Joint press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie

  • 31 Jan. 2018 -
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  • Last updated: 31 Jan. 2018 18:51

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie

Good afternoon.

It is really a great pleasure to welcome Special Envoy Jolie to NATO Headquarters.

Angelina, you have really a strong voice and we admire your great leadership in the fight for empowering women and the fight against sexual violence. And therefore I’m also pleased that we have agreed to work together, and I really look forward to work together with you, addressing these very important issues. NATO is a military alliance providing defence against military threats.

But we are also a political alliance based on our core values: democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law, and the UN Charter. Therefore, NATO has the responsibility to be a leading protector of women’s rights.We know from experience that strengthening the role of women in the armed forces is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. NATO has a long record of fighting extremist groups, such as the Taliban and ISIS. These groups have the oppression of women at their very core.

Therefore, I welcome the progress NATO and NATO allies have made on the battlefield against extremism. We remain committed to this fight. Sexual violence is a tactic of war. Against women and girls, but also men and boys. NATO is already doing a lot to tackle this issue. But there is more we can do.

Today, Special Envoy Jolie and I have decided to work together. Focusing on three points: training; monitoring and reporting;
and awareness.

First, training. NATO expects that all our troops live up to the highest standard of professionalism and respect for others. We already have extensive pre-deployment training for soldiers and civilians operating in the field. We deploy gender advisors in our operations. For instance, in Kosovo and in Afghanistan.

In fact, you will meet some of our gender advisors later on today. You will also meet some of our top military commanders and there you can discuss how we can work together, addressing training of NATO soldiers. In addition, every day, NATO is training partner militaries around the world. We will look to strengthening existing training on combatting sexual violence.

Second, monitoring and reporting on sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. This is a core task for NATO commanders in the field. We must be faster and more systematic in our reporting. Better data will help identify patterns and trends. So that NATO can respond more quickly to prevent violence and help bring perpetrators to justice.

Third, awareness. We must shine a bright light on these darkest of crimes. Increased awareness will help put gender violence higher on the agenda, and contribute to changing behaviour. Awareness triggers action.

So thank you once again for being with us today and for being a powerful advocate for those who are the most vulnerable. Your presence helps raise awareness of what we are doing and especially of what more we must do together. I look forward to working with you to turn our words into actions.

So Angelina, please you have the floor.

Angelina Jolie (Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees):  Thank you very much, I am very honoured to make my first visit to NATO.

Violence against women and children, particularly sexual violence, is an increasing feature of conflict and insecurity worldwide. 

Yet the use of rape as a weapon of war has been regarded inevitable feature of conflict as a lesser crime and a problem too difficult or too uncomfortable for societies to address.

This is a historic injustice and a critical issue of international peace and security. 

This is rape used as a weapon to achieve military or political goals.  It affects men and boys as well as women and girls.  It is used as a tool of political control, terrorism and ethnic cleansing.

It is a major factor in the creation of refugee flows.  Wherever it occurs, peace is far harder and far more costly to achieve.  It therefore has a direct bearing on NATO’s efforts to protect stability and manage crisis that affect the security of Europe and global security.

So we have talked today about NATO’s potential role in helping to create greater global accountability and deterrence for crimes against women in conflict zones. 

To increase the representation of women in militaries and to strengthen training and doctrine to make NATO the global leader, military leader in this area.

As the Secretary General said, we are going to focus on training, reporting, monitoring and awareness as a way of ending impunity.

But this is not only a question of protecting women, this is a question of valuing women. 

As the Secretary General and I have discussed today, none of the challenges we face from civil conflicts to the global refugee crisis can be addressed without far greater attention to the needs, rights and positive contribution of women. 

This has been a missing piece in so many of our efforts to prevent and resolve conflict worldwide for generations.  There can be no lasting peace and security without equal rights and participation for women in all societies and those rights cannot be achieved in an environment where there is impunity for mass crimes against women and girls.

I am very impressed and encouraged by the commitments NATO has already made and the signal that that sends to other militaries around the world.

Our meetings today have been about how we can build on those commitments together and to go forward.

As the Secretary General has said, we have just met with the North Atlantic Council and Military Committee and I will be having further meetings with NATO political representatives and NATO commanders this afternoon, including Supreme Allied Commander Scaparrotti.

I am very grateful to you, to the Secretary General, for his leadership; I am very honoured that I will be working with him over the coming months and years.

We are very clear that this effort must be about practical results that make a real difference on the ground in conflict affected areas and in changing attitudes towards women globally.

So thank you for allowing me to be here and join you and thank you all.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):  OK, we have time for a few questions, Wall Street Journal.

