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Statement at the UNSC Debate on Conflict Related Sexual Violence

Thank you President,


And thank you for convening today’s debate, and in particular for bringing to the table such strong voices from civil society. Nadia, Mariana, Hilina, the work that you do to protect and advocate for survivors of sexual violence is invaluable. Thank you for your courage. Courage we here need to take heed of, as you said Nadia.


I also want to thank Special Representative Patten and her team. Your tireless work in documenting these heinous crimes is critical.




The Secretary-General’s report is brutally clear. Conflict-related sexual violence is rampant, it is going unpunished and it is destroying lives and communities.


It continues to be wielded as an appalling and illegal weapon of war, torture and terrorism. And with widespread impunity the norm, perpetrators are acting without fear of consequence.


We are deeply concerned that sexual violence is increasingly being used to silence women, especially women human rights defenders and those who speak out politically.


The horrific reports from Afghanistan and Myanmar are grave testament to this.


The constraining of civil society space, coupled with misogynistic threats and violence, is not only unacceptable, but outright dangerous. Anywhere women cannot freely participate in public life, they are not only deprived of their rights but society is prevented from reaching its full potential and achieving sustainable peace.




We agree with the Secretary-General that adequate attention is not being paid to prevention. Time and again we have failed to prevent the escalation of sexual violence and to protect survivors.


The shocking examples documented from Ethiopia by the joint UN-Ethiopian Human Rights Commission report clearly tell us this. And, as we have just heard from Hilina, these are just a sample of the widespread and systemic use of sexual violence that has defined the conflict in Ethiopia. All parties to this conflict are accused of egregious acts of sexual violence.


We are deeply concerned that this time next year we will be discussing similar testimonies arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where we have seen enough credible reports to believe that widespread sexual violence is already occurring.


The roadmap to prevention is clear. There exists a robust framework, including resolutions by this Council, which outlaws conflict-related sexual violence and which can hold perpetrators to account; which prevents future violations; and, importantly, ensures justice for survivors.


The real gap is in implementation. As the SRSG put it this morning, what do resolutions of this Council mean to victims and survivors of conflict related sexual violence?


Parties to conflict must have at the forefront of their minds that sexual and gender-based violence can amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Perpetrators must be held accountable.


Domestic, regional and international courts all play an essential role in this.


For instance, the Bemba and Ongwen convictions by the International Criminal Court demonstrated that sexual violence will no longer be treated as a collateral crime. However, as the Secretary-General has highlighted, too few situations, including where widespread conflict-related sexual violence has been reported, have been referred to the ICC by this Council.


In Syria, the IIIM and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry have played an instrumental role in bridging the accountability gap left by Council inaction. The gathering and preservation of evidence is fundamental for ensuring accountability and has enabled convictions for sexual violence crimes at the domestic level. We saw this recently in the watershed Koblenz proceedings in Germany, as others have referenced.


We also need to ensure that we embed the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence in operational provisions of all mandates agreed by this Council. As recommended by the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security, we should integrate Women’s Protection Advisers into the budgets of UN peace operations, particularly during transition processes.


 The use of targeted sanctions on grounds of conflict-related sexual violence is another important – but underutilised – tool at this Council’s disposal.


Alongside our pursuit of justice, we need to prioritise a survivor-centered approach for all, including men and boys, as well as members of the LGBTI+ community.  Access to gender- and age-sensitive services, including sexual and reproductive health services and psycho-social support, is essential.




Many factors exacerbate conflict-related sexual violence. However, the fundamental root cause is inequality. Conflict-related sexual violence is the most horrific abuse of power. It is a shameful scourge that will only end when we do the right thing and embrace gender equality.


President, This Council has made countless commitments to address conflict-related sexual violence, now let’s implement them.


Thank you.

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