UN Security Council Calls for End to Sexual Violence Against Civilians in Conflict Zones
Friday, June 20, 2008 9:27 AM

Security Council

5916th Meeting (AM & PM)


Caps Day-Long Ministerial-Level Debate on “Women, Peace and Security,” Calls on Secretary-General to Report on Text’s Implementation by 30 June 2009

The Security Council today demanded the “immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians,” expressing its deep concern that, despite repeated condemnation, violence and sexual abuse of women and children trapped in war zones was not only continuing, but, in some cases, had become so widespread and systematic as to “reach appalling levels of brutality”.

Capping a day-long ministerial-level meeting on “women, peace and security”, the 15-member Council unanimously adopted resolution 1820 (2008), which noted that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”.  It also affirmed the Council’s intention, when establishing and renewing State-specific sanction regimes, to consider imposing “targeted and graduated” measures against warring factions who committed rape and other forms of violence against women and girls.

The resolution also noted that women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including in some cases as “a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group”.  Stressing that such violence could significantly exacerbate conflicts and impede peace processes, the text affirmed the Council’s readiness to, where necessary, adopt steps to address systematic sexual violence deliberately targeting civilians, or as a part of a widespread campaign against civilian populations.

Further to the text, the Council demanded that all parties to armed conflict take immediate and appropriate measures to protect civilians, including by, among others, enforcing appropriate military disciplinary measures and upholding the principle of command responsibility; training troops on the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence against civilians; debunking myths that fuel sexual violence; and vetting armed and security forces to take into account past sexual violence.

The text made several key requests of the Secretary-General, including that he submit by 30 June 2009 a report on implementation of the resolution that would include, among other things, information on conflict situations in which sexual violence was widely or systematically employed against civilians; and proposals aimed at minimizing the susceptibility of women and girls to such violence.  It also requested him to develop effective guidelines and strategies to enhance the ability of relevant United Nations peacekeeping operations to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence.

Chairing the debate on behalf of the United States, which holds the Security Council presidency for the month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that there had long been dispute about whether sexual violence against women in conflict was an issue the Council was authorized to address.  “I am proud that, today, we respond to that lingering question with a resounding ‘yes!’,” she said, adding that the world body was acknowledging that such violence was indeed a security concern.  “We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women, but the economic and social stability of their nations,” she said.

In his opening remarks to the meeting, which came eight years after the Council had adopted its landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that an increasing and alarming number of women and girls were falling victim to sexual violence in conflict and that the problem had reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from it.  “But we can and must push back.”  He announced plans to shortly appoint a Messenger of Peace tasked entirely with advocacy for ending violence against women.  He also urged the Council to adopt resolutions with strong language on sexual and gender-based violence, so that “the UN can respond more forcefully”.

“We must do far more to involve women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and recovery after the guns fall silent,” he said, stressing that he needed Member States to come forward with more women candidates.  Referring to the all-female Indian civil police unit in the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as a possible model, he said that, when Member States send qualified personnel, the United Nations could demonstrate the central role of women in restoring stability to war-ravaged countries.

On the issue of Untied Nations operations, the Secretary-General said: “Let me be clear; the United Nations and I personally are profoundly committed to a zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse by our own personnel.”  By creating a culture that punished violence and elevated women to their rightful role, “we can lay the foundation for lasting stability, where women are not victims of violence, but agents of peace”, he added.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro also addressed the meeting, which featured the participation of nearly 60 speakers, saying that sexual violence had not only grave physical and psychological health consequences for its victims, but also direct social consequences for communities and entire societies.  “Impunity for sexual violence committed during conflict perpetuates a tolerance of abuse against women and girls and leaves a damaging legacy by hindering national reconciliation,” she said.

Ms. Migiro added that tackling this complex problem on all fronts would require the combined effort of all, including Governments, the United Nations system, as well as civil society and non-governmental organizations.  She called women “one of our greatest assets” in the fight against such horrific crimes.  “If we promote the full and equal participation of women in the security sector, we can ensure that security services effectively identify and respond to their needs,” she added.

Echoing that sentiment, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said that women must be assured equal and full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes, and represented in the structures and institutions realized from any peace dividend to ensure that it lasted.

He also noted that, while both the Assembly and the Council had adopted groundbreaking resolutions on the issue, stronger and more coordinated efforts were needed to address sexual violence against women.  “Clearly, we all have to do more to prevent human rights violations against women and girls in situations of armed conflict, do more to punish the perpetrators and end the impunity of war crimes violators,” he said.

Among the other high-level speakers today, Olubanke King-Akerele, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said the issue before the Council was of the utmost seriousness, and the powerful 15-member body and the wider international community must step up efforts to address that grave abuse of dignity and human rights.  Much remained to be done to ensure broad implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), which needed accountability, measurement and benchmarks.  And, it needed focal points within the United Nations system to follow-up on its implementation at national levels.  To address those shortcomings, she suggested mechanisms similar to those included in Security Council resolutions on “children and armed conflict”.

