I would like to thank the United Kingdom for hosting this important conference and commend its leadership, and particularly that of Lord Ahmad, in preventing sexual violence in conflict. The last two days have been an important opportunity to take stock of the progress made, as well as the work that remains. As we heard from Nadia Murad yesterday, we do not need a call to action – we just need action.
So what does that look like in practical terms? In conflicts on almost every continent around the world, communities are terrorised by sexual violence – utilised to humiliate and control them – in sometimes systematic campaigns. Yet, and as we heard numerous times yesterday, many of these crimes go unreported, due to persistent stigma, fear of re-experiencing trauma, the lack of adequate mechanisms, and threats of retaliation. UNDP estimated that about 10%, at best, of these atrocities are reported. And yet even those that are reported, too many times, face little to no prosecution or consequence. This eliminates both deterrence and justice.
In line with the essential survivor-centred focus of this conference, practitioners and policy makers- must take the same approach. While I have heard many critical recommendations, I would like to pick up on the following four that I’ve heard here today from survivors:
First, we must enhance the global response to these crimes. That is why we are all here today and why the UAE has joined the PSVI’s Political Declaration on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Meetings like these, as well as robust tools that enhance accountability are measures for us to do better. As an elected member of the Security Council, the UAE will continue to support including conflict-related sexual violence as a stand-alone designation criterion in relevant UN Security Council sanctions regimes. Perpetrators of these crimes must be sanctioned.
Second, we must invest in strengthening women and girls’ resilience. Economic hardship, compounded by political instability and structural gender-based inequality, deepens the risk of sexual violence. The most recent reminder of this is the UN stark forecast that continued exclusion of women from the Afghan economy may result in an economic loss of up to US$1 billion – or up to five percent of the country’s GDP. Safeguarding women and girls’ access and participation in all aspects of society develops their agency and makes them less vulnerable to these unbearable atrocities. It is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
Third, gender-responsive leadership in peacekeeping is essential to address this issue. Militaries must prioritise preventing, and responding to, these crimes. For national governments, this means adequate training for their armed forces. For the international community and the UN Security Council, this means specific considerations when establishing peace operations. The UAE consistently promotes the inclusion of clear and precise language in mandates that stipulate a mission’s responsibility to prevent and respond to sexual violence, allow peacekeepers to take necessary actions, and increase the deployment of women’s protection advisors.
Lastly, we keep saying that prevention is the best response. Yesterday, we started the conference with a sobering reminder that only 1% of global funding goes to preventing or responding to conflict-related sexual violence. If we truly believe in prevention, global funding must reflect that.
Source: UAE Mission to UN