Fight against Sexual Violence in Conflict Reaches ‘New Juncture’, Security Council Told

15 April 2015
SC/11862

Fight against Sexual Violence in Conflict Reaches ‘New Juncture’, Security Council Told

7428th Meeting (AM)

Nearly 70 Speakers Speak on ‘Great Moral Issue of Our Time’

In its fight against sexual violence in conflict, the world had arrived at a “new juncture”, characterized by ongoing, shocking crimes, but also by greater opportunity to respond to the scourge in a resolute and integrated manner, the United Nations’ top official on the issue told the Security Council today ahead of an open debate on women, peace and security.

“Sexual violence in conflict represents a great moral issue of our time and it merits the concerted focus of the Security Council,” Zeinab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said as she presented the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2015/203), which outlined what she called “shocking” incidents in 19 conflict situations. 

The crime, in its destruction of the individual and the pervasive way it undermined peace and development “casts a long shadow over our collective humanity”, she said, noting that the report focused on sexual violence as a threat used to induce displacement.  It highlighted the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities, the issue of forced marriage, the role of faith-based leaders and local journalists in addressing harmful social norms and the necessity of addressing such issues in ceasefires.

The road to eliminating sexual violence was long, she said.  Her departure tomorrow for the Middle East was preceded by a “catastrophic” new trend of extremist groups using sexual violence as a tactic of terror, not only in Iraq and Syria, but in Somalia, Nigeria and Mali.  She underscored the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Sanctions Committee on Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) include such abuse in its criteria for applying targeted measures.

There had been some positive changes, she said:  a normative foundation had been laid and deeper knowledge, analysis and information had led to strategic interventions.  More resources were being allocated for sexual and gender-based violence programming than ever before, and further, accountability for a crime that had historically been “cost-free” to commit was finally emerging.  Ownership of the problem by States and communities was growing and engagement of non-State actors was being explored, she added.  Now, such activities and international resolve must crystalize into action to prevent crimes and to care for survivors, she asserted.

Also speaking at the opening of the debate was Hamsatu Allamin, of the Non-Governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, who drew attention to the plight of women and girls in Nigeria’s north-east, a region that had been at the centre of a two-year insurgency.  Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 276 Chibok girls, of whom 219 were still missing.  It was estimated that 2,000 women and girls had been kidnapped by armed men since the start of 2014.

“I am here to implore the Security Council — and the international community — to develop integrated solutions in partnership with women’s groups and service providers,” she said.  Solutions should prevent such abuse, protect those at risk, support survivors, prosecute perpetrators and strengthen the rights of women and girls.  For its part, the Council must ensure that justice strategies were developed in line with international humanitarian and human rights law, she said.

In the ensuing debate, nearly 70 speakers took the floor to condemn the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terror.  Many expressed shock that the abduction of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram one year ago today had not been solved.  It was unacceptable, they said, that the influence of such extremist groups was still expanding.  A number of speakers described efforts to bolster national institutions and agreed with recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report that laid out prescriptions for improving international coordination.

Representing Iraq, a member of the country’s parliament welcomed the report’s attention to extremist groups, saying that sexual violence was a war tactic used by ISIL.  He described steps the country had taken to safeguard women and promote their rights, noting that the country was among the first to launch national plans and policies aimed at implementing resolution 1325 (2000).  Despite such efforts, however, the Yazidi New Year today received little celebration amid the horrors perpetrated by ISIL.

Along similar lines, the Personal Representative of the Head of State in charge of the fight against sexual violence and recruitment of children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo described rape’s use as a weapon of war in her country and her Government’s efforts to end impunity, rehabilitate survivors and facilitate educational access for girls.  Although enormous challenges persisted, she said women had wiped away their tears and embarked on a determined effort to improve their status.  The representative of Nigeria said her Government and people were also committed to freeing hostages and crushing Boko Haram.  She stressed that the campaign against sexual violence must be integrated with the fight against terrorism. 

Ending sexual violence was not a responsibility that Governments alone could bear, many speakers emphasized.  On the United Nations role, several speakers, including those from troop- and police-contributing countries, called for the deployment of more female peacekeepers, women protection advisers and gender advisers, as well as more women in senor positions in multidimensional peace operations.

Others focused on the need for early warning indicators, promoting accountability and fighting impunity, including by enacting criminal law reforms, ensuring victim reparations and sending all evidence possible to the International Criminal Court.  The representative of Lithuania, in that vein, called for the universal application of the Rome Statute — the basis of the International Criminal Court — as it recognized sexual violence as a crime against humanity.

Also speaking today were Ministers from Belgium and Canada.

Representatives of the following countries also spoke:  the United States, France, Angola, Chad, Spain, New Zealand, Venezuela, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Chile, China, Malaysia, Nigeria, Jordan, India, Thailand, Liechtenstein, Italy, Germany, Colombia, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Hungary, Japan, Syria, Luxembourg, Turkey, Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Sudan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Guatemala, Latvia (also on behalf of Estonia), Algeria, Uruguay, Kenya, Ireland, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Morocco, Switzerland, Croatia, Nepal, Poland, Slovenia, Indonesia, Portugal, Zimbabwe (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Qatar, Afghanistan, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Rwanda, El Salvador, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Argentina.

The observer missions of the African Union, European Union and the Holy See also addressed the Council.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 6:08 p.m.

Briefings

ZEINAM HAWA BANGURA, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said that, in the three years since assuming her role, she could hardly have imagined how heart-breaking her mission would be.  “Sexual violence in conflict represents a great moral issue of our time and it merits the concerted focus of the Security Council,” she stressed.  “The pervasive way that it undermined the prospect of peace and development cast a long shadow over our collective humanity,” she added.

However, she said, five years after the creation of the mandate, the world had arrived at a new juncture with an opportunity to change not only the way in which this crime was perceived and understood, but also the manner in which we respond to it in our security and justice sectors, and in terms of services for survivors.

To be sure, positive results had been seen, she said:  a normative foundation had been laid, as had precise tools to drive the agenda; knowledge, analysis and information was deeper; and more resources were being allocated for sexual and gender-based violence programming than ever before.  In addition, accountability for a crime that had historically been “cost-free” to commit was finally emerging.  National authorities in some key situations were starting to show the leadership required to address conflict-related sexual violence with commitments at the highest levels.  The last three years also had seen a “significant” increase in peace agreements and ceasefires that reflected sexual violence concerns.

However, the road ahead, to ensure that women had consistent and timely redress, was long, she said.  Noting that the Secretary-General’s report presented “shocking” incidents in 19 situations, she said the inter-agency network United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, which she chaired, was the primary consultative forum for the report, which, itself, served as a vehicle for refining the understanding of critical themes.  It focused on sexual violence as a threat used to induce displacement, linked with forced dispossession of land and property, which denied women vital sources of livelihood.  It highlighted the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities, the issue of forced marriage, the role of faith-based leaders and local journalists in addressing harmful social norms and the necessity of addressing such issues in ceasefires.

Ms. Bangura announced that she would depart tomorrow for her first trip to the Middle East — to Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey — against a backdrop of extremists using sexual violence as a tactic of terror.  The link between sexual violence and the strategic ideology of extremist groups was a critical new challenge, she said, underscoring the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Sanctions Committee on Al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) include such abuse in its criteria for targeting measures.