Retired Major General Patrick Cammart, Former Division Commander of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), said that the current climate of impunity in most post-conflict contexts allowed the many forms of violence, including sexual violence, to flourish.  Further, the political will to end the vicious cycle of impunity did not exist.  That being the case, impunity remained a serious impediment for the prevention of sexual violence.  “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict,” he said.

“You are the UN, you play an important role to ensure that the UN and the international community continue to intensify actions to end violence against women and girls,” he said, adding that everyone understood how many important issues were before the Council at any given moment, each needing great care and attention.  But, women and girls were suffering.  “You have the responsibility to protect them and to take real and effective measures to put an end to this,” he said.

Also participating in the debate were the Vice-Prime Minister of Croatia, and the Foreign Ministers of South Africa and Burkina Faso.

They were joined by senior ministers and Government officials from the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Italy, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Also speaking were the representatives of China, Libya, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Panama, Russian Federation, Japan (in his capacity and as Chairperson of the Peacebuilding Commission), Liechtenstein, Ghana, Slovenia (on behalf of the European Union), Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Israel, Iceland (also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), Nigeria, Brazil, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Ecuador, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Austria, Argentina, Colombia, United Republic of Tanzania, Germany, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Rwanda, Philippines, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Tonga (on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Myanmar, Tunisia, Benin, Mauritania and San Marino.

The Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union also addressed the debate.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and was suspended at 1:15 p.m.  The Council reconvened at 3:10 p.m. and ended its meeting at 6:55 p.m.

The full text of resolution 1820 (2008) reads as follows:

The Security Council,

Reaffirming its commitment to the continuing and full implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), 1612 (2005) and 1674 (2006) and recalling the statements of its president of 31 October 2001 (Security Council/PRST/2001/31), 31 October 2002 (Security Council/PRST/2002/32), 28 October 2004 (Security Council/PRST/2004/40), 27 October 2005 (Security Council/PRST/2005/52), 8 November 2006 (Security Council/PRST/2006/42), 7 March 2007 (Security Council/PRST/2007/5), and 24 October 2007 (Security Council/PRST/2007/40);

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Reaffirming also the resolve expressed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, including by ending impunity and by ensuring the protection of civilians, in particular women and girls, during and after armed conflicts, in accordance with the obligations States have undertaken under international humanitarian law and international human rights law;

Recalling the commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (A/52/231) as well as those contained in the outcome document of the twenty-third Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century” (A/S-23/10/Rev.1), in particular those concerning sexual violence and women in situations of armed conflict;

Reaffirming also the obligations of States Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Optional Protocol thereto, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols thereto, and urging states that have not yet done so to consider ratifying or acceding to them,

Noting that civilians account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict; that women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instil fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilianmembers of a community or ethnic group; and that sexual violence perpetrated in this manner may in some instancespersist after the cessation of hostilities;

Recalling its condemnation in the strongest terms ofall sexual and other forms of violence committed against civilians in armed conflict, in particular women and children;

Reiterating deep concern that, despite its repeated condemnation of violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict, including sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, and despite its calls addressed to all parties to armed conflict for the cessation of such acts with immediate effect, such acts continue to occur, and in some situations have become systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels ofbrutality,

Recalling the inclusion of a range of sexual violence offences in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the statutes of the ad hoc international criminal tribunals,

Reaffirming the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peacebuilding, and stressing the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution,

Deeply concerned also about the persistent obstacles and challenges to women’s participation and full involvement in the prevention and resolution of conflicts as a result of violence, intimidation and discrimination, which erode women’s capacity and legitimacy to participate in post-conflict public life, and acknowledging the negative impact this has on durable peace, security and reconciliation, including post-conflict peacebuilding,

Recognizing that States bear primary responsibility to respect and ensure the human rights of their citizens, as well as all individuals within their territory as provided for by relevant international law,

Reaffirming that parties to armed conflict bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of affected civilians,

Welcoming the ongoing coordination of efforts within the United Nations system, marked by the inter-agency initiative “United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict,” to create awareness about sexual violence in armed conflicts and post-conflict situations and, ultimately, to put an end to it,

“1.   Stresses that sexual violence, when used or commissioned as a tactic of war in order to deliberately target civilians or as a part of a widespread or systematic attack against civilian populations, can significantly exacerbate situations of armed conflict and may impede the restoration of international peace and security, affirms in this regard that effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts of sexual violence can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, and expresses its readiness, when considering situations on the agenda of the Council, to, where necessary, adopt appropriate steps to address widespread or systematic sexual violence;

“2.   Demands the immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians with immediate effect;

“3.   Demands that all parties to armed conflict immediately take appropriate measures to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence, which could include, inter alia, enforcing appropriate military disciplinary measures and upholding the principle of command responsibility, training troops on the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence against civilians, debunking myths that fuel sexual violence, vetting armed and security forces to take into account past actions of rape and other forms of sexual violence,and evacuation of women and children under imminent threat of sexual violence to safety; and requests the Secretary-General, where appropriate, to encourage dialogue to address this issuein the context of broader discussions of conflict resolution between appropriate UN officials and the parties to the conflict, taking into account, inter alia, the views expressed by women of affected local communities;

