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Zainab Bangura ends UN tenure with a flourish

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Zainab Bangura ends UN tenure with a flourish


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Her statement at the event received tremendous applause and received plaudits from stakeholders and all concerned.


SRSG Zainab Hawa Bangura
Joint event with UK-PSVI
Remarks [10-15 mins]
Marking Five Years of the PSVI & Launch of the second edition of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict
Tuesday, 28th March 2017, 10:00am – 11:30am, CR 12

Baroness Anelay, Ms. Jineth Bedoya, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I want to firstly commend and congratulate my partners in the UK-PSVI, under the leadership of Her Excellency Baroness Anelay, for their historic efforts to bring sexual violence in conflict out of the shadows and onto the agenda of the top tables of diplomacy and foreign policy – from the G8 to the GA, from the Security Council to its Sanctions Committees, from the Global Summit in London, to Donor Conferences, peace processes, and beyond. The PSVI has brought the full weight of the UK’s political, economic, and diplomatic influence to bear on this scourge, leading to both normative and operational impact.

The era of silence, at the level of national and international institutions, has given way to a sense of urgency. The paradigm has shifted: Sexual violence is no longer treated as merely a by-product of insecurity, but as a form of insecurity in itself. It is now afforded singular attention by the world’s paramount peace and security body, the United Nations Security Council.
As we celebrate the five-year milestone of the PSVI, I am also conscious that this may be my last official statement – not on this subject, to which I will always lend my voice, but in this capacity, as United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Five years is a short time in the history of warzone rape – a crime as old as war itself. Still, it is important to take stock of progress, and to draw inspiration from all that we have achieved together. The past few years have seen dramatic progress, in answer to centuries of impunity and denial.
We have seen the systematic inclusion of sexual violence in the mandates of peacekeeping missions. Hundreds of peacekeepers have now been trained to react swiftly and appropriately to this threat in their areas of operation.
We have seen landmark convictions of political and military leaders – from Guatemala to Guinea, from the Central African Republic to the DRC – for their failure to prevent and punish sexual violence by their subordinates.

We have established monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence in the field, to improve the quality and availability of information. Our early-warning indicators of impending sexual violence have been mainstreamed into broader protection structures. Thirty-four Women’s Protection Advisers (or “WPAs”) are deployed in eight mission settings to improve coordination, deepen the evidence-base for action, and pursue a protection dialogue with belligerent parties for behavioural change.

Sexual violence has been reflected in ceasefire and peace agreements as a crime that cannot be amnestied – most notably in the Colombian peace accord, which specifically requests my Office to support implementation.

The issue has been integrated into national justice, defence and security sectors, pursuant to the Joint Communiqués I have signed with Governments, and also taken up by regional bodies, such as the African Union and the League of Arab States, with which I have agreed Frameworks of Cooperation. Since 2010, several national military and police forces have developed specific, time-bound action plans to curb violations. In contexts such as Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire, and the DRC, tangible progress has been made to address a problem that seemed intractable just a few years ago. In each of these settings, the authorities have publicly pledged, at the highest level, to adopt measures to end impunity, expand services, and strengthen legal and policy frameworks. Last September, I signed a Joint Communiqué with the Government of Iraq, to advance efforts to address sexual violence in a complex and challenging context, where it has been used as both a tactic of war and a tactic of terrorism.

The Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, working out of my Office, has assisted Governments with legislative reform, protection of victims and witnesses, reparations schemes, and criminal investigation, helping relevant authorities to mount effective prosecutions.
The UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict network, which I Chair, has supported the development of national strategies to combat sexual violence, as well as a range of catalytic projects, most recently in the Middle East and North Africa.
Above all, today, we are reaching and supporting thousands of survivors – women, girls, men and boys – who were invisible a decade ago.
Slowly but surely, we have expanded the circle of champions, allies and stakeholders.
Slowly but surely, we are turning ground-breaking resolutions into solutions on the ground.
Through successive annual reports on conflict-related sexual violence, compiled by my Office, we have built a public, historical record for a crime that has been omitted from official accounts of war and peace.
Our latest report, due to be published at the end of this month, covers 19 countries and lists more than 40 parties to conflict that are credibly suspected of committing patterns of sexual violence. The vast majority of these are non-State actors, including seven that have been designated as terrorist groups. The report shows that while important inroads have been made with national security forces, new and previously unimaginable challenges have emerged.

