Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, let me extend a warm welcome not only to our distinguished participants for today’s event but to those of you from around the world watching and supporting our shared effort in the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence.
It is a truism that laws influence behavior. Criminal law is not simply a price to be paid by a perpetrator, but also the expression of society’s disapproval of forbidden behavior. That is why since I took office, I have advocated for comprehensive and survivor-sensitive legislation criminalizing rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict as a war crime, a crime against humanity or a constituent act of genocide; a transnational crime; and a grave domestic crime, in line with the robust normative framework developed at the UN Security Council.
These laws are important not only to punish perpetrators, but to prevent these crimes from occurring at all. They send a message to would-be perpetrators that using sexual violence is no longer cost free.
While many States have adopted or improved legislation to respond to conflict-related sexual violence, significant gaps persist. In seeking to close those gaps and in the fight against the scourge of sexual violence in conflict, parliamentarians who are responsible for reviewing, amending and enacting legislation, are important allies. The power to enact laws is one of the most important powers a legislature can wield and as such, Parliaments can play a critical role in shaping prevention and response efforts to sexual violence through legislation, oversight processes, budget allocation and advocacy.
Partnerships are essential to my Office’s work, and I have always recognized the importance of working with national parliaments. It is in this spirit that today, I am signing a Framework of Cooperation with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to address conflict-related sexual violence. The IPU has for well over a century been a global forum for parliamentarians to engage in the cause of peace. Their work recognizes the importance of parliamentarians working together for gender equality, human rights, and development as essential to their work. Indeed, conflict-related sexual violence is a crime that sets back the cause of gender equality and the cause of peace. With their influence and power to initiate change, parliamentarians can play a critical role in the prevention and response to CRSV.
The Framework of Cooperation has seven shared pillars of work. Some of its key provisions include working jointly to:
- raise awareness amongst parliamentarians to address conflict-related sexual violence and its root causes;
- advocate for the implementation of national laws to promote and protect the rights of all individuals affected by or at risk of this crime;
- provide concrete technical assistance to member parliaments on the drafting of such laws; and
- empower survivors and those impacted by conflict-related sexual violence in their countries’ legislative processes.
The Framework will be available on our respective websites after today’s event.
Engaging powerful men with the ability to lead, influence and affect change to step up beside women to take action on conflict-related sexual violence, is an untapped opportunity. My Office is today naming Secretary-General Chungong as a Global Champion for the Fight Against Sexual Violence in Conflict.
It is also fitting that today my Office will also launch a Model Legislative Provisions and Guidance on the Investigation and Prosecution of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence – a new tool to assist States seeking to enact new laws on conflict-related sexual violence or amend existing ones. Adoption of these Model Legislative Provisions and Guidance by parliamentarians in national jurisdictions, will be a meaningful step toward fulfilment of the priorities set out in the Framework of Cooperation.
While Ms. Maxine Marcus of Partners of Justice International, who supported my Office in the development of these Model Legislative Provisions, will speak in more detail about these provisions, I wanted to highlight just a few important points.
These Model Legislative Provisions and Guidance are intended to be a practical tool that will allow Member States to build and bolster accountability frameworks for conflict-related sexual violence at the national level and to ensure the highest standard of victim and survivor-centred justice. They were developed looking at both international law and comparative practice in domestic law on conflict-related sexual violence from 28 countries representing every UN regional group. They were designed and consulted with a range of practitioners, academics, civil society and most importantly survivors, including those who have participated in justice processes.
We have strived to be as progressive as possible on the range of crimes included, but also on procedural and evidentiary provisions, to reduce barriers to justice for survivors and victims of conflict-related sexual violence, while always respecting due process of law.
The Model Legislative Provisions will be available in English on the Office’s website after today’s event. Over the course of the summer, we will be translating these provisions into other UN languages.
Ladies and gentlemen, there have been many commitments made about addressing conflict-related sexual violence, but we must translate commitments into concrete actions and results. This new Framework of Cooperation with the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Model Legislative Provisions and Guidance are intended to further our ability to convert cultures of impunity for these crimes into cultures of deterrence and prevention.