecute those accused of all forms of sexual violence. The international community had an obligation to ensure the rights of women and children, especially in conflict-affected areas. Equal and effective participation of women in decision-making and peace processes would contribute to the promotion and maintenance of peace and security.
HEIDI SCHRODERUS-FOX (Finland) said that everybody should endorse resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) to their full extent. The international community had begun to recognize the seriousness of sexual violence as a grave challenge to peace and security. The real test lay in translating the resolutions into working practices on the ground. Systematic rape in conflict left devastating wounds on society for decades. It should be considered a weapon of war and, as such, an integral part of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Reintegration compensation should not be processed if rape continued. That was one of the issues stressed at the international colloquium on women’s empowerment, leadership and peace and security, which had been convened in Monrovia in March this year by the Presidents of Liberia and Finland.
Continuing, she stressed the importance of providing access to legal processes for the victims of rape and sexual abuse, as well as the efforts to prosecute and convict the perpetrators. Strict enforcement of the zero-tolerance policy by national authorities and international actors was essential. The international community, as well as the individual States concerned, needed to pursue ways of ensuring adequate protection, health care and counselling for victims. Also, one could not afford to ignore women’s knowledge, capacities and commitment. Women should be involved in decision-making at the national and international levels. Opportunities for women’s participation should already be taken into account in the early stages of planning and preparing a peacekeeping mission. Furthermore, the number of female civilian and military personnel in missions should be increased, especially at the leadership level. Women’s engagement in peacebuilding and reconstruction through non-governmental organizations should also be better supported.
STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein) said that, while there had been significant institutional progress on the “women, peace and security” agenda, relevant country-specific reports from the Secretary-General drew a grim picture of the realities on the ground. The international community continued to witness increasing victimization of civilians in armed conflict, including sexual violence, since the Council’s adoption of resolution 1820 (2008). Indeed, incidents of sexual violence had increased in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic.
He said the implementation of resolutions 1820 (2008) and 1325 (2000) was a complex and multisectoral undertaking, and Member States must build on lessons learned in connection with resolution 1325 (2000) regarding both its participation and protection agendas. Consequently, Liechtenstein supported the creation of a specific capacity within the Secretariat to contribute effectively to implementation of resolution 1820 (2008) by coordinating the respective activities of the various actors in the United Nations system.
Given the complex nature and sensitivity of data collection, which was vital to the prevention of sexual violence, he strongly supported the Secretary-General’s call for all United Nations actors to respect the World Health Organization (WHO) Ethical and Safety Standards for researching, measuring and collecting such information. Resolution 1820 (2008) required the Secretary-General to present proposals for the effective collection of timely, reliable and objective information pertaining to the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict.
Liechtenstein, therefore, supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in ongoing conflicts, he said. Reporting to the Security Council and supported by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, its goal would be to ensure accountability, bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice, and prevent the commission of similar crimes in the future. The primary responsibility in that respect must be the State concerned, with international mechanisms and institutions becoming involved only when national judiciaries were not available, or were unable, effectively to combat impunity. In that respect, the central role of the International Criminal Court must be taken into account, he emphasized.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada) said that Canada, through the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, was pleased to support the participation of women officers from the United Nations police in today’s debate. He also drew the Council’s attention to yesterday’s round table with those United Nations police officers, which complemented the debate. The report before the Council provided important contributions. In that connection, he requested that subsequent reports contain more comprehensive information from the field, including the response of the United Nations system and its missions. Canada would welcome an annual report on the implementation of 1820 (2008) and urged the Council to request that the next report include a proposal for a mechanism to consider and act on information concerning sexual violence. Enhanced monitoring and reporting could provide the data the Council required to effectively monitor and strengthen the implementation of resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820. He encouraged the Secretary-General to give full consideration, as a matter of priority, to all institutional measures available to him to achieve a higher profile for the implementation of those resolutions.