Ultimately, she said, an effective counter-strategy must include community engagement.  She had begun to explore engagement with non-State actors and looked forward to briefing the Council in the future.  More focused engagement of security sector actors would help to turn the tide on sexual violence, requiring States to transform military cultures to enhance protection and prevention.

Among her goals was to foster national ownership, leadership and responsibility, she said, lauding Angola, Guinea, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan for signing joint communiqués with the United Nations to address sexual violence.   She noted that a Personal Representative of the President on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment had been appointed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was present today.  There had been 187 convictions of soldiers and commanders in that country between July 2011 and December 2013.  High-level indictments had been made in Guinea, as well.

Such modest progress should encourage all to “stay the course”, she said, cautioning that the “catastrophic” circumstances and acute vulnerability of so many women, children and men to sexual violence in conflict must now crystalize resolve into clear action to prevent those crimes and to care for survivors.  It was essential to translate promises into practice.  The history of warzone rape had been one of denial.  It was time to bring that crime, and those who committed it, into the international spotlight.

HAMSATU ALLAMIN, of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, drew attention to the plight of women and girls in Nigeria’s north-east, a region that had been at the centre of a two-year insurgency.  Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 276 Chibok girls, of whom 219 were still missing.  It was estimated that 2,000 women and girls had been kidnapped by armed men since the start of 2014, a much higher number than was receiving attention.  They were often stripped naked so as not to escape, forced into marriage and repeatedly raped.

“I am here to implore the Security Council and the international community to develop integrated solutions in partnership with women’s groups and service providers,” she said.  The solutions should prevent such abuse, protect those at risk, provide support to survivors, promote women’s voices, prosecute perpetrators and strengthen the rights of women and girls.  Fighting extremism must prioritize the promotion of State and global responsibility to uphold international standards, which meant ensuring accountability for human rights violations.

Both State and non-State armed groups in her country and elsewhere were perpetrating sexual and gender-based violence, she said.  In Iraq, such violence by ISIL/ISIS could amount to crimes against humanity; in Nigeria, reports have surfaced that dozens of women, forced to marry insurgents, had been killed by their “husbands” to prevent them from escaping or being rescued.

Prevention efforts would not succeed without women’s leadership, she said, stressing that women human rights defenders in north-eastern Nigeria were negotiating with armed groups, rescuing women and girls in occupied territories and helping survivors.  She called for the involvement of community groups in providing immediate and long-term support, with coordination ensured so that a full range of specialized and confidential survivor-centred support — medical, psychosocial and economic — was available. 

She urged the Council to ensure that comprehensive justice strategies were developed in line with international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as ethical and safety guidelines.  In Nigeria, she said, a formal process was needed to determine the number of women and girls who had been abducted.  Those missing must be found and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.  Organizations such as her own were building awareness for the full integration of resolution 1325 (2000) into domestic policies and legislation, she stated, stressing that international support for the implementation and resourcing of the country’s national action plan was needed.

Moreover, she said, States should ensure that development assistance to Nigeria increased educational opportunities for girls, fought gender discrimination, kept schools safe and built the capacity of women leaders.  Such strategies must also address the proliferation of drugs, corruption and the lack of rule of law, as well as curb the flow of small arms and light weapons, which had been linked to conflict-related sexual violence.

Recent elections in Nigeria had brought hope for greater stability, she said, calling on the Council and neighbouring Governments to explore alternative options for dialogue with non-violent members of the insurgency, including those who had been forcibly conscripted.   Her country would only experience peace, she added, when it empowered women to be partners in society.

Statements

MICHELE SISON (United States) said that today’s session provided a useful opportunity to take stock of achievements and challenges ahead of the review of the implementation of the landmark resolution 1325 (2000) scheduled for October.  The international community had galvanized around a clear and credible response to sexual violence in conflict and women leaders had been dynamic agents for change and were inspiring others.  Despite such progress, important tasks remained.  Gaps in local justice systems and international accountability needed to be addressed, including through capacity-building and promotion of rule of law.  The accountability framework the United States had proposed was aimed at bringing sexual violence out of the shadows, she stated, adding that several Member States had made significant strides in that direction.  She called the Syrian Government a glaring exception to that progress, noting that sexual and gender-based violence had also become part of the strategy of ISIL and other terrorist groups.  The threat of prosecution did not necessarily deter such groups and therefore innovative approaches were needed.  She applauded the Secretary-General’s inclusion of the situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in his report, stressing that preventing sexual violence was not about politics but about the world’s common humanity.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said that preventing sexual violence in conflict was a long-term priority for his country.  The plight of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram a year ago was shared by countless others around the world and the increase of crimes perpetrated by non-State actors, particularly ISIL, were a source of increasing alarm.  To address the threat, sexual violence should be categorized as a tool of terrorism and perpetrators should be held fully accountable for their acts.  The United Nations sanctions committees should address sexual violence in that context, he stated, stressing the need to expand the focus to other non-State actors.  He added that State forces were also involved in such crimes in Syria and elsewhere, and that the United Nations must fully enforce its zero-tolerance policy concerning abuse committed by peacekeepers if the Organization was to maintain its credibility.

JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola), aligning with the statements made on behalf of the African Union and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), said sexual violence in conflict stood as one of the egregious forms of human rights violations.  The Secretary-General’s report painted a grim picture, showing that women and girls were targeted by State and non-State actors as trophies of war with the aim of humiliating entire communities and profiting from their plight.  While States bore the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of civilians in all situations, the international community needed to address vulnerabilities specific to women and girls. It was also important to look into the root causes of gender-based violence and the United Nations must continue developing appropriate and effective mechanisms.  All peace activities and initiatives must ensure the safety of women, include their participation and make sure national policies included a gender perspective.  Perpetrators must be brought to justice, and for that, victims should be encouraged to speak out against violence.  Their voices must be respected, the representative stressed.

BANTÉ MANGARAL (Chad), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the African Union, said various manifestations of sexual violence prevailed across the world during times of peace and war.  While there were mechanisms to deal with such crimes during peacetime, they were committed with impunity during times of war.  In post-conflict situations, considerable progress was being made in establishing standards of justice and care for victims.  Chad welcomed the greater attention the subject had been receiving in recent years, as well as the progress Member States had been making.  Since non-State actors were currently responsible for 60 per cent of sexual crimes in conflict, it was important for the international community focus its attention in that area, including by ensuring that sexual violence was addressed in ceasefires.  Chad had been taking important steps in preventing sexual violence and promoting gender equality he added, by addressing existing challenges and by endeavouring to change attitudes.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said “we need to change the classic idea of what a threat to peace and security is”, noting that much more attention was given to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration than to sexual violence in conflict.  Abuse had become not just weapon of war, but one of terrorism.  The Council must adapt to that reality.  He urged every effort be made to send to the International Criminal Court all evidence about sexual violence in conflict, which must be universally considered a crime and not just a moral problem.  Renewed attention to victims was needed, so they could access basic services, he added, citing Colombia as a model in that regard.  The Special Representative should continue to help non-State actors understand the seriousness of their crimes.  In addition, with the understanding that sexual violence was a terrorist weapon, the mandates of the Sanctions Committees should include it as a criterion for targeting measures.  In peacekeeping, more robust mandates for sexual violence in conflict were needed, as was better training.  Peacekeepers should be in contact with local police, security and army forces, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations should strengthen its gender unit.  For its part, the Council should ask Special Representatives to report on sexual violence in a strategic manner, rather than in a descriptive one.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said that leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum had recognized sexual violence and violence against women as one of the most significant human security issues facing communities today.  The Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, representing 21 member States, aimed to develop practical, ethical policing standards in its member countries, including a women’s advisory network to support the professional development and leadership of Pacific policewomen.  Noting that preventing and combatting sexual violence was a national responsibility, he said resolution 1325 (2000) provided useful mechanisms for supporting national and local solutions, including the development of national action plans on women, peace and security.  His country’s national action plan, which was being finalized, set out a range of initiatives to tackle domestic violence and to increase the number of military and policewomen available for senior deployment in peacekeeping operations.

