The Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG-SVC) serves as the United Nations’ spokesperson and political advocate on conflict-related sexual violence, and is the chair of the network UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The Office was established by Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), one in a series of resolutions which recognized the detrimental impact that sexual violence in conflict has on communities, and acknowledged that this crime undermines efforts at peace and security and rebuilding once a conflict has ended. These resolutions signal a change in the way the international community views and deals with conflict-related sexual violence. It is no longer seen as an inevitable by-product of war, but rather a crime that is preventable and punishable under international human rights law.
In April 2010, the first Special Representative, Margot Wallström of Sweden, established the Office and served as the United Nations’ spokesperson and political advocate on this issue. She outlined five priorities for the mandate.
In September 2012, Zainab Hawa Bangura of Sierra Leone took over as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and added an additional priority.
The Six priorities of the Office are:
- to end impunity for sexual violence in conflict by assisting national authorities to strengthen criminal accountability, responsiveness to survivors and judicial capacity;
- the protection and empowerment of civilians who face sexual violence in conflict, in particular, women and girls who are targeted disproportionately by this crime;
- to mobilize political ownership by fostering government engagement in developing and implementing strategies to combat sexual violence;
- to increase recognition of rape as a tactic and consequence of war through awareness-raising activities at the international and country levels;
- to harmonise the UN’s response by leading UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, a network of focal points from 13 UN agencies that amplify programming and advocacy on this issue in the wider UN agenda;
- to emphasize greater national ownership.
The Office has eight priority countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Central African Republic (CAR); Colombia; Cote d’Ivoire; Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Liberia; South Sudan and Sudan. While six of the eight priority countries are in Africa, this problem is widespread and the Office of the Special Representative is engaged on this issue in Asia and the Pacific (in Cambodia for residual cases from the Khmer Rouge period) and the Middle East (Syria).