Continuing, he encouraged priority attention by the Council to the recommendations contained in the report, which addressed the establishment and renewal of mandates, monitoring of resolutions, enforcement measures and sanctions. He also expressed his delegation’s strong interest in the proposals to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate and report on sexual violence and to review all data on sexual violence by an existing working group, or groups. However, the creation of a dedicated working group might be a more effective response. At a minimum, it was necessary to ensure that sexual violence was included in the Council’s considerations. Ultimately, he would like the Council to adopt structural and lasting initiatives that would make a real difference to those targeted by sexual violence. He also raised the issue of bringing violators to justice. An important step, in that regard, had been recently taken by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which had been the first to pronounce convictions on the charge of sexual slavery, and the crime of forced marriage as a crime against humanity.
He also stressed that amnesty clauses within peace accords that could be interpreted as exempting perpetrators of sexual violence from being held accountable directly contravened resolution 1820 (2008) and other previous international commitments. He was deeply dismayed by the failure to implement that essential element of the text during the year since its adoption. He also emphasized the importance of the establishment of vetting mechanisms by States, to exclude perpetrators from armed forces where credible allegations supported by evidence had been brought against them.
ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said resolution 1820 (2008) had compelled the international community finally to recognize sexual violence committed during conflict situations as a crime against international law. However, more could be done to realize fully the objectives of resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). There was a need to coordinate a systematic approach by international organizations, including regional organizations, and to strengthen national legal frameworks, training and advocacy.
The “three Ps” ‑‑ protection, participation and prevention ‑‑ provided a broad and practical framework that could also be applied to resolution 1820 (2008), he said. It was important to treat sexual assault in conflict situations with the same determination as any other factors of war. There was also a need to establish a firm and clear international norm in prosecuting gender-based violence in times of conflict. Deployed soldiers and peacekeepers must be properly trained.
Underscoring the direct link between poverty and security, he said countries with high rates of gender-based violence often impeded the economic capacities of women. The economic empowerment of women was an effective way to combat such sexual violence. However, current United Nations programmes were often cut short when funding was depleted, he noted, encouraging the Organization to invest greater resources in promoting the link between the economic empowerment of women and security.
SHABBIR AHMAD CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said it was unfortunate that an increasing number of women and girls were falling victim to violence. Poverty, the struggle for resources and socio-economic injustice lay at the heart of conflict, a situation that not only affected the safety and security of women, but also impaired the political, economic and security conditions of the affected nation. The availability of relevant data was important, and focused examination of such data was important in formulating policy guidelines and undertaking preventive measures. Substantial progress was needed in the area of prosecution and measures should be taken to address the psychosocial needs of victims, he said.
Women should be adequately represented at all levels of decision-making in conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation, he said, noting that only 8 per cent of all United Nations police officers were female. It was, therefore, necessary that troop- and police-contributing countries increase the numbers of their female personnel. Critical to successful implementation of resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) was high-level commitment and accountability in administration. There should be zero tolerance of perpetrators and impunity must be ended. It was, therefore, crucial to mobilize leadership, ensure accountability, provide adequate resources, identify challenges and address the root causes of conflict in protecting women and girls.
MARTIN NEY (Germany) said that, in bringing together available data, no matter how incomplete, the report showed a disturbing picture of the use of sexual violence against civilians in armed conflicts and their aftermath. Much still remained to be done to react in a more timely and efficient way to those challenges. Germany supported the proposal for the establishment of a commission of inquiry and reiterated its support for an appropriate follow-up mechanism of the Council. Both proposals would allow the Council to better fulfil its mandate. He welcomed the efforts by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations membership to integrate the implementation of resolution 1820 (2008) into the ongoing New Horizon debate on peacekeeping.
Continuing, he commended all United Nations entities on their extremely important work to combat sexual violence and encouraged them to further intensify their efforts. With conflict-related sexual violence already being addressed by many actors in the United Nations system, it could provide an excellent test case for a more structured and integrated approach to a specific problem. However, as in other areas relating to the field of gender equality and empowerment of women, a strong driver was currently lacking. He hoped the negotiations on the establishment of a new United Nations gender equity architecture would soon create those necessary structures. Any new gender architecture must also be responsible to the special mandates under 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).
GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said his Government was a strong supporter of resolution 1325 (2000), which provided the basis for women to play a greater role in all peace processes and peacebuilding activities. The Council had subsequently adopted resolution 1820 (2008), and all actions towards its implementation should be carried out in that broader context. Australia welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations on implementing that resolution in a systematic and structural way throughout the Organization. Making effective use of the Council’s most recent aide-memoire on civilian protection, which included provisions on sexual violence, would be crucial to that end.