RAFAEL RAMÍREZ (Venezuela) urged all conflict parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law as well as Council resolutions on violence against women.  Eradicating sexual violence in conflict must involve coordination among the concerned State, relevant United Nations bodies and both regional and subregional organizations.  Noting that 45 conflict actors were suspected of having committed armed violence, 13 of whom had been listed for the first time, the representative said investigations were needed and the perpetrators brought to appropriate tribunals.  The training, equipping and promotion of non-State extremist groups, which were breaking up States for politically motivated reasons, must be seen as a factor in the increase of sexual violence.  Perpetrators of such crimes and those providing financial or military assistance to them must be brought to justice.  It was also important to develop national institutional capacity in health care and the judiciary for the timely rehabilitation of victims.  He also urged that sexual violence in conflict be considered in formulating ceasefires, that mediators be trained to address the issue in a sensitive manner and that more gender advisors be included United Nations missions, in the important effort to implement resolution 1325 (2000).

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) said sexual violence used as a war weapon had been scarily effective, citing the use of sexual slavery by ISIL and Boko Haram.  It was agreed that the responsibility to protect against rape and sexual abuse lay with the State.  Adequate judiciary and penal services were essential, as were military justice systems that met human-rights standards.  It was imperative that the perpetrators of mass at crimes, including for sexual violence, be held to account, including through the International Criminal Court.  In that light, the representative called for the universal application of the Rome Statute, as it recognized sexual violence as a crime against humanity.  The Council should be more vocal in condemning conflict-related sexual violence, she added, stressing that when rape charges reached its attention, it could not afford to “brush them under the carpet”, as that emboldened perpetrators.  Rape of men and boys must be addressed, as well.  She maintained that the use of women protection advisors in peacekeeping missions should be expanded, as should consideration of sexual violence in mandate renewals.  In addition, more progress was needed in integrating gender concerns into security sector reform and in collecting gender disaggregated data.

EVGENY ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said the report highlighted the considerable actions undertaken by the Special Representative in recent years.  However, it also reflected the scope of the task that still remained to be done.  The Council should not duplicate efforts being undertaken elsewhere, he stressed. Furthermore, efforts to revise language previously agreed and broaden the scope of discussions and actions were of concern to his delegation.  The agenda of women, peace and security must be comprehensive and actions formulated accordingly.  Fighting sexual violence in armed conflict required national involvement and responsibility and contact with non-State actors must be maintained through Council resolutions.  Efforts must be advanced by the United Nations in full consultation with the membership and not on the basis of agendas advanced by a limited group of countries or groups.

PETER WILSON (United Kingdom) said the report provided a vital framework for action against sexual violence in conflict.  The Council was creating norms that allowed people on the ground to take effective action.  The anniversary of the kidnappings by Boko Haram provided a sombre reminder of the urgency of further action, especially in the context to prevent sexual violence from becoming a tactic of terror.  To counter that, countries must be given more support and women and girls must be fully involved.  National military and security actors should be more responsive to survivors’ needs and should better reflect the composition of society.  Perpetrators and Governments lagging in their obligations must be held to greater accountability.  The Council had a unique responsibility to stop sexual violence and it should make full use of all tools at its disposal.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said he was stupefied by the fact that sexual violence was being used as a tactic of terror with such impunity.  Despite the progress achieved through successive resolutions, the situation was still grim around the world. The international community must step up its fight against impunity through, among other things, the International Criminal Tribunals and truth and reconciliation commissions and effective reparation mechanisms.  In 2014, the international community focused on protection of women.  Now, it was time to promote their participation in all aspects of peace operations.  The Council needed to make better use of the tools available and work more vigorously to bring perpetrators to justice.  Survivors must be able to get full access to all services through the participation of civil society, religious leaders and the media.  Praising Colombia’s experience, he said Chile last month launched an action plan for the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and other relevant resolutions.

WANG MIN (China) strongly condemned sexual violence as a war tactic, supporting international efforts to tackle the problem at its root.  The international community should focus on countries’ economic and social development, and improvement of women’s status.  For its part, the Council should fully apply Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter and pursue peaceful dispute settlement, with a view to removing the breeding ground for that abuse.  As the countries concerned bore the primary responsibility to combat sexual violence in conflict, the international community should support the adoption of national zero-tolerance policies.  It should respect the principle of State ownership, leadership and responsibility, while fully respecting the concerned country’s sovereignty.  In addition, the Peacebuilding Commission, UN-Women and the World Health Organization (WHO) should fulfil their roles, as well as provide medical, legal and other services to victims.  The elimination of sexual violence should be linked with counter-terrorism initiatives, he said, stressing that terrorism should not be attributed to a particular country or religion.

SITI HAJJAR ADNIN (Malaysia) said the international normative framework to end and prevent sexual violence in conflict had been fortified through seven Security Council resolutions.  Yet, the seventh annual report of the Secretary-General had shown that such violence continued to be widely committed as a tactic of war, causing a devastating impact on women and girls.  The international community needed to redouble its efforts to ensure the effective implementation of all resolutions in preventing sexual violence, and returning peace, security and stability to conflict-stricken areas.  In that regard, it was the primary responsibility of Governments to ensure the meaningful participation of women in peace processes.  Concluding, the representative said the collective and coordinated response of all stakeholders was crucial in ensuring long-term strategies that would allow “scarred communities” to heal and rebuild.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the African Union, said the Secretary-General’s report provided an operational framework for countering sexual violence in conflict.  The representative welcomed in particular the emphasis laid on collecting and presenting disaggregated data.  In today’s conflicts, women suffered as much as soldiers, contradicting the image of men dying in war with women living in the safety of their homes.  Fighting sexual violence required understanding the motivations of all parties, as well as promoting accountability and ending impunity, she said, praising recent efforts taken in that regard.  Nigeria prioritized the empowerment of women as a crucial first step towards ensuring equality.  Non-governmental organizations were important actors in that regard, as the fight against sexual violence could not be left to Governments alone.  Above all, the challenge was to translate political agreements into action on the ground.  On the anniversary of the kidnapping of over 200 girls by Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Government and people were committed more than ever to freeing hostages and ultimately crushing the group.  In that regard, the campaign against sexual violence should be integrated with the fight against terrorism.  In that and other areas, Nigeria stood ready to work with other Member States to give practical effect to the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) said that, despite the progress made in establishing a normative framework to counter sexual violence in conflict, the situation remained alarming around the world.  The increasing use of such violence as a tactic of war by ISIL, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups made it all the more important for more concerted international action.  There were legal gaps in mechanisms to bring perpetrators to justice, she added, stressing the need to lift the sense of fear gripping communities, which prevented them from speaking out.  Governments must be pressed to fulfil their obligations and United Nations agencies must receive full access to conflict areas.  Countries must do more to protect refugees and ensure they received proper health and education services.  Calling for the appointment of a United Nations adviser for the protection of women, she pledged her country’s support to all international efforts to stem sexual violence in conflict.

