New York

12 June 2014

Secretary-General's message to Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict [delivered by Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict]

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at this Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.  I thank the government of the United Kingdom for hosting.

I am encouraged that this gathering brings together officials from different spheres, including the defence and security sector.  It is essential to expand the ‘circle of action’.

Not long ago, conflict-related sexual violence was viewed as a marginal, sad inevitability.  Today, thanks to efforts like yours, it is understood to be an urgent problem at the top of the international agenda.

Sexual violence in conflict is widespread, yet largely invisible.  These heinous acts send a loud message of terror to communities, yet they are shrouded in silence.  For victims, rape is often a life-long trauma, yet perpetrators rarely face justice.  Those who bear the greatest responsibility for commanding or condoning mass rape are often the least likely to be held accountable.

Today’s Ministerial Dialogues are an opportunity to take forward the good ideas shared over the past two days and build support for emerging recommendations at the highest political level.  I trust your deliberations will focus on survivors, civil society advocates and colleagues in the field working fearlessly to report and respond to sexual violence.

We must also support national governments as they exercise their primary legal and moral responsibility to protect their citizens.  I commend the national authorities of Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – two countries where rape in conflict seemed intractable.  Both are now demonstrating that change is possible.

The DRC is developing new legal structures to end impunity for perpetrators.  Both the DRC and Somalia have shown commitment at the highest level to end sexual violence, including by signing joint communiqués with the United Nations. I hope other countries confronted with conflict-related sexual violence will follow these examples.

At the regional level, we are closely collaborating with the African Union to implement the recent UN-AU Framework of Cooperation to End Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Africa.

This Summit is an important vehicle to strengthen collective action to end impunity, boost services, improve the global response, ensure women’s participation and empowerment, and enhance the role of the military and other security sector actors – including United Nations peacekeepers – to prevent conflict-related sexual violence.

We have the tools, political momentum and clarity of purpose to turn the tide on this crime.  As we advance together, the United Nations will continue to provide strategic leadership to rid the world of sexual violence in conflict.

Thank you for your engagement and commitment.