Question:  Julian Barnes with the Wall Street Journal. 

To the special envoy, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan released a report critical of the failure of international troops to stop the abuse of boys and girls in Afghanistan.  Is NATO and the Resolute Support Mission doing enough to protect children from sexual exploitation by NATO trained forces?  And Secretary General I wonder if you could address the same matter?  Have you requested any reviews of the training that NATO forces provide Afghan security forces or anything that you want to see NATO do to report potential abuse more effectively?

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General):  Well since we have received the first reports about this, about the abuse several years ago, we have done a lot.

First of all, we have increased awareness about the issue in general in Afghanistan.

Second, we have implemented mandatory reporting so the routines of reporting every time we have some knowledge about the potential sexual violence or abuse then it is reported and that is reported in the line of command.

And third, we have improved and strengthened training.

So training, reporting, monitoring and awareness are the three key tools which we use in many missions or in all missions on operations but especially in Afghanistan.  And there are many problems, there are many challenges but I think that in Afghanistan it’s actually a country where we have made a lot of progress when it comes to empowering women, fighting sexual violence and also fighting abuse in the armed forces.

Let me also add that one of the countries we are … we have not decided where we are to go, but one potential, one issue we discussed during our meeting today is how we can also work on strengthening our efforts in different countries where NATO is present including Afghanistan.

Angelina Jolie:  Yes, Afghanistan is a country I have been to a few times, very dear to my heart, and I have deep concern and care for the Afghan people, especially the vulnerable women and children and that is what we are doing here, many of the conversations we had were, yes this is, yes there are things that the Secretary General said that have been focused on and there has been some improvement, there is a lot more work to be done and so one of the countries we have been focusing on, possibly being one of our first to visit, is Afghanistan for these very reasons.

Oana Lungescu:  Agence France Presse.

Question (AFP):  Yes, Madam Jolie also Mr Stoltenberg.  How do you see concrete improvements and from NATO’s side and also the contributions that NATO can do in this fight against the impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence?  If, at the same time, and it’s not a secret NATO is seen in large parts of the world as the vehicle of American imperialism and is suffering from these negative images.  I mean of course in the Middle East but also in some parts of Afghanistan where civilian population has been the victim sometimes of indiscriminate … (inaudible).

Thank you.

Angelina Jolie:  Yes, well I am sure you will speak to the NATO side, as a humanitarian, you know this is an interesting step for me because I have spent the last 16 years working really in the field solely as a humanitarian and I am joining NATO as a humanitarian.  I am here to be working, you know I am not a military personnel but I am here to help to work on the side of where NATO does training that affects their relationship to the civilians on the ground and their accountability to the civilians on the ground and their impact.

So part of it is the investigation for myself and as I have been learning about NATO and seeing where they are doing some very good work.

Of course, also questioning where they need to improve and change and from what I have learned from the many people I have met, you know there are many, many people, many, many countries but they do understand that the, they were built to come together to share core values and to do very specific things and hold a moral standard and they have to hold themselves to that standard and I hold them to that standard, and I know the Secretary General holds them to that standard and when they fail or falter they must correct themselves and be, never be … you know whenever … always to be a part of the solution and when they are not they must correct.

Jens Stoltenberg:  Well I think that partly I have already addressed the issue of how to make sure that the perpetrators are held responsible.

This is about reporting and therefore we are training our soldiers in being able to identify to detect when sexual abuse is taking place or when we see sexual violence as a tool in war.

So it’s about reporting, monitoring, it’s about training awareness but let me add two other elements. It’s about more women in the armed forces and one of the issues we really are working on in many of our partner countries, for instance, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, in Jordan and other places, is how to have more female soldiers and also more female police. 

We are training them, we are empowering them and we believe that more women in the armed forces is good for the empowerment of women, but it is also good for our security and for the armed forces.  And we are also working with institutions, like for instance the Red Cross.  I met with the Red Cross in Geneva some months ago and we agreed that we should try to do more together on these issues.

We work with the UN and now also with Special Representative Jolie.  The main reason why we work together is to be able to do something which is a big problem and by working together with her I really believe that we can step up the efforts, do more, increase awareness and then also be able to hold moral those who are responsible for these crimes accountable.

Oana Lungescu:  NRK.

Question (NRK): A question for both the special envoy and the Secretary General. 

The Me Too Campaign has opened a new chapter within feminism and a discussion on equality.  Is there a similar tool mechanism that can be used, a hashtag that can be used to promote the rights of women in the poorer parts of the world who are living in less secure circumstances in refugee camps and in conflict areas?