Welcoming the Secretary-General’s decision to consider the appointment of a senior official to address the prevention of and response to sexual violence across the United Nations system, he said his country would support such an appointment and considered it an appropriate way to build on the work of the United Nations Action initiative. He also noted the Secretary-General’s recommendation to establish a commission of inquiry on sexual violence in Chad, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Any such process must result in tangible outcomes because impunity for such violence could not be tolerated.
Expressing particular concern about the high levels of rape reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said his country was also concerned about reports of discrimination against the minority Muslim population in Myanmar and its vulnerability to sexual violence perpetrated by the armed forces of other ethnic groups. Australia called on Myanmar to ensure that its agents stopped perpetrating sexual violence against civilians. For its own part, Australia was undertaking a range of practical initiatives to combat the prevalence of sexual violence in conflict and respond to its effects. The country was pleased to support initiatives by UNIFEM and UNDP to conduct a joint research project to provide guidance on how the relevant Council resolutions could be implemented to reduce the high levels of sexual violence throughout the Pacific region.
GIAN LORENZO CORNADO (Italy) said that resolution 1820 (2008) stated that sexual violence was not only a war crime, but it also endangered international peace and security. Italy, which was organizing an international conference on violence against women in Rome, had co-sponsored that resolution and its implementation was a key priority for the country, which had also co-sponsored resolution 1882 (2009) on children and armed conflict. The measure of the resolution’s success, however, would be the difference being made on the ground in ending impunity, helping the victims and empowering women.
Resolution 1820 (2008) was a useful step towards responding to sexual violence in armed conflict, he said, expressing support for the Secretary-General’s recommendations on a commission of inquiry. However, the challenge was global in scope, and there was a need for the tools to face it. The progress made on the question of children and armed conflict showed that information was the first step towards accountability. The Council must act on information received with all its tools, including its sanctions committees. It was also time to appoint a global advocate for the implementation of resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).
PARK IN-KOOK (Republic of Korea) said that, among the main factors contributing to sexual violence, were inadequate prevention and civilian-protection measures, measures to combat impunity and measures to address continuing discrimination against women and girls. While civilian and military leaders should demonstrate both commitment and political willingness to combat sexual violence, commitment alone was not sufficient. All commitments and pledges must be matched by actions. Parties to conflict had legal obligations under international law to protect and meet the basic needs of persons under their control. In situations where they were unwilling or unable to do so, they must allow and facilitate the work of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations by providing critical humanitarian assistance, including to victims of sexual violence.
Turning to the role of the United Nations, he said there should be more coherence between peacekeeping missions and United Nations country teams to ensure joint priorities as far as sexual violence was concerned. Integrated strategic frameworks to improve the formulation of objectives by missions and country teams should be established. Peacekeeping operations, country teams and Government should also explore the development of a joint programme on sexual violence, as had been done in Liberia. In the humanitarian field, further coordinated action, based on a cross-sectoral cluster approach, was required. Peacekeeping missions must also have a role, with special envoys and representatives being encouraged to pay greater attention to sexual violence. Gender guidelines should be provided to military personnel as soon as possible.
There was also gross underreporting of cases due to fear, shame and stigma, he continued, stressing the importance of clear guidance and support to peacekeeping missions and country teams in order to improve data collection. United Nations agencies and organizations providing services to survivors could be an effective venue. United Nations actors gathering data should be familiar with and respect the WHO ethics and safety standards. An important contribution to data collection could come from the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflicts. Finally, the United Nations system needed a driver dedicated to the issue of women in armed conflict, he said. Of course, the Organization would have a strong driver on women’s issues to play such a role once the proposed stronger gender architecture was established. It was also important to ensure the Security Council’s accountability for implementing its resolutions.
DIEGO MOREJÓN (Ecuador) said the United Nations had a fundamental role in combating all forms of discrimination and violence against women. Ecuador had shown its commitment by ratifying all relevant international treaties and co-sponsoring several resolutions. The Security Council had adopted various resolutions on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, including resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).