ALEXANDER DE CROO, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Development Cooperation, Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services of Belgium, aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said efforts to address sexual violence in conflict must be integrated with those on violent extremism.  In his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he was approached in Goma by survivors of rape by soldiers, rebels and even camp guards.  “They asked us for safety and shelter,” he said.  “We have to respond.  That is why I am here today.”  He drew attention to the issue of civilians perpetrating sexual violence against civilians, explaining that child soldiers had been reintegrated into society, but had committed such acts because of inadequate follow-up.  He commended the Congolese decision to prosecute high-ranking officers for sexual abuse and offer reparations to survivors, as well as the action plan for the Congolese Armed Forces.  “Women must be part of the solution,” he said, welcoming the Algiers peace process for Mali and urging the Council to ensure women were fully integrated in such peace negotiations.  Sexual violence was a stain on the conscience of the international community, he added.

LYNNE YELICH, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Consular of Canada, said violence against women was among the most prevalent human rights violations today; the situation was exacerbated by conflict situations.  Canada’s contribution to the fight against ISIL was through support for survivors and documentation of crimes.  Its efforts to address sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were bearing fruit, she added, noting that more than 60,000 survivors had accessed support and more than 800 perpetrators had been convicted.   Among priority concerns, she affirmed that more must be done in areas affected by Boko Haram, and States must ensure that leaders who condoned widespread, systematic sexual violence were prosecuted.  In addition, areas intended to be a haven for civilians must, in fact, be free from violence against women, and security forces must not be perpetrators of crimes.  Legal and social barriers that prevented women from participating in societies must be removed.  She announced Canadian funding of $5.4 million to help achieve those goals.

VIAN DAKHIL, Member of Parliament of Iraq, welcomed the attention given in the Secretary-General’s report to extremist groups, in particular paragraph 28, in view of the brutal and criminal attacks perpetrated by ISIL against all communities of Iraqis.  Sexual violence had become the tactic of war of ISIL and most of their attacks constituted crimes against humanity, according to established legal standards.  The Iraqi Government and Parliament had taken several steps to safeguard Iraqi women and promote their rights, and the country was among the first to launch national plans and policies aimed at implementing United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Today was the Yazidi New Year.  Unfortunately, the community could not celebrate it amid the horrors perpetrated by ISIL.

JEANNINE MABUNDA LIOKO, Personal Representative of the Head of State in charge of the fight against sexual violence and recruitment of children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said her country had to grapple with a deadly conflict where rape was regularly used as a weapon of war.  In the decade since the restoration of peace, the country was still grieving.  However, it had also accelerated its fight against impunity and its efforts towards the rehabilitation of survivors, strengthened by the sustained support of international partners.  Although enormous challenges persisted, women in her country had wiped away their tears and embarked on a determined effort to improve their status.

ASOKE K. MUKERJI (India) said sexual violence in armed conflict was not incidental, but integrally linked with the strategic objectives, ideology and funding of extremist groups.  The list of perpetrators of sexual violence in armed conflict, mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report included mainly non-State actors.  The international community, therefore, should focus on ownership and capacity-building to adopt progressive legal frameworks and legislation to implement zero-tolerance for sexual violence.  Mainstreaming the gender perspective in peace operations was also crucial to achieve the ultimate goal of gender equality, women’s empowerment, and sustainable peace and security.  For its part, India had assisted the United Nations in the maintenance of international peace and security with nearly 180,000 troops having served under the blue flag.

VIRACHAI PLASAI (Thailand), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the increase of sexual violence in conflict required a holistic international approach that encompassed political, social, economic and legal aspects.  Governments’ role in security and the rule of law must be strengthened, notably through policies that outlined preventive, response and monitoring actions.  Thailand’s peacekeeping experience had shown that deployment of female personnel could help create safer environments for women and children.  As such, his Government had worked to increase their presence along with the use of gender-sensitivity training and to integrate a gender perspective into all peacekeeping mandates.  Assistance to survivors, he maintained, should encompass medical aid, as well as psychological support and access to justice.  Survivors could be agents of change; there was a shared responsibility to enhance their ability to care for themselves.  More broadly, he urged adherence to international humanitarian law, stressing that perpetrators of sexual violence must be brought to justice.

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, head of the European Union Delegation, said conflict-related sexual violence was intrinsically linked to broader, multiple and systemic gender-based discrimination.  Also, it was facilitated by the absence of women from formal and informal decision-making and the lack of recognition of their full potential and equal human rights.  In that regard and in line with resolution 1325 (2000), he said women needed to meaningfully participate in decisions and policymaking.  Also crucial to combating sexual violence were training, the collection of timely information and detection through early warning signs.  Stressing the need to end impunity for sexual violence-related crimes, he said rapid and effective investigation and documentation of those crimes, as well as accountability and transitional justice mechanisms, were key to that end.

He said the European Union continued to implement its dedicated policy on women and peace and security, including through close cooperation with other international and regional organizations.  At the end of 2014, it had adopted a Guide to Practical Actions at the European Union Level for Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, which included 36 concrete initiatives ranging from human rights to conflict prevention and humanitarian aid.  It also continued to support initiatives around the world, as well as the capacity of civil society and women’s organizations to implement resolution 1325 (2000).  Currently, the Union was revising the generic standard of behaviour for its Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations and was adopting a code of conduct and discipline for those missions to ensure better coordination on conduct and discipline matters and to lay the ground for stronger preventive measures.

STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein) said non-State armed actors and extremist groups had been primarily responsible for conflict-related sexual violence, which was often used as a tactic to terrorize civilian populations and as a method of warfare.  While women and girls were the primary targets, men and boys were also affected.  Resolution 1325 (2000) and its follow-up resolutions constituted a comprehensive framework that should guide the international community’s actions.  One small yet meaningful step the Council could take would be to consistently use conflict-related sexual violence as a criterion for the imposition of targeted sanctions.  Member States could also play an important role by holding terrorist fighters to account for the crimes they committed abroad, especially when those crimes involved sexual violence.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said conflict-related sexual violence was a crime against humanity, and it was critical to address its root causes.  All forms of sexual violence, especially in conflict situations, exacerbated instability and jeopardized the restoration of peace and security, rule of law and respect for human rights.  Therefore, Italy recommended that the Council focus on four main areas:  prevention; participation of women and girls; rehabilitation of the survivors; and accountability.  Concluding, he called on the international community to provide critical support through an integrated and holistic approach.

HIEKO THOMS (Germany), aligning with the statement made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the detailed analysis in the Secretary-General’s report of the emerging phenomenon of violent extremism and how sexual violence was an inherent strategic component of the ideology of those groups.  Robust military and police response could only be a partial answer to the challenges.  Sanctions must also be applied to isolate those who incited and committed the crimes.  Welcoming the fact that seven of the listed State parties had committed to joint action with the United Nations to tackle the issue of sexual violence, he noted, however, that, increasingly, non-State armed groups were responsible for systematic and widespread sexual crimes in conflict.  The international community needed to find new and innovative ways to interact with those actors in order to prohibit them from committing horrific acts.  An effective response was only possible when there was information from the ground.  In that regard, women protection advisers had proven to be essential assets and should be included in the mandates of relevant peacekeeping and special political missions.

