Special Representative Describes Rape as Cheap, Devastating Weapon, Telling Security Council It Remains Largely ‘Cost-free’
Special Representative Describes Rape as Cheap, Devastating Weapon, Telling Security Council It Remains Largely ‘Cost-free’
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7160th Meeting (AM)
Special Representative Describes Rape as Cheap, Devastating Weapon,
Telling Security Council It Remains Largely ‘Cost-free’
Prevention Our Collective Responsibility, Stresses Secretary-General
Rape was a “cheap and devastating weapon” affecting thousands of women, children and men and demanded the Security Council’s singular attention and action, senior officials told the 15-member body as more than 60 delegates expressed a range of views during a day-long debate on conflict-related sexual violence.
Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, describing the “heartbreaking” work of meeting wartime sexual violence survivors, said that the horrors they had suffered reaffirmed that it was “a great moral issue of our time”. Underlining that it was almost “cost-free” to rape a woman, child or man in conflict situations, she pointed out that in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone, more than 50,000 women had survived sexual violence during that country’s three-year conflict, with perpetrators largely going unpunished.
Yet despite greater political will, the historic G-8 declaration and the 2013 commitment by 144 Member States to reinforce the Security Council’s consensus on the issue, she said the road to combating conflict-related sexual violence was long and hard. Referring to the Secretary-General’s report on that issue, she said 34 State and non-State parties were listed as being credibly suspected of perpetrating sexual violence.
For the perpetrators, she had a clear message: “The spotlight is now turned on you, and we are coming after you with all the ways and means at our disposal. There is no hiding place. If you commit, or command, or condone such crimes against humanity, humanity will pursue you relentlessly, and eventually you will be held to account.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said combating conflict-related sexual violence was a Council priority. “This grave human rights violation is as destructive as any bomb or bullet,” he said, given that it inflicted unimaginable suffering, destroying families, contributing to enduring poverty and insecurity, and impeding reconciliation, peace and reconstruction.
Recalling that successive Council resolutions had created a strong global framework for prevention, he said that even though grievous violations occurred too often, tangible progress was being made. Examples of progress could be seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, as well as with efforts of the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict in Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan. “Prevention is our collective responsibility. Only through coordination and partnership can we succeed in protecting the most vulnerable,” he added.
Rhoda Misaka, representing NGO (non-governmental organization) Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, told the Council that she lived in fear of what would happen next in her country, South Sudan, where sexual violence was indicative of the larger systemic global crisis.
To address wartime sexual violence, Member States and United Nations agencies must ensure that survivors could access non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, she said, and ceasefire agreements and peace agreements must not provide amnesty for sexual violence. Further, the Security Council, Member States and the United Nations, she said, must advocate for ending impunity.
Téte António, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, speaking on behalf of the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Women, Peace and Security, said that ending impunity was a priority. He emphasized that the cries of the South Sudanese must not go unheard. “We must not say that we do not know,” he said, describing the work of the Union’s Commission on South Sudan in documenting atrocities with a view to ensuring accountability.
Given the “staggering” number of victims of sexual violence worldwide, he said tackling the problem was a critical concern in the Chairperson’s new mandate. For its part, the Commission had signed in January a framework for cooperation with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, which complemented efforts by the African Union Peace and Security Department to establish a code of conduct and a zero-tolerance policy.
Calling for the accelerated implementation of all African Union instruments to combat sexual violence, he highlighted that conflict prevention and early warning mechanisms must fully and equally involve women and men.
The Minister for National Defence of Ecuador addressed the Council.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the United States, Chile, Australia, China, Republic of Korea, Chad, Luxembourg, France, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Jordan, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Argentina, Nigeria, Guatemala, Japan, Brazil, Syria, Sweden, Mexico, Canada, European Union, African Union, Italy, Germany, Malaysia, Estonia (also speaking for Latvia), Israel, Portugal, Morocco, Spain, Austria, Colombia, Uruguay, Nepal, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Myanmar, Croatia, Slovenia, Pakistan, Liechtenstein, Sri Lanka, Netherlands, Switzerland, Namibia, Indonesia, Trinidad and Tobago, Ireland and Sao Tome and Principe.
Taking the floor for a second time, Syria’s representative spoke in response to comments made by Israel’s representative.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 5:20 p.m.
Meeting this morning to consider the question of women, peace and security, the Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence (document S/2014/181).
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said conflict-related sexual violence was a grave human rights abuse, as destructive as any bomb or bullet. It inflicted unimaginable suffering, destroyed families, contributed to enduring poverty and insecurity, and impeded reconciliation, peace and reconstruction. Combating it was a Council priority, he emphasized, recalling that successive resolutions had created a strong global framework for prevention. While grievous violations still occurred too often, tangible progress was being made, as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, where rape had seemed intractable and inevitable just a few years ago. The former was developing new legal structures to end impunity for perpetrators, and the latter had shown commitment at the highest level to ending sexual violence, including by signing a joint communiqué with the United Nations, he said, adding that efforts were now under way to develop an action plan.
He went on to state that the United Nations Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict was working with Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan to strengthen their justice systems. Every day more countries were building technical capacity to prevent and redress sexual violence, with the help of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict. Once political commitment was secured, the Team of Experts worked with countries to build their capacity to fight impunity, he explained. With sound legislation, comprehensive prevention and response mechanisms, and enhanced capacity, military and civilian justice systems would be better able to address conflict-related sexual violence promptly and effectively. The deployment of women’s protection advisers was helping to mainstream the prevention of such violence into peacekeeping and special political missions.
Secretary-General Ban said that United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, an inter-agency mechanism chaired by the Special Representative, ensured that the Organization’s response avoided duplication and led to a measured, sustainable and coherent strategy that made the best use of limited resources and the strengths of each agency. The goal was to provide services and support for victims while ensuring that human rights were at the forefront of all interventions. That coordinated response embodied the spirit of the “Rights up Front” initiative, he said. “It is imperative that United Nations actors and political leaders work together to stop rights abuses before they happen.” The Organization’s renewed commitment to better meeting human rights responsibilities set by Member States through the Rights up Front initiative was central in that regard, he said, emphasizing that prevention was a collective responsibility. “Only through coordination and partnership can we succeed in protecting the most vulnerable.”