“4.   Notes that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, stresses the need for the exclusion of sexual violence crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes, and calls upon Member States to comply with their obligations for prosecuting persons responsible for such acts, to ensure that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice, and stresses the importance of ending impunity for such acts as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking sustainable peace, justice, truth, and national reconciliation;

“5.   Affirms its intention, when establishing and renewing state-specific sanctions regimes, to take into consideration the appropriateness of targeted and graduated measures against parties to situations of armed conflict who commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls in situations of armed conflict;

“6.   Requests the Secretary-General, in consultation with the Security Council, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations and its Working Group and relevant States, as appropriate, to develop and implement appropriate training programs for all peacekeeping and humanitarianpersonnel deployed by the United Nations in the context of missions as mandated by the Councilto help them better prevent, recognize and respond to sexual violence and other forms of violence against civilians;

“7.   Requests the Secretary-General to continue and strengthen efforts to implement the policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations peacekeeping operations; and urges troop and police contributing countries to take appropriate preventative action, including pre-deployment and in-theatre awareness training, and other action to ensure full accountability in cases of such conduct involving their personnel;

“8.   Encourages troop and police contributing countries, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to consider steps they could take to heighten awareness and the responsiveness of their personnel participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations to protect civilians, including women and children, and prevent sexual violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations, including wherever possible the deployment of a higher percentage of women peacekeepers or police;

“9.   Requests the Secretary-General to develop effective guidelines and strategies to enhance the ability of relevant United Nations peacekeeping operations, consistent with their mandates, to protect civilians, including women and girls, from all forms of sexual violence and to systematically include in his written reports to the Council on conflict situations his observations concerning the protection of women and girls and recommendations in this regard;

“10. Requests the Secretary-General and relevant United Nations agencies, inter alia, through consultation with women and women-led organizations as appropriate,to develop effective mechanisms for providing protection from violence, including in particular sexual violence, to women and girls in and around United Nations managed refugee and internally displaced persons camps, as well as in all disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration processes, and in justice andsecurity sector reform efforts assisted by the United Nations;

“11.  Stresses the important role the Peacebuilding Commission can play by including in its advice and recommendations for post-conflict peacebuilding strategies, where appropriate, ways to address sexual violence committed during and in the aftermath of armed conflict, and in ensuring consultation and effective representation of women’s civil society in its country-specific configurations, as part of its wider approach to gender issues;

“12.  Urges the Secretary-General and his Special Envoys to invite women to participate in discussions pertinent to the prevention and resolution of conflict, the maintenance of peace and security, and post-conflict peacebuilding, and encourages all parties to such talks to facilitate the equal and full participation of women at decision-making levels;

“13.  Urges all parties concerned, including Member States, United Nations entities and financial institutions, to support the development and strengthening of the capacities of national institutions, in particular of judicial and health systems, and of local civil society networks in order to provide sustainable assistance to victims of sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations;

“14.  Urges appropriate regional and sub-regional bodies in particular to consider developing and implementing policies, activities, and advocacy for the benefit of women and girls affected by sexual violence in armed conflict;

“15.  Also requests the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Council by 30 June 2009 on the implementation of this resolution in the context of situations which are on the agenda of the Council, utilizing information from available United Nations sources, including country teams, peacekeeping operations, and other United Nations personnel, which would include, inter alia, information on situations of armed conflict in which sexual violence has been widely or systematically employed against civilians; analysis of the prevalence and trends of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict; proposals for strategies to minimize the susceptibility of women and girls to such violence; benchmarks for measuring progress in preventing and addressing sexual violence; appropriate input from United Nations implementing partners in the field; information on his plans for facilitating the collection of timely, objective, accurate, and reliable information on the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, including through improved coordination of United Nations activities on the ground and at Headquarters; and information on actions taken by parties to armed conflict to implement their responsibilities as described in this resolution, in particular by immediately and completely ceasing all acts of sexual violence and in taking appropriate measures to protect women and girls from all forms of sexual violence;

“16.  Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”


The Security Council met today to hold a ministerial-level meeting on “women, peace and security”.

Opening Statements

Opening the meeting, CONDOLEEZZA RICE, Secretary of State of the United States, which holds the Council presidency for the month, said that when looking at the issue, she had realized that, in the 60 years of the history of the United Nations, only 7 women had held the post of Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  She was pleased that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had stepped up to address that issue, and now Margrethe Løj of Denmark was the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Ms. Rice said that rape and sexual violence as instruments of warfare were crimes that could never be condoned.  Yet, women and girls around the world were subjected to such violence.  There had long been a debate about whether that was an issue that should be debated by the Security Council, but the broad and high-level participation in today’s meeting sent the international community the message that the answer was a resounding “Yes!”.  The Council today would affirm that sexual violence against women not only affected the safety of women, but the economic situation and security of their nations.  The resolution the Council was set to adopt, would, among other things, request Secretary-General Ban to prepare an action plan for collection of information on rape and sexual violence against women and to report periodically to the Council.

