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Statement at the Arria meeting on accountability for conflict-related sexual violence

Statement by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

Permanent Representative of Ireland


Arria-formula meeting of the Security Council

‘Accountability for conflict-related sexual violence as a central pillar for prevention’


07 February 2019


Minister Barley, Excellencies,


I would like to thank Germany and all the co-sponsors today. I can’t tell you how refreshing your chairmanship of this meeting is and how important it is to those of us who work on both violence and gender issues as a daily part of our tasks. I think the excellent briefers this morning have all been crystal clear. You yourself Minister said in your introduction that there can be no safe havens, and that is where we think this debate should begin.


When it comes to the broader issue of Women, Peace and Security I was struck by ASG Andrew Gilmour’s injunction to us to work from personal testimony. I couldn’t agree more and I have to say that Ireland, on this issue, speaks not only from conviction but from experience. We on our island have seen how the involvement of women in peace and conflict resolution has made a critical change to our whole society, and we think if it can work on our own island then it should be possible elsewhere.


We see the issue before us today, Madam President, as a threshold one. It is an issue not just of debate, but an issue of political and moral imperative, as we see it. The plight of women who suffer conflict-related sexual violence demands not just that we speak about it in this house but that we act. In that, listening to the debate today we can all agree that we should be ashamed, that in this 21st century, women are still being used as a currency of conflict. I hope that today your welcome debate and chairmanship will mark a new departure. We think that not just all members of the Security Council but indeed all Member States need to double down on practical efforts to prevent and pursue accountability for what we see as crimes.


In practical terms, we want to see how the Security Council itself, as the British Permanent Representative asked earlier, in its daily business can help the important work underway in the field, and thank you to the briefers for their answers. We also want to see that the Security Council plays its proper role in the wider legal and political responsibilities we have to ensure that this is seen not just as a crime, but also, as we see it, as a threat to international peace and security that demands the attention of this body. We shouldn’t need to be told that, in our view, nor do we need to debate it.

Simply put, women’s physical security is inextricably linked with their political, social and economic security. We know that women bear the brunt of conflict at every level. I am currently the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, and in a couple of weeks we have over 9,000 delegates in this house discussing the issue of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure. I am very confident that as part of that discussion we will be discussing conflict-related sexual violence, particularly in terms of how access to healthcare and other supports can help survivors to these crimes, and we hope that this can make a difference.


I was struck, in particular, by the eloquent briefing from the Global Justice Centre this morning to say that we need to treat this issue as core to the wider agenda and to put it as part of our Action Plan. In my own country, we are acting since Resolution 1325 was adopted. We have put women and girls at the heart of our foreign policy and we are scaling up these efforts now in shaping our new development policy, so that we can having meaningful, impactful ways in not just shaping the debate but in having impact on the ground.


Our Defence Forces, as seasoned peacekeepers, on a daily basis, for example tell me that when they conduct controls around camps, in particular where young women and girls often have to be the firewood collectors, the water collectors, that they step up their patrols, they add mixed gender teams to their patrols to ensure that young women and girls are protected in those very basic tasks; so, there are practical ways that we can make a difference. We also think on the practical side that differences can be made in educating young men and boys to be sensitive to the wider agenda, and our Irish Aid partners are doing that.


On accountability and justice for survivors, we really call now on the Security Council now to bolster the use of conflict-related sexual violence as a criterion for imposing sanctions and we should make referrals to the International Criminal Court where that is the right thing to do.


I’ll conclude Madam Chairman by saying to you that we can’t underline again our appreciation for this discussion and for a standalone opportunity – it’s very welcome, but we know it’s not enough. If Ireland is lucky enough to be elected to the Security Council in eighteen months you can be sure you’ll have a firm ally in supporting this debate.


Thank you.

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