MARIA EMMA MEJÍA (Colombia) said that, while her country continued to face major challenges, it had learned lessons and implemented measures that, at the global level, had been called “pioneering”.  It had instituted a zero-tolerance policy in its focus on addressing the needs of victims of sexual violence.  Such policies, which had been built in a participatory manner, had led to good practices that could be shared with other States.  Her country’s strategy was based on two pillars.  Through legislation, it had promoted awareness and championed preventive measures and sanctions.  Through the judiciary, Colombia provided support to survivors of sexual violence, so that they were not victims for a second time.  Stressing that those survivors must be heard and supported to enable them move forward with their lives, she said her Government had created a monitoring system to allow the timely detection of possible crimes, implemented an information system to identify vulnerable populations that required protection, and established a registry to identify women and girls, as well as men and boys, who had been victimized.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the Nordic States — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and his own country — said sexual violence was a reflection of gender inequality.  To prevent such violence, a systematic and broad gender approach needed to be applied that increased women’s empowerment through political participation and influence, strengthened women’s economic rights, promoted and protected sexual and reproductive health and rights, and improved women’s and girls’ security.  It was also urgent that the international community take further concrete steps to ensure accountability and stop impunity for sexual violence.  Such violence and denial of rights and freedoms were integral to the ideology of extremist groups and were used as part of a strategy to spread terror and persecute ethnic, religious and sexual minorities.  In that light, Sweden welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendations to address such violence by strengthening human rights.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said the annual report of the Secretary-General correctly pointed out that sexual violence could also be a method of terror.  Non-State actors with extremist ideologies had deliberately employed an appealing tactic to subjugate, humiliate and disseminate fear and distress.  Accordingly, the international community should encourage and help States to fully exercise their responsibility.  On the Peacebuilding Commission, Brazil had acknowledged the link between the advancement of women and the establishment of sustainable peace.  Through South-South cooperation, his country was involved in initiatives aimed at assisting victims of sexual and gender-based violence, and combating impunity in countries affected by conflict.  Concluding, he hoped that the international community could recommit to joining forces to eradicate the scourge of sexual violence in conflict.

ALEJANDRO ALDAY (Mexico) said it was unacceptable that, in the twenty-first century, sexual violence was still being used as a weapon of war.  Noting that conflict-related sexual violence took place within the framework of structural discrimination, he said it was important to establish institutions that bore in mind gender considerations.  In 2013, his country had agreed to lead at the regional level the United Kingdom’s preventing sexual violence initiative.  Likewise, the adoption of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict was a step in the right direction.  A lack of standards and institutions to protect women’s rights in armed conflict was a catalyst for perpetrators to commit those crimes.  As such, it was crucial that those individuals be punished by national judicial systems in those States.  Those who commit such crimes could not have impunity as an ally.  The Council should continue to use all means at its disposal to end sexual violence in conflict and ensure respect for international law.

RON PROSOR (Israel) said that sexual violence in conflict had become a weapon of choice as it was cheap, silent and effective.  For each rape reported, it was estimated that 10 to 20 went unreported, and in the aftermath of such violence, women lived in shame, while the perpetrators lived free.  Therefore, there should be zero tolerance for barbaric acts that should have been relegated to the “Dark Ages”.  Turning to ISIS and Boko Haram, he said that those extremist groups sought to control every area of a women’s life, including how she dressed, whom she married and how many children she had.  As such, all Governments, civil society organizations and United Nations agencies must work together to pass stronger laws and strengthen enforcement mechanisms.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary), noting that sexual violence remained chronically underreported as a result of fear and stigmatization, said there should be more United Nations peacekeepers and peacemakers to strengthen and facilitate communication on the field.  Armed conflict today was increasingly characterized by extremist ideologies and ethnic divisions presenting new challenges for the international community.  The use of sexual violence was a form of persecution as a way to displace populations.  While the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict was an important achievement in raising awareness and bringing an end to sexual violence in conflict, the international community must live up to its political commitment through concrete and measurable action.

MOTOHIDE YOSHIKAWA (Japan) urged the strengthening national ownership, leadership and responsibility in efforts to end the culture of impunity that he said was at the centre of sexual violence in conflict.  Noting the importance of support to security and judiciary sectors, he called for arrangements to be made to involve national military forces, police and judiciary in the agenda.  Regrettably, the international reaction to the use of sexual violence by extremist groups had been slow, he stressed, noting that, in that light, Japan had co-hosted a film and panel discussion on the violence against Yazidi women and girls by ISIL in northern Iraq.  The strategic objectives and methods of such groups must be analysed; he urged the Council to take such factors into account in building a counter-strategy.  He added that last year Japan had become the top donor to Special Representative Bangura’s office.

TETE ANTÓNIO, Permanent Observer of the African Union, thanked all speakers for participating in a crucial debate.  This year had a special significance as it was the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the celebration of the year of Women's Empowerment and Development in the context of Africa's Agenda 2063.  As women and children were among the primary victims of rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, torture and human trafficking, it was essential for all countries to renew their commitments to their well-being.  Despite the challenges, conflict-related sexual violence could be stopped if the international community collectively enacted a holistic approach to the problems that included addressing the root causes of conflict and holding perpetrators of violence accountable.

ALI AHMAD HAYDAR (Syria) said that an objective evaluation of events in his country must begin with a response from the Special Representative to his Government’s repeated invitations to visit Syria so that she could accurately report on sexual violence in the country.  Those who had prepared the information in the report regarding the situation in Syria had based their allegations on the international inquiry commission whose work was neither professional nor objective, and aimed at distorting the image of his Government.  His Government rejected allegations made against the Syrian army in that context, especially given that it had not received a request to visit any sites to verify information.   He restated the need for the Special Representative to address the fatwa regarding the sexual jihad against Syria and to put an end to such morally deviant behaviour.  Calling attention to Governments who he said were financing terrorism, he stated his country was committed to putting an end to all forms of sexual violence and stood ready to cooperate with the United Nations to reveal the truth about his country.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxemburg), endorsing the statement delivered by the European Union, said the emerging phenomenon of violent extremism of groups, such as ISIL and Boko Haram, was deeply concerning.  Noting that the previous day had marked the one-year anniversary of the abduction of 200 high school girls by Boko Haram, she condemned the barbarous acts of such groups.  Given the current environment of conflict situations, she continued, the Security Council needed to step up efforts to protect all civilians against sexual violence, and to integrate all relevant resolutions into its actions.  She called on the international community to provide all necessary support to tackle violent extremism and eliminate sexual violence in conflict.

HALIT ÇEVIK (Turkey) said political will must be strengthened to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  The Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, known as the “Istanbul Convention”, was a landmark document in that regard.  Also needed was a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy to address the horrific acts perpetrated by terrorist organizations, such as Da’esh, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab.  Noting the importance of a comprehensive approach to decision-making and policy, as well as peace processes and mediation efforts, he said women’s participation could ensure better early warning systems and prevention strategies.  It would be important to deepen gender perspectives in the United Nations system’s normative and operational frameworks, entities and practice.  Doing so would enhance the effectiveness of its response to conflict related sexual violence and help address the special needs of women and girls in protracted crises.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), speaking on behalf of ASEAN, welcomed progress made in implementing key aspects of resolution 1325 (2000).  Despite recent improvements, the Association was deeply concerned about the rise of conflict-related sexual violence that threatened the well-being of women and girls around the world.  It was particularly alarming to witness the widespread sexual violence, including abduction, sexual slavery, rape and forced marriage, used by extremist groups as a tactic of war.

