Secretary-General's joint press conference with his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström [unofficial transcript][*amended to reflect correct figure as quoted by Ms. Wallström in her opening comments]
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 31 January 2011SG: Two years ago, I visited the HEAL Africa hospital in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. I met a girl there who had been gang-raped by soldiers and left for dead.
On the day of my visit, she was one of ten such cases scheduled for surgery.
It is useful to meet with these victims but we have to hear more than the painful details of their ordeals. We need to listen closely to what they are asking for: The chance to send their children to school.
A safe path to walk on without fear of attack. Opportunities for a normal life.
HEAL Africa is helping these women and girls. So are similar projects across the continent, like the Panzi hospital [which] Dr. Mukwege is leading, and around the globe.
But even if we could stitch together all these efforts, that would never stop the suffering caused by sexual violence.
The suffering will only stop when we attack the problem at its source.
Some say the horrors of wartime rape are “unspeakable”. But as leaders we must speak out. Sexual violence thrives on silence and impunity.
This crime is not inherent to any one culture or continent; few of today's conflicts are free from these atrocities.
That means our challenge is to prevent the cycle of violence and vengeance, discrimination and disempowerment, rage and recrimination that give rise to rape as a tactic of war.
Both the United Nations and the African Union recognize that sexual violence in conflict is a political and security issue that demands a political and security response.
We also know that prevention is possible.
In Darfur, joint UNAMID firewood patrols have increased women's freedom of movement and cut the number of rapes.
In Liberia, the presence of female police has improved reporting and response.
The United Nations wants to work closely with the African Union and African troop contributors to better prepare our peacekeepers to respond to sexual violence as a security threat. We need Africa's leaders and leaders around the world to support this campaign.
Last month, the Security Council adopted a resolution to enhance accountability for conflict-related sexual violence.
The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 60 countries, including 10 African States. It signals that there will be consequences for sexual violence, including the listing of perpetrators and referrals to Sanctions Committees or international courts.
It also calls for armed groups to make commitments to combat sexual violence. The AU will be a key partner in devising a system to track these commitments.
Ultimately we have to create conditions where armed groups see sexual violence as a liability, rather than a tool in the struggle for power. .
We have to raise the cost of committing atrocities to the point where they harm the perpetrators even more than the victims.
That means that when a peace process begins, perpetrators are never permitted to get or to retain positions of military, political or economic influence.
Where sexual violence has been part of the fighting, ending it must be part of making peace.
Africa has some of the world's most progressive legal instruments to address this scourge and advance women's rights.
These include the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa.
I also welcome the African Union's decision to make sure that its Peace and Security Council holds an annual session on the situation of women and children in armed conflict.
The challenge now is to ensure these laudable commitments are felt where they matter most, in the marketplaces where women trade, at water-points, and along the roads where girls walk to school.
At the dawn of the African Women's Decade, we look forward to women's greater contribution to shaping the destiny of this continent.
No region can realize its potential unless women and girls are able to realize theirs.
Thank you very much.
Margot Wallström: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General. I am often told that this is nothing new, that sexual violence in war and conflict has existed since the beginning of time.
That is certainly true and it is true not only for Africa but for everywhere in the world.
I have recently been to Sarajevo, where you know 15 years ago, maybe between *50,000-60,000 [corrected from original posting] women were held in rape camps.
We know reports today from Haiti. From everywhere, we have heard that this is the weapon of choice because it is cheap, silent and very effective. So it is certainly true that this is nothing new but what is new is that this is now recognized as a very important part of our peace and security agenda and also what we have to do as an international community.
I am certainly the first to hold such a post as a Special Representative on Sexual Violence in War and Conflict and I report to the Secretary-General and to the Security Council.
We think that it is also a new instrument that we've got. We got a Resolution that gives us teeth to the very important Women, Peace and Security Resolution that dates 10 years back. But in this Resolution that the Secretary-General mentioned, from December, we have four very important pillars, four tracks that we can follow.
First of all, that we will do monitoring and reporting. We will start to ask questions. Are there rapes? Is there sexual violence in this conflict? How can we monitor and report more effectively so that we know what we are talking about?
We can do listing, naming and shaming of these groups and perpetrators. We can follow up through sanctions committees, visa bans, travel bans and freezing assets. We can make sure that we end impunity for the perpetrators. This is very, very important because we are now given the tools for the first time.
