Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks at the closing reception of the exhibition on sexual violence in conflict, in New York today:
I am honoured to be with you this evening. Sadly, we have to close this powerful and necessary exhibit. It should really always be here to give a permanent voice to the survivors of sexual violence in conflict. Because, every day, around the world, women and girls, boys and men suffer unimaginable atrocities.
Even wars have rules. No one should be forced to endure rape, be subject to sexual slavery or trafficked with no regard to his or her rights and inherent humanity. But, far too long, the perpetrators have silenced their victims and enjoyed impunity. This should not and cannot stand.
I thank [Under-Secretary-General] Ms. [Zainab Hawa] Bangura for her work as Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. She has been a guiding light for millions of women and girls, boys and men, stranded in the darkness of despair.
As Chair of UN Action, the network of 13 United Nations entities working to address these terrible crimes, Ms. Bangura has prioritized the rights and the voices of survivors. Her office’s Team of Experts is assisting Member States to draft laws and build legislative capacity, and it is supporting trials and police and military justice systems.
From sanctions committees, to mobile courts, to pushing for reparations, the United Nations system is engaged in a comprehensive effort to engage Member States and non-State actors to end sexual violence in conflict, to accept that it is neither an acceptable or inevitable consequence of war, and to pursue justice and accountability.
We have seen the concrete results of this approach. In Guinea, justice seemed to have eluded the victims of the mass rapes that took place in 2009 in the Stadium of Conakry, until a Guinean Panel of Judges, supported by Zainab’s office, indicted the former President, Moussa Dadis Camara, and 15 others.
In Colombia, the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] announced in December 2015 that special tribunals would exclude from amnesty those responsible for war crimes, including sexual violence.
In Côte d’Ivoire, senior commanders from the National Army have committed to oppose conflict-related sexual violence and to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the President has appointed a Personal Representative at the ministerial level, again supported by us.
We are seeing more trials, and military officers, including a General, have been convicted for sexual violence crimes. So, slowly, we are seeing justice being done, and impunity eroded. But, we also need to see more in terms of reparation, reintegration, long-term support for survivors.
And ultimately, we must prioritize prevention by addressing the root causes of conflict. Prevention is the overarching preoccupation of the Secretary-General, and must inform all our work. Only then can we ensure the safety of women and men, boys and girls from sexual violence in conflict — and in peacetime.
This is a question of fundamental human rights and dignity. But, it is also an essential component of promoting durable peace, prosperity and sustainable development.
As I look at the images of these survivors, I recall my recent visit as Environment Minister to Maiduguri, in the northeast of Nigeria. There, I saw first-hand the devastation that communities are facing because of Boko Haram.
My visit also underscored the complexity of the challenges they face. Entrenched inequalities, weak governance, inadequate rule of law and environmental changes are a breeding ground for dissatisfaction, instability and conflict.
In various combinations, these are the challenges of sustainable development faced by too many communities around the world. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development now provides a blueprint and a timeframe for addressing them.
Today, I pay tribute to the survivors of sexual violence and I appeal to all Governments and their partners to intensify efforts to make sure we achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 target date so all people everywhere can enjoy peace, dignity and prosperity on a healthy planet.