Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict

6/20/2008 // Ambassador of Iceland Mr. Hjálmar W. Hannesson gave the joint Nordic statement in the Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security 19 June 2008, where each one of the Nordic countries was co-sponsoring the resolution.

Mr. President,

I have the honor of delivering the following statement on behalf of all five Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, each one of which is co-sponsoring the resolution today.

First allow me to thank the US Presidency of the Security Council for organizing this open debate on Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Situations of Armed Conflict.

Women are often victims of armed conflict but they can also play a central role in preventing and resolving violent conflict: as actors in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The ongoing, high incidence of horrific sexual violence against women and girls in conflicts demands the attention of the international community as a human rights matter and as a question of ensuring respect for international humanitarian law. It is an issue bearing directly on peace and security and it is, therefore, very timely and appropriate that the Security Council addresses the issue again. The landmark resolution 1325 continues to need full implementation.

It is clear that the use of rape and sexual violence exacerbates conflicts and also perpetuates them long after active hostilities are over. These crimes inflict indelible scars on individuals, families and societies which make reconciliation and peacebuilding much more difficult. The scars of sexual violence on the psyche of the victims, their families, the children it often results in, and even the perpetrators, are the explosive remnants of war of the mind, erupting unpredictably, doing long-term damage and making reconstruction of a sustainable peace very difficult indeed.

A climate of impunity on sexual violence continues to exist. We have to all join forces to end impunity for such crimes. The Security Council should respond urgently to incidents of sexual violence in conflicts and bring measures to bear to ensure that parties to armed conflict understand clearly that they will pay a heavy price for employing or permitting sexual violence. All member states must do their part in ensuring that individuals suspected of such crimes are brought to justice in accordance with the necessary legislation at the national level. We also call on States to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court, whose statute explicitly states that rape and other forms of sexual violence can be prosecuted as war crimes or crimes against humanity. Amnesties should not extend to crimes of sexual violence.

Clear guidance to peacekeeping missions is also needed on how to operationalize the protection of civilians’ mandate, including the protection of women and girls from sexual violence. This includes strong and specific mandates from the Security Council, and sufficient means, as well as a more comprehensive reporting by the United Nations system. There is a need to make full use of available expertise, including from human rights mechanisms such as the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. All member states should ensure that training of peacekeepers includes training on SCR 1325. Furthermore, it is vital that peacebuilding and reconstruction plans include comprehensive victim protection and support mechanisms, such as shelters for the victims and their families and gender units within the police.

A key element in ensuring the protection of women and girls from sexual violence during conflicts and in post conflict situations is participation of women in decision-making processes in all areas and at all levels. Whether it is matters of practical protection measures, such as the gathering of fuel in safety, or more complex matters, such as the reintegration of combatants into society, the input and experiences of women are essential to success and sustainability. The participation of women, therefore, is directly relevant to the maintenance of peace and security. New avenues must also be explored, in addition to military and police, on how to deploy more women into peacekeeping missions, including by establishing civilian observer components. Stronger efforts must be made by the UN to include women in discussions on the management and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding, including in rebuilding societies, security sector reform, transitional justice and post-conflict political and economic processes.

The Secretary General and relevant UN bodies should also redouble their efforts to recruit women to high-level positions. A situation where only one out of 37 SRSGs is a woman is simply not acceptable. The Secretary General should consider whether the setting of quotas for the participation of women at certain levels could be an effective way forward. Gender advisers should be attached to all missions and should be given rank with the necessary authority and influence. In addition, the UN system as a whole should redouble its efforts to recruit more women at all levels. The same appeal goes to all UN member states. It is our responsibility to ensure that the UN has a solid basis to recruit from.

The zero tolerance policy of the Secretary General on sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping mission should continue and be strengthened. There must not be impunity for peacekeepers either. Again, wider participation by women in such missions would help. The highly successful Indian women’s police corps in Liberia is encouraging in this regard, as is the high percentage of women in the group of Nigerian police that Nordic and African police have jointly trained for UNAMID. It is also important to provide appropriate and recurrent training to all personnel involved in peacekeeping operations, including on ethical conduct and the zero tolerance policy.

Regional bodies are becoming increasingly important actors, under the mandate of the Security Council, in addressing regional issues of peace and security. Such bodies should be closely linked to the discussions and decisions in relation to women, peace and security. The Secretary General is encouraged to take a leading role in this matter.

The Security Council should seriously consider establishing a working group to monitor conflict situations where sexual violence is widely or systematically used as a weapon of war, as is the case in DRC and Sudan. Such a working group could assist the Council in reacting rapidly to urgent cases and making proposals on appropriate actions, including emergency obstetric and other sexual and reproductive health services and measures to prevent and treat HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, psychosocial support as well as early measures to enforce the rule of law and crime victims’ access to justice.

We support the proposal made by the US in their concept paper that Security Council mandates should be strengthened to prevent sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and provide more protection for women and girls from widespread and systematic attacks by parties to armed conflicts. This should be dealt with systematically both when mandates for on-going operations come up for renewal as well as when mandates for new operations are adopted.

We further encourage the Council to follow up on the recommendation by the Secretary-General of developing a monitoring mechanism to improve its contribution to preventing and redressing violence against women in armed conflict.

Finally, all the Nordic countries have completed or are in the final stages of completing national implementation plans for resolution 1325 and encourage other member states to do the same as a matter of urgency. We also suggest that lessons learned from countries that have such a plan be used in supporting other countries in preparing their own plans.

(Check against delivery)


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