We are here at this particular event, engaging with the African Union, not because this is an African problem as we have heard - it is a global problem - but also in the [inaudible] conflicts that exist on this continent, this is an element, a phenomenon that we have to stop. And it takes political leadership, political ownership of this issue and a very strong sense of the line of command. Because it has to start with the political leaders who say “this has to stop, this is an international crime, it is criminal, not cultural or sexual, it is criminal.”
We of course can do much more together if we work on training - that includes training peacekeepers but also military and police in respective countries.
We can do much more on the reporting and monitoring if we do it together and plan it together.
I think we have an agenda which we will work on together and that is how to empower women, to give them a role and a voice and a place at the decision-making table. That is what we have to do together to make sure that this goes hand in hand with empowering women. If you ask me, there should be no peace negotiations or agreements without women being present at the table because there can be no peace, as you heard, without peace also for women. So thank you for coming to listen to us and we are willing to answer your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, first, thank you for those very, very important words on sexual violence. But also, there are many other issues, very important issues you have come here to discuss, among them are Somalia, and I know you have had a very important meeting today on Somalia. Could you give us some [inaudible], as well as Côte d'Ivoire and Egypt?
SG: First of all, I hope you understand that this press conference has been arranged, organized solely for sexual violence, how the international community can strengthen our common efforts to prevent and stop and punish all those perpetrators in the name of humanity. This is what I, together with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence [in Conflict] have been working very hard with Member States and with the help of all of you. So I hope you will understand this situation. We have very limited time so let us focus our common efforts on this issue.
And before I give the floor to any other questioners, I would like to recognize and introduce particularly among so many senior advisors Ms. Michelle Bachelet, who is now Executive Director of UN Women - ONU Femmes.
This is a new United Nations agency which was created and is functioning as of 1 January this year. There had been many different agencies and departments in the United Nations system [which] have dealing with women's issues. But after many, many years of discussion, Member States have decided to create one single entity, major entity, dealing with women empowerment, including [the advancement] of women.
I hope you will also work closely together with Ms. Bachelet. She is one of the global leaders working in the United Nations system. Again, thank you very much.
SRSG Wallström: To me and my team it is very important to first of all make sure that we use these instruments given to us by this Resolution, that is setting up a mechanism for reporting and monitoring on this issue, and that we can report to the Security Council in order to do this listing and engaging or get commitments from these different groups – military and armed groups around the world. We have chosen to identify a number of priority countries. We will work on a structural basis to make sure that we get the full picture of what is going on, but to engage more long-term in a deeper way with a number of identified countries. Given that a few of them are in Africa, but also countries like Colombia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is again to make sure that we can cover both post-conflict countries like Liberia, and the DRC, where we have an ongoing war and conflict situation. So, we will start with a handful – seven countries that we have identified right now. So, this is how we will plan to work, both on a systematic and general level, but also in a deeper sense with a handful of countries.
Q: You have talked about implementation of instruments which are already in place, but we have also heard from women of Ivory Coast that the previous mediation efforts did not include women, which you had just talked about. We know that the African Union high-level panel already has five men on it – the Presidents of the five countries. What are you going to do to ensure that there is female representation on the African Union high-level panel for the Ivory Coast?
SG: This is more something which will come to my responsibility. First of all, I welcome the creation of a high-level panel to address the situation in Côte d'Ivoire.
On your specific question on this composition, I think this is what the African Union has to decide. This is not my work. But you should know that whenever I was constituting high-level panels or groups of experts, I have made sure that there are women representations. Once I was also criticized for not having any woman. But sometimes, when you have to deal with Member States, when you are basing your composition based on recommendations of Member States, individual Member States may recommend sometimes men. Then, compiling these names you sometimes end up having men only. So we realize that even with Member States recommendations, I have been trying to advise them to recommend female candidates. That is what I have been doing recently.
And since I became Secretary-General, I have been paying much attention to gender empowerment. There have been much fewer female seniors advisers. When you go down the ladder, there are a sufficient number of women. When you go up the ladder, there are much, much fewer. So I have been trying to appoint, with my political commitment, I think I have increased by forty percent more above the rank of Assistant Secretary-General and Under-Secretaries-General. Our senior advisers sitting here are all Under-Secretaries-General, the highest level.
I can convey your concern to the African Union Commission Chairman tomorrow when I meet him.