Angelina Jolie:  Our focus is going to be really on making sure we understand the practical changes we can make on the ground, the laws that we are focusing on changing, the education to bring education to women around the world and men. So there is not a particular hashtag; it’s more focused on some of the practical solutions at this time.

Jens Stoltenberg:  Let me just add that we have been focused on actions, on what concrete we can do in the operations, in the field, both when it comes to NATO soldiers, but also with all the soldiers in the partner nations where we are working.  And again monitoring, training, reporting, are key tools we have been focused on, and this is about protecting the most vulnerable people in armed conflicts:  women, girls, but also sometimes vulnerable boys and men.

Oana Lungescu:  Deutsche Welle.

Question (Deutsche Welle):  What do you expect from NATO in terms, how can they contribute in your fight against sexual violence and if I may your initiative has potential to fight, to bring justice, to bring perpetrators to justice but at the same time human rights activists are saying that, for example, the response to the Rohingya crisis was quite slow.  Do you expect that in combination with NATO, for example, in a more broader field that can be more effectively your work on the ground? Thank you.

Angelina Jolie:  Thank you very much for your question.  I am very concerned about the Rohingya.  I am very angry that the response internationally has been lacking.  I am very concerned about the stories of the ten year old girls who are being raped and there is a lot of discussion, there is maybe too much discussion and very, very little action and we see this is all too often the case these days.

So yes, it’s one of the reasons I am here. I have been working with UNHCR.  I then started prevention of sexual violence initiative in the United Kingdom five years ago. 

We have seen … you know we are pushing different countries.  We have 157 countries now signed up and what they are expected to do if they sign up and there are very particular things; they need to do things that need to be changed, commitments made.  There’s new practice on the ground, new training of peacekeepers, new training of soldiers, new training of these … all of these things because really this has to be done in a very comprehensive way - these answers for these people.

For me, I am like all of you, I am quite overwhelmed.  We have 65 million people displaced in the world; we have many ongoing conflicts.

We have very, very little examples of real active diplomacy making changes or peace agreements being met that are making a difference to civilians on the ground.

Very concerned about Syria, just came back from Jordan.

Yes, I am here because I believe that when you come, especially at this time, we need those who are, who have the capacity to make change to be focused on the right things and doing the right things and there is in all of the countries within NATO and all of their outreach and all of their efforts and all of, you know on the ground, they, if they are activated and focused even further in this direction they can make a change and it’s a choice and I was …I have been speaking to many different people, many different leaders on these issues. I cannot tell you what it meant when I first spoke to the Secretary General and found his really true commitment to this issue and to push on the other countries to do more which will then push on those in the field which will then get to the civilians into the field.  But I think on their anger for example; I think we should all … you know - in many countries around the world, many crises, we should all be quite … you know - hang our heads in how little we have been able to do for them.

Question (VRT News):   To the special envoy, where do you keep finding the inspiration to do what you do and in this special case on gender-based violence? And Mr Secretary General, how important is the commitment of Mrs Jolie in this?

Angelina Jolie:  Well, it really is my honour.  I have met with victims of sexual violence, male and female, young and old, around the world and when I meet them I wish that I could put a camera to them and I wish the world could hear their voices and they could speak for themselves.  They have taught me so much about resilience and about life and so the least I can do, and really it is my honour, is to be able to be a voice on occasion for them and try to fight for them to have the support and protections that they deserve. You know, this is something I think every one of us standing here, I don’t need to convince you; this fight for equality. Somebody said the other day about giving women their rights.  You don’t give it to them, they have it, they are born with their rights. This is something that they - every women, every girl, was born with her human rights and we must protect them and fight for them.  So it’s a pleasure.

Jens Stoltenberg:  For NATO it’s very important that we now are stepping up our efforts to address sexual violence in conflicts and the cooperation with Special Envoy Jolie is something we value very much because she has a lot of experience; she has a lot of knowledge.  She worked with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for many, many years so she has travelled; she has seen; she has experienced what this is about - how vulnerable people are in armed conflicts, especially women and girls.  And all that experience, all that knowledge is important when NATO now is stepping up our efforts and she can also help us increase awareness, and as I said, awareness is important because by more awareness these issues are high on the political agenda and that will trigger action.

So words are important, awareness is important because that’s the first step towards action.

So I am really grateful for her commitment to work together with us, and this is important for NATO but the most important thing - it’s important for vulnerable girls, people, refugees in armed conflicts which can get more protection and more help when NATO now is stepping up our efforts together with the Special Envoy Jolie.

Oana Lungescu:   Thank you very much.  This concludes this press point.