What's In Blue

Posted Sat 13 May 2017

Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict

On Monday (15 May), the Council will hold an open debate on sexual violence. The debate will be chaired by José Luis Cancela, Vice Foreign Minister of Uruguay, and ministerial level participation by member states has been encouraged. The following speakers will brief the Security Council: Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed,; Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, who is currently officer-in-charge of the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; and Mina Jaf, Founder and Executive Director of Women’s Refugee Route, on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security.

The objective of the debate is to raise awareness on the issue of sexual violence in conflict as a tactic of war and terrorism, focusing particularly on patterns and trends identified in the annual report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (S/2017/249). Displacement driven by conflict, rising violent extremism and terrorism, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the use of women and girls as part of the political economy of war, the stigma associated with sexual violence, and the challenges of socioeconomic reintegration are all addressed in the report.

A concept note circulated by Uruguay ahead of the debate outlines some trends and emerging concerns, including that sexual violence has become a core element of the ideology and operations of extremist groups. The note states that conflict-related sexual violence has been used as a tactic linked with the strategic objectives, ideology and funding of extremist groups, in order to generate revenue, attract new recruits, and perpetuate conflict and instability; to terrorize populations into compliance; and to displace communities from strategic areas. It further says that conflict-related sexual violence, as a form of religious and ethnic persecution, has been used as an instrument of genocide against national, ethnic, racial or religious groups, such as the Yazidi population of Iraq. It has been used against men and boys, as well as women.

The open debate will aim to identify opportunities and gaps at the national, regional, and international level to improve efforts to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, and the stigmatization of survivors. The concept note outlines several questions that could be addressed in the discussion. Among the questions raised are:

• How can States and humanitarian actors improve the delivery of health and psychosocial support services, including reproductive healthcare, for sexual violence survivors?

• How can States support the socioeconomic reintegration of survivors and any children born as a result of sexual violence?

• How can refugee-receiving countries adopt measures to mitigate the risk of sexual violence and make services available to survivors?

• How can the international community, including regional organizations, more effectively combat trafficking in persons for the purposes of sexual slavery, forced prostitution, or other forms of sexual exploitation?

• How can prevention of conflict-related sexual violence be improved, through monitoring of risk factors and early warning?

• How can the Security Council influence parties to conflict to comply with international law, including by referring matters to the International Criminal Court, integrating the issue of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism into the work of relevant sanctions committees, and improving the impact of sanctions against individuals and entities involved in sexual violence and trafficking?

• How can the Council and other member states continue to support the mandate of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to engage with State and non-State parties to conflict to obtain protection commitments and systematically monitor compliance?

Most members are supportive of the Council’s treatment of sexual violence in conflict. However, there are differences regarding how to incorporate this issue into the Council’s sanctions regimes, as well as into strategies to counter violent extremism and terrorism. Russia, in particular, maintains that the issue of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism may detract from other issues related to the financing of terrorism, such as the sale of oil. The December 2016 Special Report of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict (S/2016/1090) referred to reports of the Secretary-General (S/2016/92 and S/2016/501) indicating that “trafficking of women and girls remained a critical component of the financial flows of ISIL and its affiliates.”

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