He said his country had taken due note of the Secretary-General’s first report on the implementation of resolution 1820 (2008), adding that, while progress had been achieved, more remained to be done. In particular, the topic of sexual violence in armed conflict should be further examined by the General Assembly, which should continue efforts to establish a dedicated composite gender entity. There was also a need to ensure comprehensive assistance to victims and to make coordinated efforts to punish perpetrators.
U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) expressed appreciation for the Secretary-General’s recommendations, particularly those on the establishment of accountability mechanisms, ensuring that peacekeeping mandates addressed sexual violence, and regular annual reporting on gender-based violence. Those concrete proposals would complement and strengthen the implementation of largely unfulfilled commitments under resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). It was necessary strictly to uphold the zero-tolerance policy, which called for an end to impunity in post-conflict situations.
She said that could be achieved by promoting transitional gender justice and programmes provided by the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and special courts. It was also crucial that support programmes for survivors emphasize income generation, food security and protection schemes. The Secretary-General’s request for more “women troops” in conflict zones should elicit a renewed response from Member States, she said, pointing out that Indian female police had recorded positive results in Liberia.
Emphasizing the need to provide peacekeepers with adequate training on human rights violations and strategies to address gender-based violence, she invited the Secretary-General to use existing regional and subregional resources, such as the African Union peace and security architecture and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Early Warning System, to strengthen efforts to protect women in armed conflict. As one of the largest troop contributors, Nigeria remained ready to contribute to peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. To improve the skills of its troops, the Nigerian Government, with support from the United States and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, had established a model peacekeeping training centre early this year.
JORGE ARGÜELLO (Argentina) said the Argentine Centre for Joint Training for Peacekeeping Operations was firmly committed to international standards of human rights protection, especially gender issues in peacekeeping, and to rules of conduct and preventive measures for sexual exploitation and abuse. Argentina also underlined the importance of full and equal participation by men and women in all stages and initiatives for peace during armed conflict, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. After 51 years of uninterrupted presence in United Nations peacekeeping operations, Argentine military personnel had no record of sexual violence or abuse.
He said sexual violence was categorically prohibited as a tactic of war and its widespread and systematic use was a grave violation of international law under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and other international instruments. It was, therefore, a matter of urgency to adopt effective measures to prevent and respond to acts of sexual violence against civilians. The Council should incorporate in its future decisions the defence of, and full respect for, the human rights of victims, and ending impunity for those responsible. Effective mechanisms should be put in place to provide leadership and coherence in the response to sexual violence.
PIET DE KLERK (Netherlands) stressed the need to intensify efforts to end sexual violence by ensuring real, concrete follow-up to resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008). The Secretary-General’s report rightly stated that it was up to Member States, the United Nations system, and civil society to rise to the challenge. After finalizing its national action plan on resolution 1325 (2000), the Dutch Foreign, Defence and Interior Ministries, as well as 15 civil society organizations, were now working to ensure the integration of a gender perspective into the work of the Armed Forces, greater access to justice for victims, the creation of zero-tolerance communities, and an increased role for women in State-building in such countries as Afghanistan, Burundi, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
While commending the work of United Nations Action and efforts by the United Nations system as a whole to improve coordination on the ground, he said there was still a need to enhance coordination. The collection of accurate information was also of great importance in ensuring an adequate and coherent response. In that respect civil society organizations in the field should be involved in the work of States and the United Nations system. There was also a need for vetting, joint patrols to protect civilians, a “duty to inquire” on the part of commanders, and enforceable codes of conduct to strengthen prevention within security forces. Also needed were increased efforts to ensure that peace negotiations and agreements contributed to stopping sexual violence.
He stressed the role of the Council and Secretariat in ensuring the explicit integration of the commitments made in resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) into the mandates of United Nations-appointed mediators, special envoys and special representatives, and in monitoring those commitments. The Netherlands welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations on a commission of inquiry and mandating the Council’s Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians and its sanctions committees to address sexual violence. In that connection, the adoption of resolution 1882 (2009) had been a crucial step forward.
