Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

By Alex Paul

Editor’s Note: This blog post is intended to provide WIIS members and others with a summary of the outcomes and key statements of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

WIIS would more than welcome blog posts by any of its members that examine the outcomes of the Summit and whether they believe the event will mark a turning point in the battle to end sexual violence in conflict once and for all.

“The greatest strategic prize for our century is the full social, political and economic empowerment of women everywhere” declared William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, at the end of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict last week.

Helping the “thousands of people living in the shadow of sexual violence at this very moment” and who are suffering as a result of “conflicts where rape is openly incited” is one of the greatest challenges to realizing this goal, warned Angelina Jolie, UN Special Envoy at the three-day event in London.

But in order to “banish sexual violence to the dark ages where it belongs” the international community must establish “new norms that respect women, girls, men, and boys” warned John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State. Once the new norms exist, holding “those who commit these acts and those who condone them accountable” will become much more possible, he told audience members representing over 120 countries.

Four keys areas for change were focused on at the Summit. They were the improved accountability for sexual violence crimes; greater support for survivors of sexual violence; full integration of sexual and gender-based violence responses and promotion of gender equality into all security sector reforms and training programs; and improved international cooperation.

Participants at the Summit agreed to fund UN and NGO efforts to assist survivors and called for all states to redouble their efforts on implementing their obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions.

However, the biggest outcome of the Summit was the launch of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, intended as a tool to support existing efforts by civil society groups, human rights lawyers and international justice forums to “document sexual violence as a crime under international law.”

Reporting and recording conclusive evidence of sexual violence in conflicts is a difficult process to get right. All too often, the failure to collect evidence hinders the successful prosecution of those guilty of such war crimes and creating a culture of impunity around sexual violence in conflict. The Protocol aims to destroy impunity by ensuring that evidence gathered during and after conflict is robust enough to successfully assist in future efforts to hold the perpetrators to account.

The Summit also saw the UK release its third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, in line with its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1325. Through a focus on five distinct outcomes, the Plan commits the UK to “pursue visible change for girls and women affected by conflict when building peace.”

The Plan highlights six countries, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma and Syria, where the UK will concentrate its efforts and confirms that an Implementation Plan, containing baseline data on the key indicators within the National Action Plan, will be published by the end of 2014.

Nevertheless, some criticized the Summit for focusing too much on policymakers, arguing that “all too often survivors’ voices are absent” from these debates, calling it “the missing link in the struggle to end rape and gender violence in conflict.” The Survivors Action Network was launched in response, with its first event on the sidelines of the Summit being attended by survivors, four Nobel Peace Prize winners and the foreign ministers of Norway and the Netherlands.

Other headlines from the summit:

U.N. Secretary General: “We have the tools, political momentum and clarity of purpose to turn the tide”

Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence in Conflict (U.S. Department of State fact sheet)

How do we end sexual violence in conflict? – interactive

Official website for the Summit

Must-read: Acting Time; Or, Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. More critical look at the outcomes discussed above.

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Alex Paul is a WIIS Program Assistant. He has just completed a Masters’ in International Relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New York. His research focuses on security provision and reform in post-conflict states.