I have often had cause to say, over the years, that this problem is like an onion: Every time you peel away one layer, there is another layer underneath, with each one bringing fresh tears.

Sexual violence, including forced marriage, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, and human trafficking, have become part of the political economy of conflict and terrorism, in settings such as Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. The abduction of women and girls as the “spoils of war” sounds like a phrase from a history book, and yet, it remains a daily headline, practiced and promoted by groups like Daesh, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, to advance their core strategic aims.

I believe that we are facing an age of extremism, characterized not only by sexual violence employed as a physical and psychological weapon, but also by the suppression of women’s rights and freedoms, and shrinking space for humanitarian and human rights actors.
It is time for a counter-narrative to ring out loud and clear from the international community as a whole.
This counter-narrative must emphasize that: the human, sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls are non-negotiable; that sexual violence can never be justified on traditional, religious or ideological grounds; that religious and traditional leaders bear a responsibility for condemning these crimes, embracing survivors and ensuring their reintegration; that male victims, and LGBTI victims, are entitled to full and equal protection under the law and to appropriate services; that women and children abducted by terrorist or violent extremist groups are victims, not affiliates; that such victims are entitled to relief and reparations as legitimate victims of conflict and terrorism; that children born of wartime rape, including refugees who may be at risk of statelessness, have the right to a future, beginning with a birth certificate and identity documents, which enable them to access healthcare and education, rather than leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, recruitment and radicalization; and, finally, that the stigma of sexual violence rests squarely with the perpetrator, and never with the victim.

In this regard, I was pleased to co-host the launch of the UK’s stigma campaign last September. It is tragic that survivors are often twice victimized and twice traumatized: first by the action of the perpetrator, then again by the reaction of society and the State, which is often unresponsive, even punitive and discriminatory. Sexual violence is a crime that can turn victims into outcasts, thus unravelling family and kinship ties. Moving forward, I believe that socioeconomic reintegration support for survivors, including those liberated from the grip of Daesh or Boko Haram, must infuse all of our peace-building and conflict-recovery efforts.
I am approaching the end of my tenure as Special Representative, but rest assured: I will remain with you in spirit.
As I prepare to return to my homeland, it strikes me how deeply my approach to this mandate was shaped by Sierra Leone’s story of heartbreak and hope. There, in the wake of a brutal 11-year civil war, in which an estimated 65,000 women were raped, I saw first-hand how victims became survivors. I learnt that the focus must be on helping survivors to rebuild their lives and livelihoods, and on strengthening local capacity and resilience.

I saw how transitional justice can have a cascade effect in deterring future crimes, and how reparations can help to break the link between poverty and gender-based violence, as physical insecurity so often stems from economic insecurity. I learnt that we cannot build peace without strengthening social institutions and empowering women to lead them!

Although we have forged a global consensus to turn the tide on this crime, it will not simply wash over the world in a single wave. Each country must find its own solutions: National ownership, leadership, and responsibility are key.

So, let us sustain the momentum that has been generated over the past five years to drive change on the ground, and to marshal resources commensurate with the scale of the challenge. Let us press forward until we reach a point where sexual violence – even in the midst of war – will not be considered inevitable; it will be considered unthinkable.

Such deep change in individual conduct and institutional culture, in legal frameworks and social norms, will be the work of generations. There is no quick fix. But, we are on the right path, and we must summon the will to keep walking, and to meet the elevated expectations of survivors.

Thank you all for walking that path with me – the Government of the United Kingdom for launching the PSVI to support this mandate; the Security Council and Member States for their steadfast support; the countries affected by conflict who trusted and worked with us; the UN Action agencies who have been my operational arms; civil society groups around the globe; and, on a personal note, my dedicated staff who not only had to meet the relentless demands of this mandate, but also the daily demands made by me! We could not have achieved the successes I have outlined here today without the commitment of each and every one of you to this cause – a cause I consider to be the great moral challenge of our time.

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