ZAINAB HAWA BANGURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said that in the two years since she assumed her post, she “could not have imagined how difficult and heartbreaking it would be”. The horrors suffered by the women, children and men whom she had met reaffirmed the conviction that sexual violence in conflict represented “a great moral issue of our time”. In its utter destruction of the individual and the pervasive way in which it undermined the prospect of peace and development, that crime cast a long shadow over humanity, she said. That was why it deserved and required the Council’s singular attention.
She went on to recall that one year ago she had visited Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she had witnessed first-hand the long-term implications of wartime sexual violence left unaddressed. It had affected some 50,000 women and the truth was most likely that “most of the survivors will see no justice because the evidence is long lost and the perpetrators have long since fled the immediate scene of the crime”. Yet, the irony was that those same perpetrators were not so far gone in reality; they still walked among the women and their families, occupying positions of authority and power that shielded them from justice. For the victims, the perpetrators were a daily reminder of their broken lives and a reminder of “our commitment to justice and accountability”. Possibly thousands of children born of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina were now teenagers, she said, emphasizing that even if justice in the courts had been denied so far, the survivors must have reparations — livelihood support, education for their children and the medical and psychosocial services they deserved and needed.
The Secretary-General’s report covered 21 conflict and post-conflict countries. She said it also listed 34 State and non-State parties credibly suspected as perpetrators of sexual violence, she said. That grim picture and its full scope and character were not yet fully comprehended, but more was understood about conflict-related sexual violence, which bred hope for the possibility of coming to grips with it. Warning that the road ahead would be long and hard, she said there was nevertheless some “light on the horizon”, citing the increase in political will and momentum, the G-8’s historic declaration, and the 2013 commitment by 144 Member States to reinforce the Security Council’s consensus on the issue. As for international legal norms and instruments, the tools were now in place to turn the tide. The critical challenge was converting political will into practical action in order to drive real change on the ground, she said, underlining her priority of deepening national ownership and responsibility. There had been some modest but meaningful gains in that regard, she added, pointing to the 187 convictions of soldiers and military commanders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and 39 prosecutions relating to the Minova mass rapes in that country.
On the regional level, the United Nations and the African Union had signed a framework of cooperation, which included more operationally oriented training for peacekeeping personnel, she said, also urging the Council to consider ways to deepen the role of defence and security sector peacekeepers, as well as that of national military and police personnel. “Transforming military cultures to enhance protection and prevention is one of our essential priorities moving forward.” Unfortunately, it was still largely “cost-free” to rape a woman, child or man in conflict situations, she said, emphasizing that sexual violence had been used through the ages precisely because it was “such a cheap and devastating weapon”. However, focusing on impunity shone a more determined spotlight on the perpetrators and redirected the stigma and consequences of their crimes. Issuing a concluding message to perpetrators she declared: “The spotlight is now turned on you and we are coming after you with all the ways and means at our disposal. There is no hiding place. If you commit, or command, or condone such crimes against humanity, humanity will pursue you relentlessly, and eventually you will be held to account.”
RHODA MISAKA, representing the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, said that she lived in fear of what would happen next in her country of South Sudan. The sexual violence there was indicative of the larger systemic crisis throughout the world. The Security Council, Member States and the United Nations must advocate for ending impunity. In South Sudan, mechanisms were being erected to investigate atrocities, including the monitoring and verification mechanism of the cessation of hostilities agreement. In addition, the African Union Commission of Inquiry was currently in South Sudan and would be investigating sexual violence in conflict as part of its mandate. She urged Member States and United Nations agencies to ensure that survivors of sexual violence could access non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services. Ceasefire agreements and peace agreements must not provide amnesty for sexual violence, as stipulated in numerous Security Council resolutions, she said, also underscoring the importance of women’s participation in peace negotiations. The prevention of conflict and its underlying causes must be given priority.
SAMANTHA POWER (United States) said there should be zero tolerance for rape and sexual abuse. Sexual violence merited continued, determined efforts to eliminate it. A breakdown of war was not an excuse. Work should not only be delegated to a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, UN-Women or women’s protection advisers. The key to further progress was action by parties to conflict. Every Government was responsible to develop policies to redirect stigma from the victims to the perpetrators. In too many countries, victims had little recourse. In places where Governments were weak, it was essential to help improve capabilities. She cited particularly egregious situations in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Myanmar and Yemen. She expressed special outrage of violence by Syrian armed forces. The Secretary-General’s report and the steadfast leadership of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General were welcomed developments. Council members must exercise proper oversight in every mission of the objectives set, and help the Secretariat achieve its goal of 20 per cent women participation among mission police. There must be absolute prohibition of sexual abuse by peacekeepers. Sexual abuse was among the worst of crimes. Despite efforts to stop it and gains towards that end, there remained a long way to go.
CRISTIAN BARROS (Chile), associating himself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Human Security Network, said accountability and the fight against impunity for conflict-related sexual violence were vital. Chile had signed the Arms Trade Treaty, and he encouraged others to follow suit. There must be timely assistance for victims and their children, and their reintegration into society. He called on all parties to conflict to end sexual violence. Mediators and envoys must be duly trained and ensure that peace accords included concrete provisions. Prevention measures should be part of security-sector reform, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, judicial reform, and capacity-building for the police and human rights defenders. Chile would organize on 30 May an Arria Formula meeting on the protection of internally displaced persons. That topic should be included in relevant bodies that oversaw Council-imposed sanctions. Last July, Chile’s Joint Centre for Peacekeeping Operations organized with the United Nations a seminar on implementing Council resolution 1325 (2000).
GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said that the international prohibition on sexual violence in conflict was long-standing. “But our plan for combating it has not previously been laid out,” he said, highlighting the importance of the progress made in 2013. Those advances included resolution 2106 (2013), which set out a comprehensive prevention framework, as well as the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which had been signed by more than 140 countries. The challenge now was implementation, which required timely and comprehensive information, unhindered humanitarian access and measures to fight the stigma and threats of reprisal for survivors. Commitments from Governments and parties to conflict to combat sexual violence were crucial, and ceasefire agreements should always include sexual violence as a prohibited act.