She went on to say that sexual violence against women was taking place around the world.  The international community already knew that in Burma, soldiers regularly raped women and girls as young as 8 years old.  She added that, instead of being allowed to take office as President of the country, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was marking her birthday under arrest.  The international community must use this opportunity to consider the situation of all women living under oppression.  The United States was concerned about the issue of women and sexual violence across the globe, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sudan and many other countries.

The international community also had a special responsibility to expose perpetrators of such violence who were representatives of international organizations.  To that end, all nations had been troubled by reports of sexual abuse by peacekeepers and by staff at UNMIL.  It was encouraging that steps had been taken to address that specific case, and one perpetrator was serving a sentence, while others were under investigation.  She added that Member States were responsible for holding troops accountable.

Overall, the international community must bolster efforts to protect women from all forms of abuse.  To that end, the United States had taken steps to provide resources to end sexual violence against women in Darfur.  Worldwide, it had provided some $528 million over the past seven years to end human trafficking, another grave abuse of human dignity that was all too often inflicted on women and girls, often in conflict situations.  She said that the truest and best test of the will of the international community was the efforts it took to protect and provide justice for its most vulnerable.  “When women and girls are raped, we cannot be silent […] we must be their advocates,” she declared, thanking all delegations for their participation and dedication to the issue.

BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said it was critical that the Council lend its full attention to the issue of women, peace and security.  Almost eight years after the Council had adopted its landmark resolution 1325 (2000), an increasing and alarming number of women and girls were falling victim to sexual violence in conflict.  Sexual violence posed a grave threat to women’s security in fragile post-conflict countries and undermined efforts to cement peace.  It struck women who were already struggling to survive and keep their families together in a generalized climate of fear.  The breakdown of law and order made women all the more vulnerable to attacks and left them with virtually no recourse to justice.

Survivors were often so badly stigmatized that they could hardly even hope for a normal life, he said.  Outcast by their societies, they rarely sought redress.  Even when they did have the courage to come forward, the justice systems too often failed and the perpetrators ran free, feeding a culture of impunity that did nothing to discourage more attacks.  However, the world could and must push back.  In March, he said, he had launched a global campaign to end violence against women that aimed to tackle all manifestations, including the abominable practice of sexual violence in armed conflict.  Soon, he would appoint a Messenger of Peace tasked entirely with advocacy for ending violence against women.

United Nations peace missions worldwide were making a difference by monitoring the problem, helping the victims and advocating an end to impunity, he said.  UNMIL had built a safe house for survivors and victims of sexual and gender-based violence.  In Haiti, peacekeepers were organizing meetings on women's rights for members of the judiciary and police.  The United Nations Rule of Law Unit in Afghanistan was helping that country draft legislation to eliminate violence against women.  The United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) had created a special unit to ensure that victims received help when they sought justice.  All of those initiatives were based on Council mandates.  Resolutions with strong language on sexual and gender-based violence enabled the United Nations to respond more forcefully, he said, adding: “Let us ensure that all future mandates have clear provisions on protecting women and children in conflicts.”

When the Council authorized multidisciplinary missions, results could be produced, he said.  When Member States sent the United Nations qualified female personnel, it could demonstrate the central role of women in restoring stability to war-ravaged countries.  The concept paper before the Council cited the all-female Indian civil police unit in Liberia as a possible model.  “I believe this successful initiative serves as an excellent example of the unique contribution that female personnel can make,” he said.  Through their sheer presence, the members of that Indian contingent were showing Liberian women that they, too, could play a role in law enforcement.  “We have the numbers to prove it: since the female blue berets first deployed, there has been a marked increase in the number of women applying for jobs with the Liberian police,” he said.

“I am eager to deploy more women worldwide, not just as police, military and civilian personnel, but also at the highest levels of mission leadership,” he continued.  “And here is where I need Member States to come forward with more women candidates.  Send me your female troops, your police, your civilian personnel and your senior diplomats, and I will ensure that they are all considered; that qualified candidates are rostered; and that the maximum number is deployed to the field as quickly as humanly possible.”

The troop-contributing countries were already moving in that direction, he said.  He urged Member States to do more to provide predeployment training for preventing and responding to sexual violence.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations was revising its standardized materials on that subject, and the United Nations looked to troop-contributing countries to help ensure that its own personnel were part of the solution, not the problem.

“Let me be clear: the United Nations, and I personally, are profoundly committed to a zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation or abuse by our own personnel,” he said.  That meant zero complacency.  When it received credible allegations, the United Nations ensured that they were looked into fully.  It also meant zero impunity.  When allegations were found to have merit, all personnel -- whether military, police or civilians -- were held accountable based on applicable national jurisdictions.  “I will strengthen the current code of conduct by upholding the strictest discipline, whereby not only the individual concerned, but also supervisors up the chain of command, are held accountable in a system of collective responsibility,” he said.

Violence against women had reached unspeakable and pandemic proportions in some societies attempting to recover from conflict, he said.  Responding to that silent war against women and girls required leadership at the national level.  National authorities needed to take the initiative to build comprehensive strategies, while the United Nations needed to help build capacity and support national authorities and civil society.