Regarding the advisability of appointing a senior person with system-wide responsibility to attend to the prevention of, and response to, sexual violence, he said there was, indeed, a need for structural attention to that issue. Prevention and response should be an integral part of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. He underlined the importance of a positive decision by Member States in September regarding the establishment of a strong, coordinated and coherent United Nations gender entity headed by an Under-Secretary-General. The Netherlands called on all Security Council members to adopt a strong action-oriented resolution, which would contribute to a coordinated, systematic and coherent international response to sexual violence.
MARCUS LEROY (Belgium) recalled that, one year ago, the Council had taken an important step in fighting sexual violence by adopting resolution 1820 (2008). It was now a matter of urgency to step up its efforts, as the situation on the ground was not improving. The goal should be to take action early, rather than reacting when it was too late. A comprehensive plan of action must be established as a priority to end sexual violence where it took place, and to strengthen the capacity of affected States to prevent it in the future. The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo served as a warning and an example. A genuine human disaster had taken place in the Kivus, but the recent adoption of the United Nations Comprehensive Strategy to Combat Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was a ray of hope for the future.
Emphasizing the importance of combating impunity, he said it was not only fertile soil for violence, but it also undermined reconstruction and re-development efforts. The international criminal courts had an important role to play in combating sexual crimes, but international prosecution was not enough. Initiatives to strengthen the rule of law and penal systems should be strengthened in the countries in greatest need. Helping victims was also important, and the individual and societal consequences of the crimes must be addressed. Belgium welcomed the idea of appointing a senior official to coordinate the United Nations response to sexual violence, but there was also a need to establish the post of female mediator for women and peace and security, who would bring a gender perspective to peace processes.
SHEKOU M. TOURAY (Sierra Leone) said his country had experienced one of the fiercest and bloodiest conflicts of the 1990s, involving mass killings, amputation of limbs, terrorizing the civilian population as a tactic of war, and the subjection of women to “horrendous and despicable violations of their human rights”, including but not limited to gang rape, abduction and sexual slavery. However, with the help of the international community, bilateral partners and regional and subregional organizations, Sierra Leone was moving relatively quickly towards stability and peace. “But that is not to say relics of the past are gone and done with, for there are traces of the past still with us,” he said, noting that gender-based violence within the domestic setting was not uncommon either.
He said Sierra Leone had shown genuine commitment to preventing sexual violence and combating impunity at the national level, and was likewise committed to its relevant international obligations to protect women and girls from violence and to punish perpetrators. Among other actions, Sierra Leone had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and, at the national level, passed three gender acts aimed at reinforcing women’s rights and clamping down on sexual and domestic violence. It had also established a Review Commission to consider discrimination provisions in the Constitution.
At the same time, he said that, while such efforts were laudable, there was still a need for more political space to articulate the aspirations of women and to contain sexual violence in all its manifestations, particularly regarding traditional and culturally ingrained practices. The country’s efforts to implement its obligations was hampered more by lack of resources than political will, he said, urging the international community to support Sierra Leone’s efforts to fully implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).
In addition, for fragile countries emerging from conflict it was important that prevention of, and response to, sexual violence were specifically reflected in peacekeeping mandates and mission directives. Finally, he said his delegation supported calls for the appointment of a special representative of the secretary-general for women, peace and security. Such a move would not only reinforce the United Nations multisectoral response to gender-based violence, but would also help immensely in addressing persisting gaps in that response.
JÓN ERLINGUR JÓNASSON (Iceland) said the international community had a responsibility to protect civilians from the widespread and systematic use of sexual violence as a tactic of war. While States bore primary responsibility in that regard, the international community also had an obligation to assist those States that were unable to fulfil that responsibility.
To tackle the problem, it was essential to understand its nature and scope, and for that reason, an effective monitoring and reporting mechanism was needed, he said. Useful synergies could be established between monitoring and accountability mechanisms under resolutions 1612 (2005) and 1820 (2008). Efforts to implement 1820 (2008) would also benefit from increased cooperation among United Nations actors involved in peacekeeping, development and human rights, including bodies dealing with gender equality and the status of women.