Mme. Bachelet: I would like to complement the Secretary-General's work, saying that he had instructed us, UN Women and the rest of the different parts of the UN system, to work very hard on this. Of course we won't see results from one day to another, [inaudible] There is one donor who has given $1 million given to support specifically that women will be at the heart of peace and security, That means, as the Secretary-General mentioned, to have a bigger group of women with the capability of being mediators. We know the parties have to accept if they want a mediator. We know sometimes because of cultural reasons there will be women who will be accepted or not. But we will have so many excellent women that I am sure that it will be a big opportunity. The second thing we will be doing is we will be supporting the men mediators, so they can have a lot initiative, if they are not sitting on the peace talks, they can be hearing the women's needs and concerns and can bring to the peace talks and negotiations their concerns. And third, we are going to work very strong in supporting women at the national level in order that their voices can continue being heard. I am sure in three years' time, we can have a better picture.
SRSG Wallström: May I add, on the subject of sexual violence in conflict, what is important to know about Côte d'Ivoire is that we also have UN-verified reports about rape being used as a political weapon. It is extremely important to keep an eye on that. We saw it in Kenya. We saw it in Guinea-Conakry. And we have had reports about it also in Côte d'Ivoire. So the important thing here is to ask the questions, and to make sure that we have monitoring and reporting that can give us the facts so that we can prevent it next time. And I think that, for all countries that are in election mode, this is something that we have to keep an eye on and make sure that we do everything to prevent it.
Q: I have just come out of the Ivory Coast panel, taking a photograph, and there is a woman representing Mauritania.
Secondly on grassroots levels, I work in the Nigerian delta, and there is a woman's group [inaudible]. How will the Panel get down to grassroots level to get the information from those women on the ground and to make sure that these people are represented in the UN, so that we really get their [inaudible] agencies perhaps which are already on the ground?
SRSG Wallström: This is crucial to us. My team and myself, we make trips of course to all these countries, and we ensure that we meet with women as victims but also as agents of change. And I have promised them to bring their voices to the Security Council, because very often they feel that they are so remote that nobody listens to them. They are often shunned by their families and their husbands, and this has to change, because they are the future of Africa. They are the future of their respective countries. When this is done to so many hundreds and thousands of women what kind of future can we expect? It is such a heavy impediment to building peace and security. And I promise to do exactly that. We meet their organizations, we meet them in villages, we arrange public meetings, and we will continue to do so.
Q: Tout à l'heure vous avez evoqué le cas de la République démocratique du Congo et l'éducation en matière sexuelle. Jai cette experience d'être en République démocratique du Congo qui remonte à 45 ans. Mais l'experience que j'ai constatée, les forces du maintien de la paix ont remporté des succès mais en ce qui concerne la lutte contre la violence sexuelle, je ne sais pas à quel point cela va apporter des conséquences positives. Ne faut-il pas inclure dans le curriculum des enfants pour qu'ils aient une éducation à la base?
SRSG Wallström: Je pense que l'on parle de deux choses séparées. Il faut naturellement aussi faire de l'éducation ou de l'information aux enfants et parler de la violence ou de sexualité avec des enfants ou des adultes. Mais c'est deux choses separées parce que ce dont on parle maintenant c'est d'un crime, c'est d'une arme de guerre, une stratégie de guerre [?]. On va faire des choses naturellement, pour la MONUSCO, pour les Casques bleus. Il faut aussi faire de la formation avec les Casques bleus mais aussi avec le leadership politique et d'autres choses dans la société civile. Il faut naturellement aussi faire des campagnes contre la violence et contre les viols. Mais, ici, mon mandat c'est de lutter contre la violence sexuelle comme un crime stratégique de guerre. Je pense que Mr. Le Roy peut dire ce que MONUSCO, les Casques bleus, fait parce que je pense qu'ils ont utilisé toute l'innovation pour trouver des méthodes de façon quotidienne et aussi pour protéger la population civile.