Responding to calls from women's groups, rape survivors and non-governmental organizations, a dozen United Nations entities were working together in a concerted effort called United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, he said.  The initiative brought together experts on issues like peacekeeping, development, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, human rights, humanitarian relief and gender concerns to help stop rape and other sexual crimes in conflict-torn countries.

“We know what it takes for a strategy to succeed,” he said.  “It takes awareness-raising.  It takes effective security measures, including training for national military and police forces.  It takes close monitoring of human rights.  And it requires prosecuting all perpetrators to the full extent of the law.”

At the same time, the problem must be viewed in the broader context of women's empowerment, he said.  That meant revising not only laws dealing with violence, but also those that affected women's rights with respect to other issues, like property, inheritance or divorce.  “And it means creating conditions where justice can flourish -- because the best laws in the world will mean little if they are not enforced through a strong judicial and penal system,” he said.

“Above all, we must do far more to involve women in conflict prevention, peace negotiations and recovery after the guns fall silent,” he said.  More women must participate in searching for justice, in fostering reconciliation, in supporting disarmament and demobilization, and in shaping development policies and rebuilding institutions.  “By creating a culture that punishes violence and elevates women to their rightful role, we can lay the foundation for lasting stability, where women are not victims of violence, but agents of peace,” he said.

OLUBANKE KING-AKERELE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said she brought news from her country, where the Government and people were working hard at consolidating, nurturing and sustaining hard-earned peace.  She expressed deep appreciation to the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and bilateral partners for standing by her country during its darkest hours, and even today.

The issue before the Council was of the utmost seriousness and the powerful 15-member body and the wider international community must step up efforts to address that grave abuse of dignity and human rights.  Much remained to be done to ensure broad implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  The resolution needed accountability.  It needed measurement.  It needed benchmarks. And, it needed focal points within the United Nations system to follow-up on its implementation at national levels.  To address those shortcomings, she suggested mechanisms similar to those included in Security Council resolutions on “children and armed conflict”.

She went on to say that the majority of reported rape cases involved children under the age of 18.  Assessments carried out in Liberia and elsewhere had revealed that many such acts were embedded in cultural beliefs and practices “that will have to go”.  In Liberia, the Government had taken significant steps to address increasing incidents of gender-based violence.  President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had recently sounded the alarm that incidents of rape continued in the country at an alarming rate.  She had declared, among other things, that Liberia must persecute such criminals without mercy, name and shame them and help parents expose them.

The Liberian Government had recently signed a two-year joint programme with the United Nations to address the problem in the country through multidimensional approaches, she said.  The country would need funding to get that project up and running.  Further, a rape law had been adopted two years ago.  With the support of the United Nations, Liberia would soon have a special court to address the issue, which would no doubt help deal with the backlog of such cases.  The country was working assiduously to eradicate the scourge, but serious challenges existed in ensuring the rule of law and fighting against impunity.  In that respect, she believed that Liberia was a microcosm of conflict and post-conflict environments.

She reiterated her call for the fundamental changes needed to ensure that resolution 1325 (2000) was translated into effective worldwide action.  She suggested identifying constraints, setting up partnerships and boosting funding.  Finally, she thanked Secretary-General Ban for fielding a woman Special Representative to head UNMIL, adding that Liberia was building on the deployment of the all-women Indian police unit to train women peacekeepers to serve around the world.

The President of the General Assembly, SRGJAN KERIM, said the Assembly’s thematic debate on human security in May had shown the importance Member States ascribed to the integration of human security perspectives into the Organization’s peace and security work.  Comprehensive, integrated and people-centred solutions at the crossroads between security, development and human rights must be at the heart of efforts to fight gender-based crimes against women and girls in conflict situations.

Clearly, he said, more must be done to prevent human-rights violations against women and girls in armed conflict.  More also had to be done to punish perpetrators of such war crimes and to end the impunity of violators.  Armed conflict had a disproportionately negative impact on women.  Sexual violence against women was not only an affront to human dignity, but an inherent and grave threat to human security.  When it was authorized and perpetrated as an instrument of war, its “utter indecency” was beyond expression.

He said the Assembly’s recent high-level debate on human trafficking had considered aspects of sexual violence against women and girls.  The discussions had shown that human trafficking for sexual exploitation was often intrinsically linked with conflict situations.  Also, human trafficking thrived on conflict, poverty and discrimination.  More must be done to put the existing normative framework into practice globally.

Finally, he said it was clear that by working together, the Assembly and Council could effectively tackle issues that spanned security and human rights.  Further, when the two took a principled stand on cross-cutting issues such as sexual violence in armed conflict situations, the overall effectiveness and credibility of the United Nations was strengthened.

ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said the United Nations had been working vigorously to prevent sexual violence in conflict.  Last month, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, on behalf of United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, had hosted a high-level conference on the role of military peacekeepers and others in responding to that scourge.  A number ex-Force Commanders participating in the conference had conceded that more must be done to protect women and children from widespread and systematic sexual violence in conflict situations.  Measures were being taken by the United Nations, conscious of the challenge it faced in addressing the problem.