WANG MIN (China) underscored three essential points in fighting against sexual violence in conflict. First, it was important to note that the primary responsibility to end sexual violence rested with States. Their sovereignty must be respected. International support should aim to help national efforts, such as capacity-building and technical assistance. Second, the United Nations should clearly divide work among its organs. The Security Council should focus on its mandate of maintaining international peace and security, avoiding stepping on the toes of other bodies and striving to create an enabling environment for ending sexual violence. Third, special attention should be paid to addressing root causes as they were the breeding ground for sexual violence.
OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said that despite progress in the past several years in combating conflict-related sexual violence, it remained one of the most egregious human rights violations. The international community must scale up collective efforts to combat the scourge through better prevention, protection and prosecution. It was necessary to promote the rule of law. The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, scheduled for June, would provide a good opportunity to increase efforts. Women must play a decisive role in preventing conflict, and their protection against rape, slavery and other forms of sexual violence was necessary. Greater resources were needed for those efforts, including installing more women’s protection advisers. Impunity could not be tolerated. The international justice system must play a leading role in ensuring accountability.
MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF (Chad) said that despite progress, conflict-related sexual violence continued. States must honour their obligations to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence. Victims must have access to justice. Impunity must be banned globally. When national processes failed, persecutors must be prosecuted in international courts. All States must have a zero-tolerance policy. Victims were marked for life, often left alone with no medical or psychological aid. He called for strengthening early warning systems to harmonize global warning responses to victims. Awareness-raising must be strengthened. International peace and security could only become a reality if all violence against women, particularly sexual violence, were considered to be war crimes and crimes against humanity.
OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg) expressed his concern that since the previous debate on the same matter in June 2013, conflict had intensified, with Darfur and South Sudan among such cases. Noting that conflict had continued in the Central African Republic and Syria as well, he said the International Commission of Inquiry was investigating violations committed by the Government and armed groups in the latter. The last Council debate had focused on fighting impunity, which remained at the heart of efforts to end sexual violence. Fighting impunity was not about simply punishing perpetrators, but about preventing future violence. The fight could be won only when united efforts had been taken, he said, looking forward to the follow-up meeting in London in June on the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, signed by more than 140 countries.
GÉRARD ARAUD (France) said that the Council had broken its silence on the topic for today’s consideration. But it was no time to celebrate as efforts to protect civilians in Syria had failed. His delegation was working on a draft resolution to address the issue. The Council must increase the visibility of today’s topic. He went on to stress the important role played by women’s protection advisers in peacekeeping and political missions, citing those serving in the Central African Republic. Ending impunity was a priority, but it would only happen when Governments prosecuted and punished perpetrators. When States failed to do so, cases should be referred to the International Criminal Court. It was crucial for women to participate in conflict resolution. In conflict situations, women could be at risk of unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, it was important to provide reproductive health services, including abortion services.
PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said the findings in the Secretary-General’s report were alarming. Sexual violence was as destructive as any bomb, undermining the prospects for sustainable development. If implemented, measures to prevent it would increase the space for sustainability and help prevent future crimes. Governments had a great moral duty and must commit their support and work in a coordinated way. “If we’re serious about eradicating sexual violence in armed conflict, we must resource it,” he said. The United Nations leading role was critical. He encouraged United Nations agencies to “Deliver as One”. He welcomed the deployment of women’s protection advisers in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The United Kingdom remained committed to the cause, he said, noting that in a few weeks his country’s Foreign Secretary and the Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would co-chair the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. It was vital to shift the stigma from the victims to the perpetrators, and to empower survivors to speak out and be able to access legal redress, he concluded.
RITA KAZRAGIENĖ (Lithuania) said that despite the efforts of the international community, including legal and normative frameworks and seven Security Council resolutions, conflict-related sexual violence was on the rise and getting more complex. The only way to effectively address that scourge would be a comprehensive and integrated approach that entailed prevention, early warning, justice and accountability, the participation of women in political processes and economic empowerment. The lack of adequate national capacity and expertise to prevent, investigate and prosecute violence was an impediment in combating sexual violence and ensuring accountability. However vast and strong, international assistance would not provide sustainable results unless it was complemented with a national component. National political leaders had a major role to play and national ownership and responsibility should be a key priority for every Government.
ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) said the report was “grim reading” and, clearly, there was much the Member States concerned could do. As for the recommendations, it was pointless to discuss accountability without a proper understanding of the extent to which courts were functioning and properly resourced. The United Nations would continue to fall short in delivering what it should to distressed communities. The Council must support the International Criminal Court, as there could be no serious discussion on combating the worst forms of sexual violence without it. He asked whether the Organization possessed credibility given that its membership refused to undertake the range of actions necessary to ensure that sexual exploitation and abuse by all peacekeepers be reduced to zero. It was hypocrisy to condemn conflict-related sexual violence, given that the Sixth Committee (Legal) did next to nothing year in and year out on the draft convention on criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. The Organization must set an example by paying special attention to those most vulnerable and defenceless persons in war, and the convention on criminal accountability must be adopted as soon as possible.
EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said fighting only acts of sexual violence would not bring the desired results. Issues of prevention of violence should be considered within the context of post-conflict reconstruction. The full participation of women in peace talks was vital. The Council should focus on addressing the most egregious cases of human rights abuses, including within the issue of women, peace and security. Today’s topic was on sexual violence in conflict. A broader interpretation of it, which could negatively influence the Council’s functioning, should be avoided. It was important to remember that during armed conflict, women and children were subjected not only to sexual violence, but also to maiming, killing and the disproportionate use of force. National authorities must be actively involved in the process of combating sexual violence in armed conflict, and civil society must complement those efforts.
EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) said the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had established that rape and other forms of sexual violence had been used as a weapon of war. Up to 250,000 were raped. Some survived with scars and HIV/AIDS. The consequences were beyond description. But the same forces were continuing their mayhem in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sexual violence was also a reality in Syria, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Sexual violence in conflict must be treated as a war crime, not as an unfortunate collateral damage of war. It was up to Member States to end that scourge. It was not only a United Nations issue. It required leadership and national ownership, and it was vital to ensure women’s human rights. Rape perpetrated by United Nations peacekeepers could not go unpunished. Protection of those in need must be a priority. Greater measures were needed to protect population at risk. All peacekeepers should be trained on how to address rape and sexual violence prior to deployment. Gender, women’s protection and child protection advisers were needed in all missions, and they must focus on rape and sexual violence cases.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) expressed her optimism about the work done towards ending sexual violence. When there was agreement to eradicate a particular problem, there was reason for optimism. International criminal tribunals and the International Criminal Court had clearly defined sexual violence as “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. Before the cases in such places as Rwanda and Sierra Leone, victims had been made invisible. They were part of war. Sexual violence targeting women and girls was not new, but measures taken against it were relatively new, she said, urging the international community to be patient. However, crimes against humanity had no statute of limitations. It was a welcoming development that victims had begun to be heard. She went on to offer vivid accounts of rape by some victims, and called for justice, truth and peace.
