9 March 2012
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on New Guidelines to Help Mediators


Address Sexual Violence in Conflict


The United Nations stepped up its efforts to combat conflict-related sexual violence today, as the Department of Political Affairs unveiled new guidelines to help mediators confront that widespread scourge by placing the issue high on the agenda early on when brokering peace agreements and ceasefires, three top United Nations officials said today at a Headquarters press conference.

Discussing the new guidance with reporters were B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Margot Wallström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; and Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, international mediator and former Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia.

Mr. Pascoe said the new “Guidance for Mediators: Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Ceasefire and Peace Agreements” had formally been launched this morning at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations.  The strategies were the latest in a series of initiatives to sharpen conflict-mediation efforts.  They would be issued to all United Nations mediators and mission chiefs and be available as a public resource to Governments and regional and non-governmental organizations.

“We’re doing this in the first place because conflict-related sexual violence is a brutal and devastating tactic”, Mr. Pascoe stressed, adding that it was not specific to any one culture, region or era.  It had reared its ugly head everywhere, from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and recently Libya.  Ceasefires offered crucial moments of opportunity to combat the scourge.

The guidance obliged mediators to engage in discussion on the problem and work to end it.  “This is a crucial breakthrough,” he said.  Few peace accords had explicitly taken conflict-related sexual violence into account.  The guidelines offered a playbook for embedding provisions to fight sexual abuse into such arrangements on a more consistent basis.

Adding to those comments, Ms. Wallström said that even though sexual violence had been rife during conflicts in Liberia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the word “rape” was never mentioned in the ceasefire or peace accords.  Both countries had lived with the long-lasting effects of such abuse.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah said he viewed the guidelines as essential to conflict prevention and as a conflict management tool.  Such efforts showed that the Department was deepening its knowledge of conflict.  They also expressed concern for the victim, and confrontation towards the abuser.  They were a first step in a process that must be regularly updated.

Taking a question on the number of sexual violence victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms. Wallström said there were no exact figures.  In any context, incidence reporting represented the “tip of the iceberg”.  She estimated that the cases ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 victims.  Those wars were known for using rape, forced impregnation and rape camps.  There had been only 30 prosecutions.

Responding to another query, Mr. Pascoe said he had been “extraordinarily impressed” by the Kony 2012 video, in part because focusing world attention on the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) had been difficult.  He had been involved in mediation for years, facilitating efforts against LRA by peacekeeping operations and working with the African Union on the issue “without great success”.  The International Criminal Court had indicted [LRA Head] Joseph Kony and the negotiations included finding a way he could be tried.  “All of that had come to naught.”

Turning to the Syrian mediation efforts, he said the team was still being assembled.  Participants would include, among others, members from the Department of Political Affairs and the League of Arab States.

Ms. Wallström added that the Department was working to create a roster of women who would receive training.  “This is exactly how the guidelines should be used,” she said.

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For information media • not an official record