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Arria-formula Meeting on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Tomorrow afternoon (18 October), Security Council members will hold an open Arria-formula meeting on “Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence”. The meeting is being organised by Albania, the UK, and the US. Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania Igli Hasani will chair the meeting and provide opening remarks. The expected briefers are the President of the Republic of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani, and the Team Leader of the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, Chloe Marnay-Baszanger. Three women civil society representatives are also expected to brief.

The Secretary-General’s annual reports on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) define CRSV as “rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict”. The reports say that it “also encompasses trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual violence and/or exploitation, when committed in situations of conflict”.

The importance of accountability to preventing the recurrence of CRSV is expected to be a key focus of tomorrow’s meeting. According to a concept note prepared by Albania, while the Security Council established a robust normative framework condemning and calling for action to address CRSV, sexual violence in conflict persists in many parts of the world. The concept note argues that the fact that “perpetrators are free and unpunished” risks sending a message that CRSV “can be tolerated and can continue to be used as a tactic of war”. In this respect, the concept note highlights sanctions as a measure the Security Council can take “to deter such violence and induce behavioural change”, as well as the importance of national initiatives to strengthen accountability-focused legislation.

At tomorrow’s meeting, briefers and Council members are likely to reflect on the links between accountability and prevention of CRSV. Osmani may highlight measures adopted in Kosovo to strengthen accountability for CRSV and enhance redress and reparations for survivors. Marnay-Baszanger may brief on the work of the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict to support national investigations, address impunity and enhance accountability for CRSV at country-level. (The Team of Experts was created pursuant to Security Council resolution 1888, which was adopted in 2009. This resolution mandates the Team of Experts to assist national authorities in strengthening the rule of law in “situations of particular concern” with respect to CRSV, with the consent of the host government and through the UN presence on the ground.) Tomorrow, some members may stress the importance of strengthening national criminal justice systems and might refer to national initiatives and international cooperation programmes that they support in this regard.

Some Council members may also express their support for enhanced use of Security Council sanctions regimes to address CRSV. For instance, at the July annual open debate on CRSV, Ghana expressed support for treating CRSV “as a basis for targeted sanctions against culpable actors”, maintaining that periodic briefings to sanctions committees by the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict “would be useful in sustaining interest in the progress of implementation of such sanctions”. Noting that more than 70 percent of the parties listed in the annex to the Secretary-General’s annual report on CRSV are persistent perpetrators, Malta argued that “[t]hose verified cases should be aligned with the work of the sanctions committees and their panels of experts, who should have access to the data and expertise” on CRSV, adding that briefings by the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict to sanctions committees “can greatly facilitate” this work. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten was last invited to brief a Security Council sanctions committee, the 2140 Yemen Sanctions Committee, in December 2021.

Tomorrow, the briefers and some Council members may refer to CRSV in specific country situations. In this regard, the concept note refers to CRSV “in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo” as contexts where “[p]erpetrators have successfully evaded justice for 27 years”, as well as other situations such as Ukraine, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some members may stress the importance of a prompt Council response to early indicators of CRSV in situations of concern. Several members are also likely to underline the adoption of a survivor-centred approach in responses to CRSV and may highlight the need to enhance access to services, including sexual and reproductive care, for CRSV survivors. (Resolution 2467, which was adopted in 2019 and is the most recent Security Council outcome on CRSV, recognised the need for a survivor-centred approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.)

Some members might also identify the proliferation of small arms and light weapons among the factors that compound security risks and can exacerbate CRSV. A recent UN Institute for Disarmament Research report concluded that, while arms control and disarmament measures alone cannot prevent CRSV, they can contribute “to both long-term structural prevention and short-term operational prevention”.

The concept note poses several questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting, including:

While notable implementation gaps persist, Council members are generally supportive of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and their views converge on the need to eradicate CRSV. Nevertheless, Council dynamics on WPS remain difficult and have been further complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

During the negotiations in June of resolution 2686 on tolerance and international peace and security, while some members considered including language from resolution 2467, Russia apparently opposed this proposal on the grounds that resolution 2467 had not been adopted by consensus, with China and Russia having abstained. As a result, the proposed language was not included in resolution 2686. Furthermore, Russia has objected to briefings by Patten in sanctions committee meetings and opposed her participation at the annual open debate on CRSV in July.

Council dynamics on Kosovo may also come into play at tomorrow’s meeting, given that Osmani is one of the briefers and that Kosovo is referenced in the concept note. While some Council members recognise Kosovo’s independence (and tend to be supportive of its government), several others, including China and Russia, do not.

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