U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria) stressed the importance of strengthening institutional capacity to end impunity. The lack of such capacity was an impediment to national efforts and hindered access to justice. Regrettably, that was the case in many countries, she said, stressing the need for support from all United Nations actors. The prevalence of sexual violence was a matter of concern for her delegation. It was thus necessary to implement the resolution adopted last June, and the Council should develop appropriate mechanisms. At the global level, there was an unprecedented commitment to end sexual violence, and that momentum must be sustained. There was also the need for more gender disaggregated data. She also described how the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were making regional and subregional efforts to end sexual violence. Nigeria was carrying out its reform in criminal justice, incorporating gender equality in law and practice. She urged Member States who had not yet signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict to do so by the October deadline.
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA, Minister for National Defence of Ecuador, said using the arms industry to strengthen economies would not end conflict; it would exacerbate it. Rather than a reduction in military spending, the arms race was growing, with funds increasingly spent on weapons of mass destruction. Tackling the structural causes of violence, notably poverty and underdevelopment, required action. Armed conflict and acts of violence often occurred in the context of inequality within and among States, due to an unfair international economic system. States must avoid wars of aggression and the use of force. There must be respect for State sovereignty and self-determination. Conflict-related violence was not on the decline. On the contrary, it was permitted in some societies. All States must put an end to all violence and impunity for sex-related crimes, including forced abortion, pregnancy and prostitution. In Ecuador, defence was viewed as a public good, and with a cross-cutting focus that integrated human rights. Ecuador’s gender policy fostered a change in cultural patterns in order to stamp out gender-based violence. The military structure had been revamped to include leading positions for both men and women.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) said sexual violence was a repugnant phenomenon. The Council must continue to insist that States in conflict or post-conflict situations make it a priority to reform their security, military and justice sectors and strengthen the rule of law and national institutional capacity. That was vital to end widespread impunity, which hindered access to justice and the safety of survivors. He called for efforts to bolster criminal prosecutions, preserve evidence, and protect victims, witnesses and justice officials, and to involve civil society organizations. Guatemala, which had suffered its own internal conflict more than 17 years ago, had made it a priority to prevent violence against women. In recent years, it approved legislation and policies toward that end.
MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) said Security Council resolution 2016 (2011) provided, for the first time, the theme of sexual violence in conflict with a comprehensive prevention framework. It was vital to emphasize the concept of prevention if the world was to ever defeat such violence. Progress on the ground was dependent on concrete action by both national Governments and civil society of affected countries. The international community must support them to achieve a change on the ground. In that regard, his country had provided $2.15 million to support the work of the team of experts in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in assisting those Governments to expand and consolidate the Special Police for the Protection of Women and Children.
ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said that although the overall situation of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained deeply concerning, he was encouraged by that nation’s decision to combat impunity, including through the prosecution of high-ranking military officers involved in those crimes. A donation from Brazil of $1 million to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had so far benefited 510 victims of sexual violence in that country who sought reparations and justice. In addition, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency had implemented projects with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Haiti and Guinea-Bissau, focusing on capacity-building to deal with victims of gender-based violence in areas such as health, justice and security.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) said his Government, as part of its efforts to end sexual violence, had provided the Special Representative with documents about armed groups killing, abducting, raping and torturing women and girls in the country. Yet, the Special Representative’s interpretation of events in Syria was still biased and partially sourced. Those who had drafted the United Nations report continued to allege that information in the report could not be verified due to their lack of access to certain areas. The Syrian Government, however, had not received a request towards that end. His Government had extended, in more than one instance, an invitation to the Special Representative to visit Syria; thus far she had not accepted it.
He said he rejected the Special Representative’s allegations against the Syrian Army, stating that she had been unable to verify such crimes and had, instead, kept her reporting vague. Further, she had not bothered to verify any of the Syrian Government’s documentation of the human rights abuses committed by armed groups in Syria, or to verify media reports cited. In addition, the 18,000 cases of trafficking in human organs of Syrians had occurred in Turkish hospitals, but they had not been documented even though countries hosting Syrian refugees had always claimed they were open to officials to visit. He underscored that his country would continue to cooperate with the Special Representative and to work with the United Nations to end sexual violence.
SIGNE BURGSTALLER (Sweden), speaking for the Nordic countries, underscored that a fundamental part of combating sexual violence was ensuring women’s active involvement in political decision-making and in the economic life in their societies. Further, the importance of their participation in the design of security sector reform and in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes needed to be emphasized. In that vein, the United Nations should advance the deployment of women’s protection advisers and gender advisers in peacekeeping and political missions, as well as in humanitarian operations. Lastly, she stressed that the sexual violence perpetrated against men and boys deserved greater attention, noting the lack of national legislation and specialized service and the stigma attached were among factors that prevented such violence being recognized as a crime.
YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico) discussed the challenge of bringing perpetrators to justice, adding that the majority of survivors lacked access to reparations. In that regard, she cited the Court’s relevance in investigating and trying those alleged of international crimes should a State be unable or unwilling to do so. Sexual violence was not reported, which complicated the gathering of precise data, and closer coordination among States was needed to design a strategy for combating the culture of impunity and incorporating women in peacemaking and ceasefire processes. All States were obliged to investigate and punish the perpetrators of certain crimes that impacted the international community. For its part, Mexico belonged to the Latin American Network for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities, she said, and would host a regional seminar to foster the exchange of good practices in combating sexual violence in conflict.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI (Canada) said that the debate served as a “necessary bridge” between high-level activities and the political commitments and concrete programming in the field. Upcoming high-level actions would be focusing on practical measures to improve women and girls’ lives, empowering them to participate fully in their countries’ development, unhindered by sexual violence, female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. His country had played a role in recent resolutions addressing such issues. Lastly, he called for support of women’s civil society organizations, particularly for those assisting survivors to ensure their health, safety and dignity and those enhancing women’s participation in decision-making processes.
THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the European Union Delegation, expressed support for more multidimensional efforts towards preventing conflict-related violence, including reporting, monitoring and information-sharing in the context of country-specific resolutions and mandates. There needed to be an increased deployment of and a more stable foundation for women protection advisors in relevant peacekeeping missions to strengthen responses to sexual violence. Actions to prevent conflict-related violence must be reflected explicitly in justice and security sector reform initiatives, and he expressed support for the continued application of targeted, gradual steps by relevant Council sanctions committees aimed at sexual violence perpetrators. However, recent reports by the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) over targeted killings of civilians because of ethnic origin and hate messages calling for sexual violence against certain communities were of great concern. Continuing to implement its 2008 policy on women, peace and security, the European Union had, in January of this year, defined sexual violence prevention as a priority area for European Union action. As well, the European Union had provided 25 million euros towards women’s empowerment and security sector reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and had developed training modules on human rights and gender in crisis management, ensuring a focus on sexual violence in armed conflict.
TÉTE ANTÓNIO, speaking on behalf of the Special Envoy of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Women, Peace and Security, said protecting women’s rights across the continent was a priority of the Chairperson. He noted that the Chairperson was committed to gender equality and resolved to amplify women’s voices across Africa to ensure that they assumed their rightful role in ensuring peace and security on the continent. The number of victims of sexual violence was “staggering”, and tackling it was a critical area of concern in the Chairperson’s new mandate. In January, the Commission had signed a framework for cooperation with the Office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, which complemented efforts by the African Union Peace and Security Department to put in place a code of conduct and a zero-tolerance policy that articulated the Union’s strong position.
He called for the accelerated implementation of all African Union instruments to combat sexual violence, noting there was a long way to go. The persistent inequality was an overarching reason why violence against women was widespread and so easily committed. Young boys and men must be educated and engaged in the fight. Women must not be viewed only as victims and men only as victimizers; they must be recognized as active agents in the effort to prevent conflict-related sexual violence. Conflict prevention and early warning mechanisms must fully involve women and men, and aggressive prevention methods and societal norms that portrayed girls as less than boys must be eliminated. Further, perpetrators must be held to account. The Union’s Commission on South Sudan was documenting atrocities with a view to ensuring accountability. The cries of the South Sudanese must not go unheard; “we must not say that we do not know, and once we know, we have no excuses to act”.
The profile of women’s networks and civil society organizations must be raised, he said, as those were often the first responders and the first to stand in solidarity with survivors. His office was working with UN-Women, regional bodies, national and international partners and Africans from all walks of life to ensure that women contributed meaningfully to peace negotiations. Conflict-related sexual violence was a global scourge and the approach to combating it should be in that vein. In closing, he said he counted on the joint efforts of the United Nations and African Union and on the Council’s support in implementing the women, peace and security agenda across the continent.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, said his country’s national action plan to realize the women, peace and security agenda hinged on coordination and integration, as well as mainstreaming. The Inter-ministerial Committee for Human Rights coordinated all activities related to women, peace and security. Italy was also committed to self-monitoring of how all initiatives were being coordinated and issuing an assessment report by year’s end. The Government had mainstreamed gender-related issues into all socioeconomic efforts and promoted gender mainstreaming across the armed forces. In the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), he urged more engagement to address the lack of information and accountability, and address the persistent impunity of perpetrators.
HEIKO THOMS (Germany), aligning himself with the European Union, emphasized the importance of women’s participation in promoting gender equality and ending sexual violence. Women needed a seat at the table at all levels of conflict prevention, peace negotiation, transitional justice and reconstruction. They should not simply be observers of decision-making. In addition, national capacities for ensuring accountability must be supported and built. Justice and security sector reforms were essential, as was the elimination of gender-based imbalances in society. To that end, coordination among all sectors was crucial. Further, women protection advisers must be deployed and monitoring and reporting arrangements established in all relevant peacekeeping and special political missions.
HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), aligning himself with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), noting that sexual violence was almost universally underreported, said that the reasons for such abuse against women and girls must be urgently addressed, as must the emerging incidence against men and boys. The culture of impunity must be replaced with one that promoted the rule of law, justice and accountability. Countries needed to draw upon the expertise of the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict. Malaysia was committed to eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls, having co-hosted an event on due diligence at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. It supported the zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping operations, recognizing the role of senior women protection advisers in monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements.
MARGUS KOLGA (Estonia), also speaking for Latvia, expressed concern over the increase in sexual violence in Afghanistan, as well as the clear signs that conflict-related sexual violence had been a main feature of attacks in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. Accountability was crucial and the International Criminal Court had an important role to play where States lacked the capacity or political will to hold perpetrators to account. But to reverse the nearly complete impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, it was important for States to build capacity. Those lacking legislation to investigate and prosecute perpetrators should incorporate the Court’s provisions into their legal systems. The Court’s statute now accounted for sexual violence against both men and women, and ensured that victims could testify without being put on trial. He also stressed the importance of sexual and reproductive health services for survivors.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) said sexual violence was “a crime of humanity towards humanity”, particularly widespread in the Middle East and Africa. In Yemen, child abduction and sexual abuse was on the rise, while in Mali, girls were being gang raped. In Somalia, women were being forced into marriage, and in Syria, Government forces had used sexual violence in prisons. By failing to prevent sexual violence, the international community was failing an entire generation, she said, noting that Israel had signed the Declaration on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Further, such abuse was underreported, as few countries had programmes where women could safely report an attack. As such, she strongly supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations, pressing Governments, civil society and United Nations agencies to work together to pass stronger laws, strengthen enforcement and introduce tougher penalties for offenders.