Emphasizing that the United Nations must lead by example, he said peacekeepers must receive proper training, and not betray the trust placed in them by perpetrating acts of wanton violence. In order effectively to end impunity, a broad range of actions was needed. At the national level, urgent legal and judicial reforms were required to punish perpetrators. That would require active cooperation and assistance from the international community. Moreover, the Council should use all measures at its disposal, especially in dealing with persistent violators. The Council should ensure that its sanctions committees addressed sexual violence offences. It should also use its most effective tools, including targeted sanctions, as appropriate for such crimes.
ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said it had become clear that the lack of a stable and secure State often led to persistent human rights violations, especially women’s rights. Insecurity allowed extremism to flourish, making it extremely difficult for Governments and international organizations to provide even basic services to their citizens. Lack of resources and capacity limited the ability of Governments effectively to enforce protective legislation and judicial mechanisms. “Without the equal involvement of half our populations in our civil societies, economies and political systems, our nations are deeply incapacitated, and our children, economies, and even the stability of our countries, suffer,” he said.
He recalled that, only eight years ago, under the brutal Taliban regime, his country had had no provisions for protecting women and human rights. Despite ongoing difficulties, however, Afghanistan had made significant progress, particularly in education and health care. Women’s issues were taken into account at each stage of the national stabilization process and in the National Development Strategy. Yet, while Afghanistan had emerged “from the darkness of a long national nightmare”, there was still more to do. The women of Afghanistan still faced sexual violence, discrimination and oppression, caused and exacerbated by enduring insecurity and the terrorist activities of the Taliban and Al-Qaida.
In some particularly unstable parts of the country where the Taliban were still active, or where the rule of law was not yet strong, women attempting to hold office faced abuse, threats and physical attacks he said. Other women had had their rights curtailed or had been forced into marriage and other exploitative situations. Even in areas free of the Taliban threat, “creeping Talibanization” promoted an un-Islamic and un-Afghan culture that denied women’s basic rights. Afghanistan supported the Secretary-General’s analysis that combating gender discrimination and giving women a larger role in political and decision-making processes was a central step towards preventing violence against women.
To that end, the participation of women would be critical to the success of the upcoming presidential and provincial elections, he said. There had been some praiseworthy victories in the run-up to the ballot, including the fact that millions of women had registered to vote, and that United Nations-assisted education programmes informed women about the voting process and their rights and opportunities as citizens. In addition, a growing number of women had registered as candidates: a record-breaking 328 women were running for provincial councils, and 2 were among the presidential candidates.
Nonetheless, much more needed to be done, he said, noting, among other things, that some women parliamentarians had suggested that security concerns might prevent them from presenting themselves during the elections. Overall, as the women of Afghanistan worked to transform their society, they needed the continued support and protection of the United Nations and the wider international community. The latter’s role in that struggle should be to support the Afghan Government with resources, knowledge, policy guidance and capacity-building. With the Council in the lead, the international community must also encourage a moral and legal awareness of women’s rights, both locally and in multilateral forums, while keeping violence against women at the top of the global agenda. Given such support, Afghanistan could strengthen judicial mechanisms and reduce its reliance on local, ad hoc systems that frequently disadvantaged women.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHÁVEZ (Peru) said that sexual violence was deeply dehumanizing and went hand in hand with fear, shame and stigma. Resolution 1820 (2008) was an important step forward in combating it. Today’s debate was taking place several days after the Council’s adoption of resolution 1882 (2009), of which Peru had been a co-sponsor. It was important to implement 1820 (2008) and 1882 (2009) as mutually strengthening instruments.
Prevention measures and resolute action to combat impunity should be coupled with assistance to victims and the empowerment of women, he said, adding that a gender perspective should be included in the peace and security agenda. It was fundamentally important that resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter contain provisions for responding to acts of sexual violence, and peacekeeping operations should have a clear mandate for that.
It was important to continue paying attention to the issue of sexual violence during early recovery and peacebuilding, he stressed, adding that the rule of law and access to justice for victims were also of great importance in combating impunity. Transitional justice mechanisms were also needed, as were mechanisms that would provide various United Nations bodies, including the Security Council, with reliable information on the incidence of sexual violence. It was also important to consider the Secretary-General’s recommendation for a mechanism to collect information on measures undertaken by various countries. Resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) reflected the shared values of the international community, he said, adding that it was only through concerted action that sexual violence could be eradicated.