The conference had agreed that the credibility of peacekeeping operations ought to be measured by how successfully they were in that respect, she said.  And it had reached broad agreement on the fact that the profound insecurity perpetuated by sexual violence must be addressed at the political and tactical levels.   The Security Council’s adoption in 2000 of resolution 1325 demonstrated that sexual violence was not just a gender issue; it was a fundamental security concern.

She said that, when the Council had renewed the mandate of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) last December, it adopted strong language setting a precedent for requiring specific responses to -- and reporting on -- sexual violence.  That Mission had responded with a number of actions, including “Operation Night Flash”, which involved peacekeepers driving deep into the bush with headlights on to signal their presence to would-be bandits and rapists.  And MONUC was attempting to tackle impunity by working with judicial and political authorities to remove obstacles to prosecution of high-level officers serving with the Congolese Armed Forces.

Gender units in most peacekeeping operations were working with key stakeholders, including uniformed peacekeeping personnel, national authorities, women’s organizations and other sectors of civil society to combat sexual gender-based violence, she continued.  For example, MONUC, the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) were working closely with national authorities to tackle gaps in the justice system for victims of sexual violence.  UNMIL was giving strong technical and logistical support to the Liberian Government’s Anti-Rape Campaign.  The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had established a mission-wide task force to evolve an integrated approach for responding to sexual violence.  UNMIL and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) were just two missions that had supported the development of national action plans to address gender-based violence and to implement resolution 1325, respectively.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was undertaking numerous measures as well, including monitoring, investigating and documenting sexual and gender-based violence as a human rights issue, she said.  It had established a data-collection mechanism on sexual and gender-based violence in Nepal; provided technical assistance to the Haitian Government on reform of rape and domestic violence laws; partnered with UNIFEM and Government ministries to establish victim support services and a consolidated data base on the problem in Afghanistan; and built Government capacity for police collection of forensic evidence on rape cases in Uganda.

Those critical activities were part of broader efforts to change attitudes about sexual and gender-based violence, she said.  That would require re-evaluation of cultural practices and judicial systems to ensure that they were fully inclusive and guaranteed the protection of women against all forms of abuse.  Sexual violence not only had grave physical, psychological and health consequences for its victims, it also had direct social consequences for communities and entire societies.  Impunity for sexual violence committed during conflict perpetuated a tolerance of abuse against women and girls, and left a damaging legacy by hindering national reconciliation.  Tackling that problem on all fronts would require the combined effort of all, including Governments, the United Nations system, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations.  “In this regard, one of our greatest assets are women themselves,” she said.  “If we promote the full and equal participation of women in the security sector, we can ensure that security services effectively identify and respond to their needs.”

Major General PATRICK CAMMART, Former Division Commander of MONUC, said he had retired last year after 39 years of service.  During that time, he had seen violence and abuse against women and girls used as a potent tool of war.  Armed groups persecuted communities by dehumanizing women and girls, which was considered an attack against the values or honour of a society.  Even when conflict formally ended and United Nations peacekeepers had been deployed, women and girls continued to be targeted.

“The current climate of impunity in most post-conflict contexts allows the many forms of violence, including sexual violence, to flourish,” he said, adding that, often, the political will to end the vicious cycle of impunity did not exist.  That being the case, impunity remained a serious impediment for the prevention of sexual violence.  It had, therefore, probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.  Testimonies of survivors of sexual violence revealed shocking brutality and many victims suffered grave long-term psychological and physical health consequences, including traumatic fistula and HIV.  Moreover, given the lack of adequate and responsive law enforcement, women in particular were reluctant to seek justice or file complaints against attackers.

He went on to say that, today, armed groups in Africa and elsewhere used sexual violence against women as a weapon of war, including through kidnapping, sexual slavery and forced prostitution.  Sexual violence must be seen as a threat to international peace and security, particularly in Africa.  The United Nations Security Council had a role to play in the struggle to protect women and girls.  The wider international community needed to continue, and step up, its campaigns to intensify global action.  Peacekeepers could play an important role in preventing such violence in conflict zones, he said, stressing that it was crucial for the Council to continue providing peacekeeping operations with mandates to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.  He added that the visible United Nations military presence on the ground had proven to be effective in preventing sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Darfur.

Further, United Nations peacekeeping forces must have clear mandates, sufficient robust armament and well-trained and equipped troops, he continued, adding that it was equally important for the Commanders of such troops to be willing to take swift decisions when the presence of armed groups was reported.  The deployment of female police and military personnel had also proven to be effective, he said, adding that a critical mass of women in peacekeeping missions could enhance confidence-building in the host community by presenting an organization that looked like a civilian society, rather than a military occupation force.  “Local women who already live in fear of men due to repeated sexual violence, often perpetrated by men in uniform, feel more confident talking to other women,” he said.

“You are the UN, you play an important role to ensure that the UN and the international community continue to intensify actions to end violence against women and girls,” he said, adding that everyone understood how many important issues were before the Council at any given moment, each needing great care and attention.  But women and girls were suffering.  “You have the responsibility to protect them and to take real and effective measures to put an end to this,” he said.


