New York, 16 April 2018
[As prepared for delivery]
Mr. President of the Security Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by commending Peru and His Excellency Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuadra for convening this important debate on sexual violence in conflict.
I also welcome Ms. Razia Sultana, here today to amplify the voices of the Rohingya community and to offer an account of the plight of women and girls systematically targeted due to their religion and ethnicity.
This year, in Myanmar and many other conflict situations, the widespread threat and use of sexual violence has, once again, been used as a tactic to advance military, economic and ideological objectives.
And, once again, it has been a driver of massive forced displacement.
Let me be clear, both genders endure the horrific brutality of sexual violence in conflict.
Sexual violence is also a very common method of torture of detainees.
And, in many conflicts, most detainees are men and boys.
But, overall, women and girls are disproportionately affected.
Gender-based discrimination is the invisible driver of most crimes of sexual violence.
And, the lower a woman’s status — in terms of health, wealth and education — the greater is her vulnerability and exposure to harm.
Last year, I travelled with SRSG Pramila Patten to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In both nations, the consequences of sexual violence are profound and enduring for survivors, their families and their communities.
Survivors are forced to live with untreated physical and psychological trauma, social stigma and unwanted pregnancies.
The children born of rape are often ostracized and relegated to the margins of society.
This highlights yet again that, in the end, sexual violence has consequences for all affected – women and girls, men and boys.
It is a deliberate tactic to humiliate and disempower, and undermines social cohesion.
Our responsibility must be to bring justice, recognition and reparations to the survivors of these horrendous crimes.
Not only justice in the courtrooms, but also social justice and economic empowerment.
We should recognize and support the resilience of the many survivors who are working as agents of change.
And, if we are to prevent these crimes being repeated, we must ensure accountability and deterrence.
In that context, I welcome the continued engagement by those parties listed by the Secretary-General in his reports on conflict-related sexual violence.
For example, the signing of a Unilateral Communiqué by a coalition of armed groups in Mali in July 2017, and the development of a Joint Communiqué Implementation Plan by the Iraq Government last month, are very encouraging.
Let me also highlight the increased vigilance being shown by our peacekeepers in protecting women, girls, men and boys from sexual violence as part of their protection of civilian mandate.
Last month, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a “Female Engagement Team” of 16 soldiers from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Nepal supported a civilian mission to one of the country’s most remote areas in response to reports of abductions and sexual violence inflicted on hundreds of civilians.
This shows the value of alert networks and the importance of women in peacekeeping to better address conflict-related sexual violence.
Women’s Protection Advisers deployed to UN peace operations also have a leading role to play in supporting government counterparts to implement their commitments.
These commitments include engaging all parties to the conflict to prevent sexual violence.
And they include ensuring that survivors and civil society organizations can voice their concerns about security, protection and limitations in service-provision, and that they can help shape inclusive new policies and laws.
Security Council resolution 2106 calls on all actors — the Security Council, parties to armed conflict, Member States and United Nations entities — to do more to combat impunity for these crimes.
Let us intensify our efforts to end the horrific litany of sexual violence in conflict so that women, girls, men and boys have one less burden to bear as they work to rebuild shattered lives.