USG Le Roy: Pour rajouter à ce qu'a dit Mme Wallström, dabord c'est très clair que toutes nos opérations de maintien de la paix vont également soutenir les actions de Mme Wallström en matire de prevention des cates de violence sexuelle. Dans le cas de la RDC, vous avez évoqué la situation il y a 45 ans mais comparez déjà à ce qu'il s'est passé depuis 2003 – 2003, c'était un très grand conflit en Iturie et plus de 2 millions de personnes sont maintenant revenues dans leur foyer en Iturie. C'est des personnes, des femmes et des enfants extrêmement à risque donc la présence de la MONUSCO a permis le retour de ces personnes à risqué – c'est à dire que ces femmes consideraient qu'elles avaient beaucoup moins de danger à revenir en Iturie. Plus de 2 millions de personnes, c'est un point important. Et comme vient de le dire Mme Wallström, le danger reste encore dans les Kivus et on sait bien qu'il y a encore des viols dans les Kivus en particulier, et c'est là que nous développons chaque jour des méthodes plus innovantes; on n'aurait jamais une garantie à 100%, il y a encore des viols mais [nous avons] des méthodes innovantes, des patrouilles de plus en plus fréquentes de jour et de nuit, des officiers de liaison avec les différentes communautés, particulièrement les communautés de femmes. On leur donne des telephones -- des téléphones celluraires, des téléphones satellitaires quand il n'y pas de couverture cellulaire?on développe un très grand nombre de liaisons avec les communautés féminines. Et je crois que tout ça réduit – on ne pourra pas arrêter totalement – mais je crois qu'on les réduit. Et bien sur, la formation des peacekeepers: on insiste en permanence sur la formation des différents contingents des peacekeepers. Et le dernier point sur lequel j'insiste c'est que nous développons aussi beaucoup les actions de police. Et nous développons énormément la presence des femmes parmi nos policiers. Nous avons aujourd'hui 9% de femmes parmi nos policiers, nos espérons en 2014 en avoir 20% d'ici parce qu'elles ont évidemment un rôle majeur dans la prevention, dans le contact avec les communautés féminines pour prévenir d'autres violence sexuelle.
Q: In places of conflict, Mr. Secretary-General, you mentioned in your speech, like Somalia, a lot of damage happens to women and children, so does this commission death occurs sexual violence context on mitigating the death of children and women?
SG: We are addressing this sexual violence against women and children in a much broader, more comprehensive way. It requires all kinds of effort. First, advocacy. At my level, whenever I meet leaders – heads of State and Government - of those countries where sexual violence is prevalent, I always raise this issue and speak very directly to the leaders, so that the leaders themselves have this issue clearly in their mind. And education, we have discussed this one. Active punishment, active investigation requires our common effort. Of course, as Mr. LeRoy said, there are always limits in completely preventing criminals, but as much as we can we are now expanding our scope of activities as widely as possible. This is what the United Nations is doing. The Security Council has [adopted] a very important Resolution last year - Resolution 1960. This has an in-built accountability system, as Ms. Wallström just explained. I will not go into further detail.
Therefore there are frameworks, structures, which we have established. We have a Special Representative on Children [and] Armed Conflict. I have appointed many special envoy-type persons - celebrities - who can really mobilize awareness through their very visible celebrity status. These include many actresses or actors or royal families. And I have also appointed a network of man leaders, because we believe that men should change their mentality. We have established a network of men leaders - some Prime Ministers, some very distinguished leaders of countries and societies. They are working very hard. We are using Messengers of Peace in preventing sexual violence. These are the crimes against humanity, and when there were such reports in Côte d'Ivoire, I have clearly, publicly stated that attacks against the civilian population, attacks against women, this is a crime, and perpetrators will be accountable, so we are taking a very firm, very strong, political position, legal position.
SRSG Wallström: I think with your question you touch on something else and that is the changing nature of war and conflict. Very often [inaudible] inter-state or civil war over natural resources or ethnicity or what have you. And it means that there are more civilian victims, so women and children end up on the frontlines, much more than in previous wars and conflicts. So it means that they end up as victims, not soldiers.
When I was in Sarajevo, a woman who had been raped and held in one of these rape camps, she said “sometimes I wish that they had shot me instead because they took my life without killing me”. But it is a kind of invisible war damage, the way she has been wounded. And others with visible wounds, they will become war veterans, they will be honoured by their societies, but [there is no access to justice for the woman]. She meets her rapist in the bank, and he smiles at her.
I think we have underestimated what this does to the victims and to societies and among them are also men and boys. Remember that. This is why it belongs to the peace and security agenda. This is why it is so important to understand. We shouldn't compare suffering, but it is important to understand what kind of war crime this is.
SG: I think in preventing sexual violence, it needs everybody's help. Media, journalists, you have a special role to play. You are the connectors of our message to the international community, to people around the world. You can play a very important role, so please remember that these are very important issues for humanity. If you are really committed, as much as we are committed, you can play a very important role to disseminate the foreign policies of the United Nations and the international community, as well as you have a role to educate the general public. It has a great impact to potential perpetrators. I really count on your support, the support of the media.
Thank you very much for taking the time today. Thank you.
Off-the-Cuff on 31 January 2011