JADRANKA KOSOR, Minister of Family, Veterans’ Affairs and Intergenerational Solidarity of Croatia, said that, on her country’s territory, in the heart of Europe, rape had been used as a method of intimidation and terror during the aggression of the 1990s.  Those crimes must never escape the hand of justice, with the Hague court being the last recourse for the victims, and a reminder that there could be no tolerance for such heinous acts.

So far, however, the response of national communities in conflict areas to sexual violence had, unfortunately, been inadequate, she continued.  Well-planned preventive measures were needed, along with the participation of women in all stages of peacemaking and peacebuilding.  Women must also be given the possibility of being elected to political office.  However, efforts to engage women in decision-making would not succeed without ensuring their physical safety and economic security through social norms.  Due to a lack of such norms, many women human rights defenders worldwide had been assassinated.

Peacekeeping missions must have strong mandates that included the authorization to use force if necessary to protect civilians, she said.  In that context, she condemned all sexual exploitation by personnel in United Nations peacekeeping operations, saying Croatia had a zero-tolerance policy for such abuse in its peacekeeping contingents, and made a point of deploying women in a wide range of positions, either in the armed forces or as police.  In addition, it was committed to making progress on that issue in the Security Council, and was taking steps to integrate a gender perspective into national security policy.  It was also supporting a non-governmental organization project on women’s experience in the war and had, in 1992, hosted some 341,000 refugees from the regional conflict, 80 per cent of which were women, children and elderly.

NKOSAZANA C. DLAMINI ZUMA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Africa, said sexual violence was a war crime and a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack on a civilian population by State and non-State actors.  When the International Criminal Court had been created, South Africa had recommended that sexual violence be among the crimes referred to it, in order to combat impunity.  Despite those milestones, much work was still needed to support and protect women and girls in conflict and post-conflict societies.  Women and girls continued to make up a disproportionate number of victims in situations of armed conflict.  Survivors were traumatized, victimized and stigmatized just because they were women.  As a result, women were afraid to speak out about their ordeal or even to believe there could be any recourse for their suffering.  The silence around sexual violence in conflict situations must be broken.

During South Africa’s Council presidency in March 2007, the Council had adopted a presidential statement expressing the need for specific measures to ensure protection against sexual violence to put an end to impunity, he said.  Women were active agents of change and played a meaningful role in the recovery and reintegration of their families and communities.  Sexual violence in conflict situations was linked to gender inequality.  It was essential to advocate more strongly for women’s equal participation and full involvement in maintaining and promoting peace and security.  Member States must continually look at measures to strengthen full and effective implementation of resolution 1325, particularly by forming partnerships with civil society, the private sector and community-based organizations.  United Nations peacekeeping mandates must include clear guidelines for protecting civilians from sexual violence.  The security sector of conflict and post-conflict countries must be reformed to prevent and better respond to sexual violence, and personnel must have effective and sustainable gender training and capacity-building.

DJIBRILL YIPÈNÈ BASSOLE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, said that violence against women in conflict zones was persisting, despite the Council’s adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) and all other international efforts.  Women and girls were increasingly targets of some of the most abominable and inexcusable abuse and treatment.  The consequences of such violence were severe, including unwanted and early pregnancies, the spread of HIV/AIDS, psychological trauma -- and all of that was if they even survived the violence.

All that should lead the international community to realize that no effort should be spared to prevent conflict, he continued.  That could be achieved by ensuring that the rule of law was in place in all countries, that human rights were respected and protected, and all nations were assured social and economic sustainable development.  More resources should also be devoted to education and to integrating women into all levels of society, including in decision-making.  If all efforts failed to stop a conflict, international actors must be armed with the requisite information to address cases of sexual violence and abuse against women, as well as to prosecute perpetrators.

PATRICIA SCOTLAND, Attorney General for England and Wales of the United Kingdom, said that, today, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was spending another birthday under house arrest.  It was fitting to remember her when discussing women, peace and security, and to remember that many ordinary Burmese women had often borne the brunt of violence, persecution and economic depravation imposed on them by the military Government.  She called for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate release and for her to be allowed to play a full part in Burma’s political process.

Women and children suffered disproportionately in conflict, she continued.  Sexual violence was among the worst atrocities they faced and was increasingly used as a deliberate method of warfare.  It was now being used as a tool of warfare, rather than just a tragic by-product of conflict.  And it was taking place on a much larger scale than in the past.  The international community now better understood how sexual violence damaged prospects for post-conflict recovery, and it had within its reach the means to tackle the problem.

Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security and resolution 1674 on the protection of civilians had provided an important foundation, she continued.  Many nations, international organizations and non-governmental organizations were doing valuable work to tackle sexual violence.  But, sexual and gender-based violence was evolving.  The Council should show leadership by recognizing that widespread and systematic sexual violence could pose a threat to international peace and security; ensure women’s participation in all processes relevant to conflict resolution and peacebuilding; propose practical measures that parties to armed conflict could take to prevent the violence and bring perpetrators to justice; and require regular updates about sexual violence in situations of armed conflict in order to better understand how to prevent it.  The civilian populations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur, Somalia, Zimbabwe and elsewhere needed the Council’s continued efforts to tackle the growing scourge.