A broad approach to empowering women was needed, she said, adding that political reconciliation, rule of law, socioeconomic development and poverty eradication were the foundation for sustainable opportunities for women and girls.  Institutions at the national and international level for gender equality and promotion of human rights should be continuously strengthened.  While States must bear the primary responsibility for such efforts, the international community could play an important role by providing assistance and sharing best practices.

HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan) said his country had national strategies to combat violence against women and to promote women’s empowerment and advancement.  It had also established an independent commission for women’s rights.  Today, voters in his country were exercising their constitutional rights freely as they cast their ballots in elections, in which women had actively participated.  Asserting that a woman’s political rights were enshrined in Sudan’s legal code, he said women occupied 28 per cent of parliamentary seats.  They also held several important positions as presidential advisers and ministers.  As a transit country, his Government had also adopted laws to address human trafficking and had hosted a conference to combat human trafficking in the Horn of Africa.  The Government had also implemented a women’s development programme and established economic empowerment projects.  In that light, he called “naïve” allegations in the report about Darfur, stressing that it was important to verify the accuracy of information included in Council reports.

AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan) said the atrocities committed against women, adolescents and young girls needed attention and immediate action from the international community.  Extrajudicial killings and sexual violence, which had become the new weapons of war and the “tactics of terror”, had resulted in unprecedented, massive flows of refugees and internally displaced persons, posed a security threat in many regions.  Accordingly, the Security Council and United Nations peacekeeping operations and political missions needed to step up their response.  Over the last decade, his county had witnessed increased and complex flows of asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of trafficking.  While those challenges were being addressed by several regional initiatives, the Government had allocated more than $70 million to develop resilience.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that the threat of terrorism, both in its magnitude and diversity, was one of the greatest challenges, not only to international peace and security, but also to human dignity.  Underscoring that sexual violence in conflict was a serious violation of international humanitarian law and human rights law, he said a zero-tolerance policy was needed to ensure the accountability of perpetrators.  Also critical was the international community’s commitment to diminish the capacity of non-State terrorist groups perpetrating sexual violence in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Nigeria.  Greater financial resources should be secured for the expeditious implementation of the women, peace and security agenda, especially as it related to conflict-related sexual violence.

MÓNICA BOLAÑOS PÉREZ (Guatemala) said it was the responsibility of Member States to protect their own people, including women and girls and those most vulnerable.  The Council must press States in conflict or post-conflict situations to adopt codes of conduct and action plans for military forces.  To ensure a truly zero-tolerance policy, it was important to support the efforts of non-governmental and women’s organizations in that regard.  Her country had taken concrete actions to address sexual violence through strengthening institutions and adopting laws against sexual violence and human trafficking.  It also had established programmes to facilitate access to justice.  Ending impunity must be the main focus of the international community’s efforts; the Council’s tools must be continuously improved and consistently used to bring perpetrators to justice.

INESE FREIMANE-DEKSNE (Latvia), speaking on behalf of Estonia and her own country, welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence that deepened concerns that rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage, forced pregnancy, torture and human trafficking had been used by terrorist groups, most notably by ISIL, as a tactic of spreading terror, persecuting minorities and displacing communities.  She stressed that the effectiveness of efforts to prevent and address conflict-related sexual violence was undermined by underreporting, impunity and a lack of support to sexual violence survivors.  She called on the international community to end impunity for such crimes.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said that, despite the establishment of a normative framework to counter sexual violence in conflicts, horrific acts remained widespread.  Reiterating his country’s support for resolution 1325 (2000), he called for greater efforts to rehabilitate victims and ensure their long-term well-being.  National legal frameworks needed to be strengthened; all decisions and actions should involve greater participation of women.  In addition, gender considerations must be mainstreamed into all aspects of peace operations; peace agreements must put special emphasis on women’s security.  Adequate resources must be allocated for those purposes, as well as for breaking the wall of silence surrounding sexual violence.  A massive awareness-raising campaign must be organized to change attitudes in close partnership with civil society.  Otherwise, perpetrators would continue to act with impunity.  Regional initiatives had begun in Africa to address the challenge as national Governments stepped up efforts to promote gender equality, but much more must be done, he stressed.

JORGE DOTTA (Uruguay) said that countering sexual violence was an issue of human rights for his country, and therefore, above national legislation.  States had to be held accountable to their obligations to women, especially in a context where sexual violence was being used as a tactic of war.  The world could not afford to remain passive to atrocities committed within national borders if it was to uphold its collective vision for a better future.  Failure to bring perpetrators to justice would only embolden others to continue abuses; international frameworks and national legislation would amount to little in the absence of effective implementation.  He stated that Colombia had recorded successes at the national and local levels in fighting the scourge, which could serve as a model for others.  As participation of women and prevention of violence were mutually reinforcing, there must be a sustained effort to increase the role of women in making decisions and implementing policies and programmes.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya) said his country was committed to the full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) on women participation’s in peacebuilding, better protection from human rights abuses and access to justice and services to counter discrimination.  One of the biggest challenges in Africa was the growing threat of terror organizations like ISIL and Boko Haram.  To meet it, the achievement of sustainable peace was urgent, which, in turn, required women’s full participation in conflict prevention.  While the Security Council had an important role to play in dealing with matters related to peace and security, States bore the primary responsibility to protect their citizens from violence.  He, therefore, called for more concerted efforts by the international community to support national efforts to address sexual violence.

TIM MAWE (Ireland) said that, while women protection advisers in United Nations missions had improved the quality of information received and had had a catalytic effect on the ground, only 20 had been deployed.  More of such advisers, as well as gender advisers, were needed to facilitate full implementation of all women, peace and security resolutions.  Also, the numbers and roles of those positions must be systematically assessed during the planning and review of each mission and the costs reflected in the regular budget.  Stressing the importance of women’s full and equal participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, he stressed the international community must help build the capacity of women-led civil society organizations.  Women currently represented only 9 per cent of delegates to peace talks and 2 per cent of mediators — thereby omitting a large segment of civil society.  Conflict-related sexual violence must be considered in all mediation efforts and in ceasefire and peace agreements, he added.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) said sexual violence was not merely a consequence of conflict, but an instrument of war and a tactic of terror.  Its use by extremist groups and non-State actors, therefore, was particularly alarming, not only in its increasing frequency, but its calculated and vicious intent.  Given the rise of extremist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIL, the United Nations and the international community must continue to integrate the women, peace and security agenda into counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts.  It was also essential that the Council give full support to the Special Representative, particularly on engagement with national authorities, armed forces and others.  Noting that men and boys and people with disabilities also suffered from sexual violence, she pointed out that these victims needed specific medical, psychosocial, legal and economic support services.

LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the rise of non-State actors and violent extremism had created a complex landscape with increased violence against women and girls, as well as men and boys.  The world needed to develop more creative and innovative solutions to prevent and prosecute such crimes.  For those purposes, accurate data was critical.  United Nations missions should be able to predict emerging threats and react quickly and efficiently to instances of violence, with an understanding of community needs.  Victims must be able to safely report and document sexual assault in conflict zones.  To amplify women’s voices in peace processes, crowd-sourced information could prove valuable.  Improving their access to information and ability to share views would help to ensure women were an integral part of discussions on political transition, peace-making and community development.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA (Costa Rica) said the Secretary-General’s report had made clear that sexual violence was part of the ideology and strategic objectives of extremist groups, and that sexual violence was taking place against the backdrop of structural gender-based discrimination.  “We must promote gender equality and women’s empowerment to transform harmful social standards, particularly at the community level,” he said.  In addition, he maintained that the United Nations approach to fighting terrorism should integrate sexual and gender-based violence and include referral for such crimes to the International Criminal Court.  Peace missions should have stronger mandates for protection from such crimes, and budget provisions should be made to fund gender protection advisers.  He supported the report’s proposals for enforcing the ban against sexual abuse by United Nations personnel, as outlined in staff regulations.

BERNARDITO AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said women were not spared any of the brutal consequences of war and were additionally subjected to degrading and traumatizing attacks.  Therefore, it was only just and reasonable that their voice should be present in and influence the work of preventing and resolving violence and war.  While all violence against human life was terrible, sexual violence was designed to debase, dehumanize and demoralize, with profound and long-lasting consequences.  The hatred and humiliation those crimes could provoke were deep and impeded the goals of peace and security.  Some of the attacks ISIS/ISIL and Boko Haram committed against women and girls resulted from the faith the victim’s professed, and such violence required strong condemnation by people of all faiths.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), noting that girls kidnapped by Boko Haram had not yet been returned despite the “Bring Back our Girls” campaign and that a recent United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report stated that 2014 had been marked by cases of rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage by extremist groups, expressed deep concern that rape had become widespread in conflict situations and in camps for displaced persons and refugees. Combating such abuse would only be effective through an approach that addressed its root causes.  At the same time, conflict parties were obliged to do their utmost to protect civilians, especially women and children, and it was critical for women to participate equally in all stages of peace process, as their marginalization risked delaying stability.

PAUL SEGER (Switzerland), noting that sexual violence was often committed by non-State actors, expressed support for Geneva Call, a non-governmental organization that had secured time-bound commitments from such actors to end sexual violence and better comply with international humanitarian law.  In that light, he urged States to strengthen their implementation of the Secretary-General’s recommendations for fighting extremist violence.  Civil society, especially women’s groups, must be included in all preventive measures.  Security and justice institutions also had a role to play.  He stated that this year, Switzerland would host a meeting on resolution 1325 (2000) that focused on the reform of security and justice institutions.  His Government was also ready to deploy experts to support Governments in developing comprehensive national strategies, he added.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia), associating with the statement made by the European Union delegation, said that, during the war in the 1990s, women in his country had suffered grave violations of their human rights, including rape, which had been used as a tactic of war and an instrument of ethnic cleansing.  Having witnessed the impact of such violations on women’s lives and their physical and mental health, his country had learned the importance of adequately addressing conflict-related abuses of women’s rights and of providing assistance, health care, psychological counselling and financial support to survivors.  Through the Law on the Rights of Victims of Sexual Violence in the Homeland War, which would take effect in the coming months, survivors would be assigned a special status and entitled to additional psycho-social assistance and financial reparations.  That law, developed in cooperation and consultation with civil society organizations and victims, aimed to ensure access to reparations regardless of the results of criminal prosecutions.

DURGA PRASAD BHATTARAI (Nepal) said empowering women, bringing them into policymaking and deploying them in the field as peacekeepers and peacemakers would bring a more empathetic and human dimension to the work and allow a more holistic frame with which to view conflicts.  Nepal continued to implement resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) through a dedicated national plan of action.  The plan intervened in key areas, including participation, protection and prevention, promotion, relief and recovery, resource management, and monitoring and evaluation.  Violence against women constituted serious criminal offenses against the State, while polygamy, child marriage and enforced marriage were punishable by law.  As a committed and consistent major troop and police contributor to the United Nations, his country was dedicated to raising the number of women in the national security forces and to contributing more women to the Organization’s peacekeeping operations.  As more remained to be done to realize the full potential of women in peace and security, Nepal was committed to working in partnership as a responsible member of the international community.

BOGUSŁAW WINID (Poland) said that, although international organizations played a pivotal role in combating sexual violence in conflicts, the primary responsibility to protect their nationals relied on States.  In that context, a grass-roots approach was a must:  changing behaviour patterns and inscribing in their citizens’ minds a “red line” of what was not acceptable under any conditions.  It was unfortunate, however, that, in many countries, victims were hesitant to report a crime as it could lead to social stigmatization.  A citizen must trust that perpetrators of such acts would be held accountable by the State authorities and, if needed, that those individuals would face responsibility at the international level — namely, the International Criminal Court.

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) expressed deep concern over the findings of the Secretary-General’s latest report on sexual violence in conflict.  Joining other countries in condemning grave violations committed against women in armed conflict by non-State actors, such as ISIL and Boko Haram, he said all perpetrators should be held responsible for their acts.  He found it particularly troubling that extremist groups used sexual violence to achieve their tactical objectives, with the aim of terrorizing communities.  Although women represented the majority of victims of sexual violence, men and boys also suffered, particularly in situations of detention.  Accordingly, it was the responsibility of States to protect all civilians from such violence.

MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia), aligning with the statement delivered on behalf of ASEAN, predicted that ending sexual violence in conflict would require a long and hard battle.  It was essential that countries focused on empowering populations at risk and survivors of sexual violence through collective community support and other means that would create resilience.  Fully endorsing the Secretary-General’s recommendations, he affirmed that periodic field visits, accelerated deployment of well-equipped protection and gender advisors, protection and promotion of safe environment for survivors and their families and concerted efforts of the international community were vital to make progress.  He underlined Indonesia’s active role in United Nations peacebuilding efforts and reiterated his country’s commitment to addressing sexual violence worldwide.

CRISTINA MARIA CERQUEIRA PUCARINHO (Portugal) said that, despite significant progress and the establishment of a strong normative framework, enormous challenges remained in guaranteeing women’s security.  Sexual violence was being used as a tactic of terror in several countries by extremist groups, forcing entire populations to submission and displacement.  As conflict-related violence took place against a backdrop of structural gender-based discrimination, she said combating sexual violence should begin with the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  Women should not be strictly regarded as victims; they were a powerful group in conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.  Their increased participation in those areas was crucial to sustainable peace and security.

FREDERICK M. SHAVA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of SADC, affirmed that the newly emerging unconventional conflicts associated with a proliferation of militias and violent extremism had a disproportionate impact on women and children.  The Community recognized that significant steps had been taken to improve international, regional and national responses to crimes against women and girls and gender discrimination.  However, he stressed, States had the primary responsibility in that effort.

He said that the Community’s programmes on women, peace and security were guided by the region’s commitment to women’s rights, and its protocol on gender and development encompassed regional and global commitments for achieving gender equality.  While considerable progress had been achieved in creating the legal and normative framework on women peace and security, continued gross abuses, sexual exploitation and abduction of women in areas of conflict meant that the international community needed to respond more effectively in a holistic, collective manner, he stressed.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said women played a singular role in conflict resolution and in strengthening possibilities for democracy, prosperity and peace.  She expressed concern at the report’s finding that sexual violence was linked to the strategic goals of extremist groups.  Women and girls were the vast majority of the victims of such abuse, which included human trafficking.  She supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation for the Council to use all tools at its disposal to bring perpetrators to justice, stressing Governments’ duty to protect civilians, notably by showing zero tolerance towards perpetrators and providing assistance to survivors.

ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) expressed alarm over the reality that violence against women had become a systematic pattern in conflict zones, adding that the increase in violence and extremism around the world multiplied the suffering of women.  In Afghanistan, almost 40 years of war, terrorism and violent extremism had created deep fissures in the very fabric of society, shredded human relationships, restricted access to services and justice, and undermined the States’ capacity to protect its citizens.  Women were the biggest victims and their suffering was compounded by a culture of discrimination.  The Taliban and other extremists used sexual violence as a tool to pursue their destructive ends.  Their actions weakened communities, the rule of law and long-established traditional values.  His Government was committed to ensuring the elimination of violence against women by strengthening the justice and legal system.  Ultimately, however, combating sexual violence in Afghanistan required a paradigm shift in the way society treated women.  As such, President Ashraf Ghani had called for a mental and cultural revolution across Afghan society.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) said the use of sexual violence by extremist groups as a tactic of war represented a new and disturbing part of the Council’s discussions.  The reports of the Secretary-General underscored that such violence was integrally linked with the strategic objectives, ideology and funding of those groups.  Sovereign States should be first to act to protect the most vulnerable people under their jurisdiction.  As the majority of cases of sexual violence were perpetrated by non-State actors, it was crucial for the international community to engage with such actors.  That was not intended to provide legitimacy to those groups.  Rather, a firm stance against sexual violence committed by any group would enhance the legitimacy of the State.  The Council must fully integrate conflict-related sexual violence into the work of relevant sanctions committees as part of the designation criteria for targeted sanctions.  Multidimensional assistance programmes for national authorities to seek accountability should be taken advantage of, and the myth that sexual violence was an inherent and unfortunate aspect of conflicts should be dispelled.

PETER VAN DER VLIET (Netherlands) said the Secretary-General’s report rightly drew attention to the use of sexual violence as a terror tactic, citing the targeting of Yazidi women and girls.  Such extremism led to women’s disempowerment.  A fully integrated approach that addressed gender-rooted inequalities was needed.  His Government approached the issue with all foreign policy instruments at its disposal.  Attention to sexual violence was integral to preparing civilian and military personnel contributed to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), for example.  Recently, a pilot training programme was launched for female military officers, which aimed to increase number of female peacekeepers.  His Government supported women’s groups around the world, and its national action plan 2035 included an annual fund for women’s leadership.  The Netherlands also contributed to several United Nations trust funds.  No religion or culture justified sexual abuse, and such propaganda must be fought, he stressed.  He also commended the position of the International Criminal Court on the issue of conflict-related sexual violence.

OLIVIER NDUHUNGIREHE (Rwanda) affirmed that conflict-related sexual violence was a serious threat to international peace and security.  While leadership by the affected Governments was critical, the focus should be on collective efforts to convert international political commitments into prevention on the ground.  Condemning all violence against women, he stressed that sexual violence should be qualified as “sexual terrorism”.  In conflict, Governments should provide more effective protection for at-risk civilians, while the United Nations should increase the number of female peacekeepers and gender protection advisers in all missions.  Perpetrators must face justice.  Some groups enjoying impunity had committed atrocities during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and continued them today under the name of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.  The Council should ensure that all country reports and mandate renewals evaluated the promotion and protection of women’s human rights.

EGRISELDA ARECELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador) expressed satisfaction that some countries had achieved successes in combating sexual violence through a variety of institutional and policy measures, adding that their experiences should be widely shared.  El Salvador recognized the important role played by women in conflict prevention and resolution and called for efforts to include them in all dimensions of peace operations.  His country had set as one of its priorities the establishment of institutions and the implementation of policies aimed at ensuring equality and empowerment of women in all aspects of life.  El Salvador had also set up a national committee to facilitate implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) drawing broad representation from relevant stakeholders.

GUNAY RAHIMOVA (Azerbaijan) described as legally and morally unacceptable the continuing practice of gender-based violence as a tactic of war.  All necessary measures must be taken to bring perpetrators to justice and to end impunity.  However, not all grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, including acts of sexual violence, had received due attention and response at the international and national levels.  More resolute and targeted measures were required and commitments to protection efforts must be free of selectivity and political motivated approaches.  Women, peace and security should be seen as one of the central elements supporting conflict prevention and underpinning long-term stability.  Azerbaijan had launched regional projects aimed at strengthening advocacy work for the increased role of women in decision-making on conflict prevention and resolution as such initiatives were instrumental in the promotion of a culture of peace and cooperation.

Mr. YAREMENKO (Ukraine) said his Government was developing a national action plan in accordance with resolution 1325 (2000), in consultation with United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) agencies, which it expected to adopt this year.  Terrorist groups in Ukraine — armed, financed and supported by the Russian Federation — continued to operate in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.  Despite international calls, the Russian Federation had intensified its interference in his country’s internal affairs, stirring separatism, exporting terrorism, inciting ethnic tensions and provoking violent confrontation.  His Government was taking steps to address the challenges that foreign aggression placed on women in his country, and making full use of Ukrainian women’s knowledge was vital for reaching a solution to the current crisis.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said addressing sexual violence in conflict was part of her country’s commitment to protecting human rights in all their dimensions.  International law provided the tools and mechanisms to ensure that sexual violence did not go unpunished.  It was necessary to unite against the growing use of such violence as a tactic of war, which represented international crime of the highest order, she said, adding that the sanctions committees should address the issue appropriately.  Broader engagement with and participation of all stakeholders was central to achieving meaningful progress.

Taking the floor a second time, the representative of the Russian Federation said today’s meeting was on conflict-related sexual violence, yet nothing on that issue had been heard in comments by his Ukrainian counterpart, who had only wanted a pretext to accuse the Russian Federation.  His Government had repeatedly commented on the accusations, including Ms. Savchenko, an issue which had nothing to do with sexual violence.  The real problems of women in south-east Ukraine were due to the blockade of the region by Kyiv’s authorities.

The representative of Ukraine said the topic today was on women, peace and security.  “I’m pretty sure that the Ukrainian woman, who was a peacekeeper, Nadiya Savchenko, is a topic of today’s discussion.”  Moreover, for more than a year, Russian diplomats had relied on the words of Goebbels, and the Russian President himself:  “The more improbable the lie, the faster people believe it.”  Ukraine was fully committed to the Minsk agreements and had abided by the ceasefire since February.  In flagrant breach of the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk accords, illegal armed groups — with support from Russian armed forces — had taken massive assault on Debaltseve.  Since 15 February, Russian-backed militants had shelled Ukrainian positions more than 1,000 times.  He called on those militants to cease fire immediately, and on the Russian Federation to stop distorting facts.

The representative of the Russian Federation said today’s debate was not about the situation in Ukraine.

Making a further statement, the representative of Jordan said that, since the beginning of the crisis in Syria her country had been standing shoulder to shoulder with the Syrian people.  Jordan had opened its doors to Syrian refugees in a spirit of humanitarianism and with broad international support.  The Syrian representative made references to the refugee camps in a manner injurious to that spirit.  She stressed that the Secretary-General’s report had made reference to camps inside Syria.

For information media. Not an official record.