NATO Statement in the UN Security Council on conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence
I thank you for the opportunity to address the Security Council as the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security. And thank you to briefers for their powerful interventions.
This year NATO celebrates its 70th anniversary which provides an opportunity to reflect on our achievements, but also to look to the future. NATO’s core mission over the last seventy years has been to closely safeguard the fundamental rights of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law; themes that resonate so clearly with the Women, Peace and Security agenda and which underscore our work on protection of civilians.
The adoption of the Women, Peace and Security resolutions and the work by this Council has established a new course in understanding and responding to the grievous, systematic sexual abuse of women and girls, in and around conflict. Awareness that conflict related sexual violence not only affects women and girls, but entire communities, is now entrenched in our collective thinking.
The elevation of sexual violence as an international peace and security issue has led to an increased expectation that actors, including NATO, take a more prominent role in addressing sexual violence.
Last year NATO Heads of State and Governments endorsed a new Women, Peace and Security Policy and Action Plan introducing our guiding principles on WPS - integration inclusiveness and, integrity. These collective principles provide a connective tissue between security, stability and protective environments, and frame our approach to protection through the kaleidoscope of WPS.
There can be no protection without participation, because, at its root sexual violence is a gendered issue.
Sexual violence stems from fundamental gender inequalities. Focussing on solely protective and preventative solutions is limited and insufficient. To effectively address sexual violence, we must address and dismantle all obstacles that impede women’s full participation in peace and security.
Combatting sexual violence in conflict and focusing on operationally effective responses to this appalling abuse of women and girls is critical. However, it should not take place at the expense of supporting the empowerment of women.
The long-term destructive nature of CRSV as well as its effect on entire communities continues to pose significant threats to global peace and security. For NATO this has become central to our efforts to protect civilians in all our missions and operations.
In Afghanistan, we are working closely with the Ministries of the Interior and Defence to improve their efforts to tackle sexual violence. Our work is helping to increase the awareness of the Afghan authorities and bolster their efforts to identify and investigate acts of sexual violence. We are also working to find better ways to identify and report on instances of conflict-related sexual violence – important work that will feed into how we tackle these issues in other NATO-led operations and missions.
In Kosovo, the NATO led Kosovo Force is focusing on community outreach and ensuring that the Kosovar population understands NATO’s role in combatting conflict-related sexual violence and how we can assist. The KFOR Commander recently spoke out encouraging actors to work together to support victims and survivors, and underlining the need to focus on prevention.
In Iraq, we are working with the Military Medical School to increase awareness of conflict-related sexual violence, with a particular focus on providing advice to medical personnel on how to work with victims and survivors, and how to put effective prevention strategies into action.
Finally, at NATO’s headquarters, we are developing a new handbook for commanders and operational planners, as a reference tool for critical thinking and decision making in military crisis situations, and to guide them as they put in place the actions required to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence..
However, despite our best efforts, despite the plethora of attention, despite the resolutions, commitments, endorsements and financing – women constantly remain at risk and subject to heinous brutality around the world.
While the Alliance has long held the WPS principles as an innate element of our core tasks, on this 70th anniversary year we pledge to do even more to address conflict-related sexual violence within our operational mandates and continue, wherever we are deployed, to create the conditions for security that will allow women and girls to live free from abuse and violence. Only in this way we will fulfill our international obligations to prevent the threat of violence and protect those most in need.
Ultimately in tackling sexual violence against women and girls, we do more than help individual victims; we set a tone for the respect for fundamental dignities and human rights. By doing this we can lay a foundation for lasting stability.