Sexual Violence in Conflict
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you, Madam Chair. We value – and need – this open debate on sexual violence in conflict.
Thank you also to the Secretary-General for his report, and his personal leadership on this issue. And to Special Representative Bangura for her forthright commitment and achievements. And to the NGO Working Group for its impressive work. And as well to Ms Diakité for her own exemplary efforts.
In so much of the Council’s work, including Mali, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria, we have heard repeatedly over the past few weeks about the widespread use of sexual violence in conflict. It is a brutal, unacceptable but pervasive dimension of today’s conflict. We must constantly think about how we can prevent it from occurring, and when it does, to ensure survivors are supported and perpetrators held relentlessly to account.
The Secretary-General’s report is stark. It highlights too much of concern – sexual slavery, forced marriage by armed groups, increasing abuse of boys and men, the plight of children born of rape, the nexus between sexual violence and illicit extraction of natural resources, and, as we have seen in Syria, the threat and use of sexual violence to forcibly displace entire communities. This must catalyse even stronger action by us.
Ending impunity is critical to driving change. As a deterrent, it is an essential part of a prevention strategy.
We must make best use of all the tools at the Council’s disposal to target perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict – whether individuals, armed groups or States – and whether they commit, command or condone violations. Under many sanctions committees, persistent perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence fit within existing listing criteria. We support the more rigorous application of these. We also support the inclusion of these criteria where the situation demands it.
At a national and international level, criminal justice mechanisms must develop dedicated sexual violence expertise to ensure crimes are effectively prosecuted, survivors get the support they need, and perpetrators convicted. In this context, we would like to single out the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, including its efforts through the G8, and the exemplary focus and resourcing that the UK itself is bringing to the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence.
We agree also with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that sexual violence should be included in the definition of acts prohibited under ceasefire agreements, and support the introduction of a systematic procedure to monitor parties’ compliance with their commitments.
Security sector reform, and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes, are of course essential to rebuilding communities.
Measures against sexual violence must be integral to them. Too often perpetrators of sexual violence themselves are allowed to assume positions of power in post-conflict settings. We must strengthen efforts to ensure appropriate levels of preventive vetting.
We strongly support the systematic deployment of gender expertise in all Council mandated missions – including women protection advisors – whose deployment should be prioritised in mission planning processes. We support also the deployment of the Team of Experts on the rule of law and sexual violence in conflict.
Of course, supporting women’s leadership and participation is essential to addressing, responding and indeed ending sexual violence. Women are powerful agents of change and we must harness this capacity through their far greater participation in conflict resolution and post-conflict transitions.
Ms Diakité has reminded us of the nexus between arms and conflict related sexual violence. We welcome the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty – including the requirement that States parties consider the risks of arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence in making their export assessments. We must now focus on the Treaty’s entry into force and effective implementation.
It is essential of course that survivors’ needs are addressed, including through access to multi-sectoral services. The vast majority of survivors are often children and services must be specifically tailored to their needs. We must take specific steps to address the risks faced by women’s human rights defenders operating on the front-line, to ensure that they are able to carry out their work. And indeed ensure they themselves don’t become victims of sexual violence.
Of course, action to address sexual violence in conflict cannot occur without adequate and predictable resourcing. Priority should be given to ensuring key actors including national institutions, UN agencies and civil society groups have the resources and capacity to tackle these issues from prevention, through to the service provision for survivors, through to longer-term measures to end impunity. My own government committed an additional $320 million late last year to addressing gender issues in our immediate region in the Pacific, including issues related to sexual violence.
In concluding Madam Chair
Sexual violence touches the full breadth of the Council’s work. While success is very difficult to achieve, it requires of us a vigilant and consistent commitment if we are ever to end this devastating, immoral and criminal practice.