NELSON SANTOS (Timor-Leste) said his delegation had a moral obligation to speak because Timorese women had lived through the worst and suffered extreme violence during the conflict in their country. “We can only hope to honour them by helping make the lives of all women in all conflict settings more secure and dignified,” he said, adding that the Secretary-General’s report was an important tool towards curbing the use of sexual violence against women as a tactic of war.
At the same time, despite the international community’s repeated condemnation, sexual violence and abuse of women and children trapped in conflict zones was not only continuing, but had become so widespread as to have reached “appalling levels of brutality and inhumanity”. More than ever, the international community must move from words to action, he stressed, urging stakeholders to make sure that implementation of resolution 1820 (2008) resulted in real changes on the ground for women and girls at risk of sexual violence.
He called on the Council to consider the full and effective implementation of the recommendations and suggestions in the Secretary-General’s “landmark” report, and to address comprehensively and systematically the particular concerns of women in conflict situations. Among other recommendations, Timor-Leste hoped the Council would consider the appointment of a senior Secretariat official on “women, peace and security” to guide coordinated and system-wide action in responding to and preventing sexual violence.
AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said both resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) had generated significant positive responses from States and regional and international organizations, which had become engaged in addressing gender-based violence in both conflict and non-conflict situations. The United Republic of Tanzania was working with UNIFEM on advocacy initiatives, as well as promoting legislative and policy measure to mainstream national initiatives against gender-based violence. The Council and the United Nations system as a whole should support such initiatives as the newly launched African Union Gender Policy.
One of the many challenges to the implementation of resolution 1820 (2008) was the gathering of adequate and reliable information on sexual violence, he said. That could best be done through assured access to humanitarian assistance for the survivors of sexual violence, which must be given priority in peacekeeping operations and other humanitarian missions. Troop-contributing countries, in partnership with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, should develop specific pre-deployment training for peacekeepers in the protection of women and girls against sexual violence. That would also entail increasing the numbers of female military and police officers, as well as female-trained civilian staff in the field.
GRACE CERERE (Kenya) said effective implementation of resolution 1820 (2008) would require that Governments, the private sector, civil society and the United Nations system address the most urgent challenges to mainstreaming a gender perspective into international peace and security. States needed to ratify and implement the core international human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The appalling situation of sexual violence in conflict situations, especially in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa, must be addressed, and the United Nations zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse and exploitation by staff and related personnel rigorously implemented.
War-related sexual violence should be prioritized at the international level, she said, calling for infrastructure to ensure that sexual violence victims received quality medical assistance. The incorporation of full-time gender advisers in peacekeeping missions had been very useful, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations should redouble its efforts to achieve gender balance, while disseminating to troop-contributing countries effective guidelines to ensure sustained efforts in gender mainstreaming at all levels of peacekeeping operations. Kenya had embarked on a vigorous process to improve its institutional capacity to hold to account all perpetrators of crimes against human rights, including sexual violence. It had also made efforts to increase the participation of women in peacekeeping operations.
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said the 1994 genocide in his country had witnessed some of the most inhumane acts of violence against women and girls, and survivors continued to live with the consequences of those crimes with very little or no specific assistance from the international community. The perpetrators of those heinous crimes, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, had been central to insecurity in the Great Lakes region and continued to pose a threat to ongoing peace efforts. The international community must complement efforts by the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to eliminate the threat they posed and to provide assistance to the survivors. It was imperative to uproot once and for all the culture of impunity that had allowed the continued perpetration of systematic sexual violence in the Great Lakes region and elsewhere.
He said the equal participation of women and men in the promotion of peace and security in both conflict and post-conflict situations was integral to any peacekeeping or peacebuilding process. The Government of Rwanda had ensured that women were central to the nation’s political, economic and social governance. The Rwanda Defence Forces considered sexual violence against women and girls as a key component of the security threat in all its deployments. The Gender Desk at Defence Headquarters devised training programmes, with the support of UNIFEM, to raise awareness of the issue in the armed forces. The participation of policewomen from Rwanda in peacekeeping operations in the Sudan raised awareness among the population, and the United Nations system should strengthen and maintain its support to Member States in that regard.
* *** *