This year, on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we celebrate ten years since the adoption of the United Nations Security Council’s landmark resolution 1820 (2008), which classified the use of conflict-related sexual violence as an impediment to the restoration of international peace and security.
Over this decade, we have witnessed groundbreaking advancements in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence, including successful prosecutions by national and international tribunals against perpetrators who appeared untouchable; legal and legislative reforms to enhance protection and ensure access to justice for survivors and witnesses; comprehensive sets of specialized services for survivors, including socioeconomic rehabilitation initiatives and reparations; codes of conduct for security forces to ensure sensitization and training on conflict-related sexual violence; and an overall global mindset that firmly renounces these crimes and supports the efforts of women and their organizations to eliminate them.
Yet, around the world, sexual violence continues to be used as a tactical, effective and cost-free strategy to terrorize communities and facilitate territorial, political and economic gains in the war field. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sexual violence has spread to the once non-conflict affected provinces; in Myanmar, communities have been forced to flee due to gross human rights violations, including widespread sexual violence.
The international community’s response must be clear-cut, comprehensive, prompt and sustainable. Preventing these crimes should be our number one priority.
At UN Women, we are continuing to implement strategies to tackle sexual violence in conflict. This includes supporting National Action Plans on Women Peace and Security as tools to promote women’s participation, leadership and protection from gender-based violence and conflict-related sexual violence, and acting as the Secretariat of the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network, an informal, cross-regional forum for more than 80 Member States and regional organizations to share best practices. We also work closely with women’s organizations, for example through the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), a global pooled funding mechanism, which in 2017 provided support to over 30 civil society organizations in four priority areas – Burundi, Colombia, Jordan and the Pacific Islands.
Along with prevention, strong accountability for sexual violence in conflict is urgently needed. We must do more to convert a culture of impunity into a culture of deterrence, by ensuring that efforts to document and investigate international crimes prioritize sexual violence. Since 2012, UN Women has partnered with Justice Rapid Response on the “JRR-UN Women Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Justice Experts Roster”, a tool to rapidly deploy experts to investigate sexual violence in conflict. In 2017, experts on the Roster helped document evidence in countries such as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iraq, Kosovo, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
It is also essential to ensure that women play a key role in peace and security processes. Women’s participation in the military components of peace operations has been recognized as a critical factor contributing to mission success, both in the United Nations normative frameworks, as well as by commanders on the ground themselves. And yet, an extremely low number of female military personnel are deployed in current peacekeeping missions. Through the Female Military Officers Course (FMOC), UN Women aims to encourage female military officers for UN peacekeeping operations. In 2017, 123 female officers received training.
No one country can end the scourge of sexual violence alone. But by prioritizing prevention, forging strategic partnerships and building on good practices, together we can provide sustainable and effective solutions for women, girls and societies.