ÁLVARO MENDONÇA E MOURA (Portugal) said women were underrepresented in peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace negotiating efforts, while violence against them was often used as a weapon of war, continuing into post-conflict settings. Further, the costs of sexual and gender-based violence were largely underestimated and ignored. Redoubled efforts, notably in the fight against impunity, were needed, as amnesty was often given to combatants who had used sexual violence as a war tactic. Peace could not be achieved without justice for victims and measures imposed against all parties responsible for grave violations of women’s rights. Support networks for survivors also must be strengthened, while the traditional perspective that women were mere victims must be overcome. Women had a critical role to play in rebuilding societies and preserving social cohesion. They must be included in peace processes.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said protecting women against sexual violence in conflict required coordinated actions against the perpetrators. Security Council resolution 2016 (2011) sought to increase the arsenal of tools that could be used to combat multiple types of violence. Rape was often the most widespread type of violence in refugee camps. Reform of the security sector, accountability, increasing victims’ access to justice and awareness-raising campaigns would all provide better protection for victims. The signing of peace agreements and ceasefires, as well as implementing prevention programmes, had helped launch investigations to promote the criminal prosecution of perpetrators. Awareness-raising campaigns needed to target women in conflicts and must involve the multitude of actors that played key roles in combating such violence.
ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain), calling the Secretary-General’s report complete and well-focused, said it attempted to implement and consolidate last year’s achievements with Security Council resolutions 2106 (2013) and 2122 (2013). Fully supporting the recommendations contained in the report, he highlighted the importance of the focus on prevention, including processes of mediation and peace consolidation. The inclusion of the fight against conflict-related sexual violence into peace agreements and monitoring the issue in post-conflict situations were critical as well, he said, also underscoring the connection between sexual violence in armed conflict, forced displacement and illicit trade in natural resources.
MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, said conflict-related sexual violence was pervasive and almost universally underreported, owing to stigma, reprisals and the targeting of survivors and those who supported them. The complex challenge required a comprehensive approach to prevention. Implementing prevention frameworks rested on national ownership, leadership and responsibility. He expressed concerns about systematic and widespread sexual violence being used as a tool of intimidation and social control. Further attention was also required on the use of sexual violence as a means of displacing populations and the resultant pregnancies. The links between conflict-related sexual violence and the illicit natural resources trade, as well as such illegal activities as trafficking in illicit drugs and humans, needed to be recognized. He called for the cessation of sexual violence-related violations and holding perpetrators to account; ceasefire and peace agreements should stipulate that such violence was prohibited. Similarly, amnesty provisions must not be applied to sexual violence crimes. In addition, parties to conflict should provide assistance to victims, including health-care services, and the Council should use all means at its disposal to address the issue, including by making referrals to the International Criminal Court and other relevant bodies.
MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), pointing out that her country had faced many challenges after emerging from five years of armed conflict, emphasized that the global community should not tolerate the existence of a single victim, and must aspire for an end to armed conflict. Colombia had, through a 2011 law, developed a programme designed to help victims and survivors of sexual violence, with earmarked resources for compensation. The Government promulgated an institutional approach to provide holistic care for victims of violence in armed conflict and identify barriers to access for justice. Colombia’s Defence Ministry had initiated a protocol for behaviour in armed conflict and created areas of protection to prevent the recruitment of minors. Those initiatives demonstrated Colombia’s political resolve to deal with the phenomena of sexual violence against women in armed conflict so that all citizens could enjoy access to truth, justice and reparation.
GONZALO KONCKE (Uruguay) said that despite the progress made in recent years, more attention must be paid to the protection of women and girls, who tended to be most affected by conflict situations. The international community needed to take the opportunity to take stock of the progress made thus far and consider designing new goals. The situation of children born as a result of violence was of great concern for his country, as was the issue of forced marriages of women and girls carried out by armed groups. In addition, greater attention needed to be paid to the rights and rehabilitation of those who had been exposed to sexual violence. Promoting accountability was another vital element. The global community must continue to combat impunity and promote national capacity-building. Such efforts should be part of the broader international agenda and tied to the protection of civilians in armed conflict, as well as the rights of the child.
DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal) said Nepal had had an excellent experience with its National Plan of Action to implement Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008), the first in South Asia. Encouraged by positive results, the Government was now “localizing” them at subnational levels. National priorities included increasing the participation of women in decision-making processes, protecting women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence with a zero-tolerance policy, and ending impunity. Further, policy measures to provide relief to the victims of conflict had been introduced. Since its peace process had started eight years ago, the country had steadily moved forward in empowering women, including those affected by conflict.
HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey) said the best way to prevent sexual violence and address impunity was by eliminating the root causes of conflict. Increasing women’s participation in decision-making and policy processes on international peace and security was also necessary. Addressing the needs of women and girls in the frameworks for protecting civilians was a third way forward. In camps built for Syrians fleeing their country, Turkey had provided information sessions on maternal health and child mortality. Camp personnel were regularly trained on the legal framework of international protection and gender-related issues. To prevent assaults in the camps, public areas had been placed under closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance. More broadly, holistic solutions were needed, he said, with women integrated into decision-making, society and the economy.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said that the international community today had the political will and a clear global framework to move from simply condemning sexual violence to confronting it within the framework of three main pillars, those being: legal deterrence, which had been actualized in the establishment of the tribunals of Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as the Special Court for Sierra Leone; strengthening the capabilities of national authorities in the areas of legislation and security reform; and developing an international mechanism for providing adequate protection and support, at all levels, to the victims of sexual violence in order to reintegrate them into their communities.
BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET (Belgium) said that combating impunity was a priority, noting that her Government was implementing Security Council resolution 2106 (2013). The Democratic Republic of the Congo was one of the three target countries for Belgium’s assistance. In those places, numerous victims of sexual violence had limited access to justice. They did not have means to file lawsuits. Her delegation shared the Secretary-General’s concern that a gender dimension was lacking in the planning and designing of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration and security sector reform programmes. Her delegation had supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations that all peace agreements include the prevention of gender-based and sexual violence and that women participate in peace talks at all levels.
DRAGANA ANĐELIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that her country would continue to cooperate with the Special Representatives towards ending impunity. It was also committed to the Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, adopted by the G-8 Foreign Ministers in April 2013. Prosecution, as well as national ownership and responsibility in addressing the root causes of the violence, was central to preventing such acts, which must not be accepted as a cultural phenomenon. The International Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had defined sexual violence as an instrument of warfare, and rape as a crime against humanity. Women’s empowerment and the mobilization of men and boys in the effort to combat all forms of violence against women were crucial to long-term efforts. States bore the primary responsibility to ensure the human rights of all within their territory. Sexual violence was a form of “psycho-social torture” where the suffering extended beyond the victims to their families. She highlighted efforts by her country, including finalization efforts to develop a second action plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia), aligning himself with the European Union Delegation’s statement, welcomed the Council’s efforts to end such violence. However, much more must be done. Efforts must include engagement with all State and non-State parties. Continued deployment of women protection advisers to assist victims of sexual violence in conflict should be encouraged. He expressed deep concern over the prevalence and plight of refugees and internally displaced persons, many of whom had fallen victim to human trafficking and sexual slavery, and called for coordinated efforts among Governments to end that scourge. His Government had enacted a 2010-2015 action plan to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). In May 2011, Serbia adopted an action plan to prevent violence against women. Awareness-raising was necessary to prevent such crimes, he said, noting the importance of the role criminal justice played in that regard.
