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World: Joint review: Sexual violence in conflict, and sexual exploitation and abuse by international peacekeepers

Source: Independent Commission for Aid Impact
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, World

1. Purpose, scope and rationale

Knowing the devastating impact of sexual violence in conflict (SVIC) and the complex nature of this issue, the UK government established the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) in 2012 to respond to the needs of survivors and galvanise support for an international campaign to reduce and prevent SVIC. The creation of the initiative was followed by the 2014 Global Summit on Sexual Violence in Conflict (Global Summit), which gathered a broad range of representatives from government, international organisations and experts from civil society. As a cross-departmental initiative, the PSVI is led by the Foreign Office (FCO), with contributions from the Department for International Development (DFID), the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Home Office. The PSVI is one instrument used by the UK to address SVIC. Others include projects led by FCO embassies in countries and some relevant initiatives led by the MOD or DFID. The funding sources for these initiatives are complex and include various funds like the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and the Rules Based International System fund.

The UK government addresses the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) perpetrated by peacekeeping forces and civilian staff working in conflict zones through a different set of teams and policies. This is done mainly through advocacy and programming led by the Gender Equality Unit at the FCO and via support for UN efforts to root out abuses during UN peacekeeping operations. The UK government supports staff working on SEA at the UN Secretariat, such as the Special Coordinator on Improving the UN Response to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, the Victims’ Rights Advocate, the Conduct and Discipline Section of the Department for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance, and the UK Mission to the UN.

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Scope of the joint review

The purpose of this joint review is twofold. First, we will explore how well the UK government has delivered on the promise of the PSVI initiative and what progress has been made towards its commitments to reduce stigma for survivors, increase justice and accountability, and increase preventative efforts since the 2014 Global Summit.

Second, this review also offers the opportunity to assess in parallel the ways in which the UK government has been active in addressing the challenge of violations committed by international peacekeepers, police and civilian staff.

This joint review will therefore limit its focus on sexual violence to particular sets of circumstances and characteristics. These are:

Context: violations take place in a conflict zone.

Perpetrators: in Part 1 (our review of the PSVI), violations are perpetrated by military forces, police, non-state armed combatants, or civilian staff of any of the aforementioned. In Part 2 (our review of SEA), violations are perpetrated by international peacekeeping soldiers and civilian staff linked to peacekeeping operations.

Goal: the motivations for the violations range from (i) opportunity-led, facilitated by the lawlessness and impunity prevalent in conflict zones, (ii) targeted at a community/person as a weapon of war, often with a political goal, or (iii) used as a unifying mechanism to connect units which are engaged in the pursuit of a common goal (political or otherwise).

Survivors: violations are targeted at female, male or otherwise gendered survivors, and include children.

The review will assess the relevance and effectiveness of the UK government’s response following the 2014 Global Summit. This includes reviewing the extent to which the response is evidence-based and whether lessons have been captured to inform future programming. The review will also examine how well DFID, the FCO and the MOD have collaborated across and within institutions, and the degree to which programming took into account the voices of survivors.

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ICAI is conducting a joint review of the UK aid response to SVIC and SEA. Two related reports represent the final output of this review, the first focusing on SVIC perpetrated by military forces and combatants, and the second centred on SEA by UN and other international peacekeepers, police, and civilian staff of the aforementioned organisations.


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