DOCTOR MASHABANE (South Africa) said that national ownership, leadership and responsibility were key pillars in the prevention of sexual violence. Ultimately, Member States bore primary responsibility for preventing and addressing such crimes. His Government had long advocated for the explicit referencing of sexual violence in conflict in all relevant country-specific resolutions, as well as in the authorizations and renewals of peacekeeping and special political mission mandates. Civil society and women’s organizations were important partners to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence and to provide victims and survivors with information and support. Every effort must also be made to end impunity by perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict.
HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan), noting his country’s progress since 2005 in addressing sexual violence in conflict, said that his Government had implemented Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), establishing specialized centres to address women’s concerns and creating a special unit within the Ministry of Justice to combat sexual violence against women and girls. It had launched a study based on the victims’ own account of the abuse they had experienced. As well, a decade-long action plan to promote human rights, particularly women’s rights, had just commenced and had received commendations by the Organization’s independent expert on women’s rights. Despite such progress, the Secretary-General’s report discussed an increase in sexual violence crimes in Darfur. He asked for a clear procedure to ensure the veracity of such information and the sources. The report stated that uniformed military officers had attacked women. That was not true. Nor was it true that the Sudanese Government had denied access to United Nations women protection advisers. The Special Representative was warmly welcome to visit Sudan to investigate the situation and check the facts.
LE HOAI TRUNG (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), strongly condemned all forms of violence against women and girls. He called for redoubled efforts to prevent sexual violence, care for victims and empower women. The prevention of sexual violence must address its root cause: armed conflict. As such, States must promote the rule of law, justice, good governance, democracy, poverty eradication and gender equality, among other issues.
Raising awareness was also essential to prevention and protection efforts, he said, stressing that perpetrators must be sanctioned and the socioeconomic conditions that allowed such abuse to thrive transformed. Further, victims must be provided with multisectoral services tailored to their needs and protected against stigmatization. He said that women’s equal political, social and economic participation was crucial, and urged for their inclusion in all aspects of the peace process. While States bore the primary responsibility of addressing conflict related-sexual violence, he recognized the role of civil society, the media and others working to protect women’s rights. All ASEAN members were parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence was sobering, illustrating the scale and severity of the challenges that remained. In that regard, Governments must show leadership, while the international community must support their efforts. Attention must be paid to preventing conflict-related sexual violence from occurring in the first place by addressing root causes. Emphasis must be placed on education at all levels — from schools to health centres to the military — to shift social attitudes and improve the understanding of sexual violence. The Security Council must ensure an ongoing systematic focus on prevention and ongoing training must be provided to United Nations peacekeepers. Women and child protection advisers had a critical role to play, while accountability and access to justice must prevail.
KYAW TIN (Myanmar) said that sexual violence was “strongly abhorred” in his country and forbidden by law and culture. Severe legal action was taken against perpetrators, whether civilians or security forces’ personnel. While important to address violence in conflict, incidents committed by “unruly” individuals from both sides must not be construed as the policy of an institution. Several prosecutions of military personnel had been undertaken in Myanmar. Therefore, the charge by some that those individuals had been granted immunity under the Constitution was “totally groundless and politically motivated”. With the reformist Government keen to promote democratic values, members of the armed forces were clearly instructed not to get involved in crimes, including sexual violence. Workshops had been held on human rights, and military training schools taught relevant laws. Additionally, Myanmar, as a State party, had taken measures in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It also was implementing a 10-year national strategic plan for women’s advancement and had organized the Open Day on Women, Peace and Security last year to promote awareness of the issue. Civil society and non-governmental organizations were also actively engaged in awareness-raising, and the country was working with UN-Women and the United Nations Population Fund to implement protection projects.
VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) recalled that sexual violence had been used in all recent wars and conflicts, including in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to pursue political and military aims. It had been used to dominate, terrify and humiliate opponents, and uproot communities and ethnic groups, thus contributing to the collapse of entire societies for generations to come. Based on its own tragic experiences of the aggression to which Croatia had been exposed in the early 1990s, he said that the issue of sexual violence in conflict could be adequately addressed only through a comprehensive approach. His Government had proposed a new law on the protection of victims of sexual violence in war, with the aim of regulating the rights of victims, accompanied by the system of compensation and rehabilitation.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said that because women’s advancement was vital for stability, sustainable peace and prosperity, they must be included in conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict recovery and reconciliation. The legacy of the conflicts in the Western Balkans and Rwanda should not be repeated and must be stopped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Syria, Mali, Somalia and other situations of concern. He welcomed the application of the United Nations zero-tolerance policy in some areas on the Council’s agenda and called on the Council to include all aspects of that policy in all resolutions that renewed or established peacekeeping mandates. The United Nations must practice what it preached. Last month, a seminar on promoting a culture of mediation and prevention in the Mediterranean had been held in Slovenia, with a focus on ensuring women’s greater involvement. He recalled the initiative of Slovenia, Netherlands, Belgium and Argentina to consider an international instrument on mutual legal assistance and extradition to help domestic jurisdictions investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes of international concern.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), observing that sexual violence had worsened in certain parts of the world, stressed that there must be a culture of zero tolerance for such acts. The Council should continue to address sexual violence in armed conflicts and post-conflict situations. It should guard against peripheral issues that did not fall within the Council’s mandate. Perpetrators should be brought to justice and removed from positions of authority. The stigma should be shifted from the victims to the perpetrators. Close attention should be given to punitive and retributive justice. Prosecutorial capacity should be given priority. United Nations peacekeepers should be trained on how to aid sexual violence victims. Pointing out that gender sensitization was an important part of his country’s training of peacekeeping troops, he said that women should participate in larger numbers in decision-making in ceasefires, peace agreements and post-conflict peacebuilding.
STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein) said the culture of impunity was a major barrier to protecting women from sexual violence. Such crimes played a role in nearly every case under investigation and the fight to end impunity had barely begun. Justice for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence continued to be the exception to the rule, and holding perpetrators accountable had proven difficult. Evidence must be collected at the earliest possible stage. As survivors only rarely received reparations, he commended the work of the Court’s Trust Fund for Victims. More must be done to ensure that survivors were at the table in work to end sexual violence.
SHAVENDRA SILVA (Sri Lanka) said that during the conflict period from January 2007 to May 2009, seven Security Forces personnel had been reported as having been involved in five incidents of sexual violence in the Northern Province. In the post-conflict period up until May 2012, 10 Security Forces personnel had been reported as having been involved in six incidents. The involvement of those personnel as a percentage of the total population accused stood at 5.6 per cent in the conflict period and 3.3 per cent in the post-conflict period. He noted that in a majority of the cases, the perpetrators had been close relatives or neighbours of the victims. Therefore, he rejected the inferences made by certain organizations and reports that the presence of military contributed to the insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict-affected areas.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said that because conflict-related sexual violence was not a stand-alone problem, a fully integrated approach needed to address gender equalities and the empowerment of women. Through various tools of foreign policy, her country did, among others, pre-deployment training on gender, human rights and international humanitarian law for police and military officers. Further, the Netherlands supported rule of law programming, including helping to establish better accountability for crimes of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Maniema Province. Her country was also working with UN-Women in support of the Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace and Democracy. “The women of Syria inspired many and offered a new window of hope for a political solution to the horrific conflict,” she underscored.
PAUL SEGER (Switzerland) pointed out that conflict-related sexual violence, in most of the monitored settings, was perpetrated by Government forces as much as by armed opposition groups. Emphasizing the Secretary-General’s recommendations on fostering national ownership, leadership and responsibility, he welcomed training, awareness-raising and monitoring mechanisms. The regular reports of the human rights component of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) were indispensable. In March, the Human Rights Council had hosted a panel on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had highlighted the problem’s massive scale. Armed conflicts and States’ institutional weakness, especially in the judiciary and security realms, were destabilizing. Rape was particularly worrying and met with systematic impunity. Prior to the Geneva II peace conference on Syria, 50 women from across that country shared their priorities, underlining that, while rendering justice was essential, so was adopting, in the early stages of a peace process, gender-sensitive policies and protection measures for women and girls against sexual exploitation, early marriage, human trafficking and rape.
PENDAPALA ANDREAS NAANDA (Namibia) said fighting sexual violence was a shared responsibility that required a broad-based approach involving the international community, regional and national Governments, civil societies and other stakeholders. National Governments should take measures to prevent and halt that scourge, and prosecute the perpetrators. The international community should support their efforts while fully respecting national sovereignty and focusing on capacity-building and funding and technical difficulties. Eliminating conflict-related sexual violence was not possible, however, without addressing the root causes of gender equality. Unfortunately, in most cases, victims remained silent to avoid being ostracized from their communities. Empowering them and mainstreaming gender equality in peacekeeping processes and ceasefire agreements were crucial. Further, victims and their families should receive sufficient medical, psychological and legal support and rehabilitation. He recognized the work of non-governmental organizations in training officials from Member States as investigators for rapid deployment to conflict areas. Such initiatives could go a long way towards “bringing the perpetrators to book”.
YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia) said that it was vital that women were not just seen as victims, but also as peace enablers in conflicts. History had proven their credentials in creating peace. Policies, both within the United Nations system and without, should therefore promote extensive measures to ensure greater participation of women in all stages, from conflict prevention to resolution, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. He expressed support for efforts to increase the number of women in United Nations peacekeeping operations, in the leadership of peacekeeping missions as well as in related offices in New York and elsewhere. His country, which had deployed female peacekeepers in several missions, including the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur and United Nations Mission in South Sudan, was committed to increase their number.
RODNEY CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) underscored the valuable contributions women made to conflict resolution and peacebuilding, and stressed the importance of implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the Women’s Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the Caribbean region, the diversion of small arms and light weapons from the legal to the illicit trade had caused an increase in criminal activity, disproportionately affecting women and girls. Women and girls also experienced economic and psychological burdens, abuse and sexual exploitation linked to the illegal arms trade. Trinidad and Tobago had adopted the Arms Trade Treaty and would welcome its early entry into force, as the elimination of the illegal arms trade would help reduce, if not end, untold suffering of women and girls. A more active role for women in peacebuilding and post-conflict decision-making processes was needed to sustain the development of societies. His country had introduced the first-ever resolution on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, adopted by the General Assembly. He called for delegations’ continued support to strengthen its implementation.
DAVID DONOGHUE (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said ending sexual violence in conflict required Governments to take national ownership of that issue. He expressed hope that, through the dialogue between the Special Representative and relevant parties, modest gains could be scaled up. There was room to improve the protection afforded to women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, he said, noting that protection was among the criteria used by Ireland’s development cooperation programme in providing humanitarian funding. The international community must be as innovative as possible in incentivizing leaders to adopt the women, peace and security agenda, as well as more ambitious in addressing the root causes of sexual violence in conflict, he added.
ANGELO ANTONIO TORIELLO (Sao Tome and Principe) said that research had shown that women had an advantage in negotiating because of their skills. They were good at listening. They were aware of the importance of truly hearing what the other person was saying, instead of thinking that they were the only one who was right. Women also tended to focus more on cooperation than competition or control, an orientation which often led to tolerance and understanding that was crucial for reaching an agreement.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), taking the floor to respond to Israel’s statement, said it was unacceptable for Israel to speak about its respect for human rights when Israel continued to practice all forms of violence against thousands of Arab women and young girls, particularly Palestinian. Israel had committed acts of rape, violence, and other arbitrary sexual abuse, and was an occupying and “raping” Power. It could not be called human or even credible. She cited the case of a pregnant Palestinian woman who had died after being forced to give birth at an Israeli checkpoint without any medical attention. The occupying Power did not respect the rights of anyone under its occupation. Syria still awaited the liberation of the Syrian Golan.
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