CHARLES MICHEL, Minister for Development Cooperation of Belgium, said it was important that Member States not be ashamed to discuss this issue or to express their disgust at the stories that were being recalled.   Belgium believed that sexual violence against women was an issue of international peace and security, and it was incumbent on all Member States to take up the fight at the highest political levels in their countries and beyond.  The international community must mobilize all its efforts to end conflict and end the practice of sexual violence as a weapon of war.

He said that, in and around conflict zones, families were being torn apart as their mothers and daughters were being “wounded to their very flesh”.  Families needed psychological care and victims needed medical and other assistance.  “We have to go to the victims,” he said, adding that every effort must also be taken to “punish these henchmen” and condemn the crimes that were being committed on a seemingly regular basis.  “Every combatant needs to know that one day he will have to pay and give account for his hideous crimes,” he declared.

To that end, national Governments must assume their responsibilities.  Sanctions needed to be decided upon and needed to be implemented.  There also needed to be a coordinated international response and, in that regard, the International Criminal Court played an important role against impunity for such crimes.  He called for making the Court more accessible to victims and families, and for increased donations to the Fund for Victims.  He also encouraged the Director of that Fund to not hesitate to launch appeals for resources to address specific cases and pressing issues.

Documentation and data collection were also needed and, to that end, he called on the Secretary-General to consider appointing a high representative -– a woman -- to go to post-conflict areas and systematically collect information, whether from peacekeeping operations, United Nations agencies or civil society agencies working in the field.  “That will lead to zero tolerance […] and it will let these henchmen know that they can never sleep,” he said.

RAMA YADE, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights of France, said the history of men had long merged with the history of their violence and the wars of men had often also been associated with violence against women.  Against that barbaric violence of man, that inhumanity, the 60-year-old Declaration of Human Rights was a reaffirmation of the inviolable dignity of the human being -- men and women.  Some doubts had been raised -- was a debate on sexual violence in armed conflict to be included in the Security Council, which debated peace and war?  For France, the debate had been decided; peace could not be re-established while remaining silent about the violence done to women.  Such violence had climbed to shocking levels.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from which she had just returned, nearly 30,000 women had been raped in the Kivus during 2007, and their stories made it seem the humanity of man had been effaced.

There was no peace without justice, she went on.  While international justice had made sexual violence a crime against humanity and, in some cases, a crime of genocide, the law must be supported by action.  Those who committed such acts of violence must be brought to justice, as had recently been done in the Central African Republic by the International Criminal Court.  The fight against impunity was the first rampart against barbarism.  Awareness must be raised and international mobilization must be scaled up.  The fight against impunity must be intensified.  Data must be collected.  Women must be included in peacekeeping operations, security forces and judicial systems.  Security Council mechanisms must be applied and the mandate of the Working Group on Children in Armed Conflict extended and broadened to include women.  As illustrated by the figures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 40 per cent of the women raped were minors.

Concluding, she said the European Union would make the issue a priority on both political and financial levels.  Under her country’s presidency, beginning 1 July, guidelines would be developed and, hopefully, adopted.  The text before the Council should incorporate the greatest number of suggestions.  Sexual violence should not be seen as collateral damage of armed conflict and rape should not be justified on the ground of cultural tradition or ancestral practice.

VINCENZO SCOTTI, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, stressed his country’s commitment to full implementation of resolution 1325, which provided a comprehensive framework to address every aspect of the relationship between women and peace and security.  Success in implementing 1325 had to be judged by the situation on the ground and improvements secured for women.  Not enough had been done in that regard.  The time had come to shift gears in implementing 1325 to find new ways and strategies to translate its concepts into reality.  Identifying achievable, specific goals without losing sight of the general picture might indeed be the way forward.  The situation was appalling.  According to UNIFEM, 70 per cent of the casualties in recent conflicts had been civilians or non-combatants, most of them women and children.  Women’s bodies were increasingly targeted during conflicts.  Concrete information and evidence was hard to come by, as victims were often too traumatized and stigmatized to come forward.

The link between sexual violence and the maintenance of peace and security demanded the international community’s immediate action, he said.  All United Nations missions should incorporate a specific mandate to protect women and prevent sexual violence.  United Nations staff everywhere should be trained to prevent, recognize and respond to sexual violence.  Collecting and analysing existing best practices could be an important exercise and hopefully lead to a United Nations doctrine that set training standards for all military and police personnel.  The international community must also fight impunity, including by building a gender-sensitive transitional justice and gender-sensitive security sector.  Italy was in the process of disbursing €1 million to fund a UNIFEM programme on resolution 1325 in Liberia, and it had financed several other initiatives in recent years.

LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said his country condemned all violence against women, including sexual violence, urged all parties involved in conflict to comply with international humanitarian law and human rights law, and called on Governments concerned to investigate and bring to justice those who committed crimes against women.  Supporting the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation committed by peacekeepers, his country urged troop-contributing countries to step up training and monitoring of their peacekeepers to ensure compliance with norms of conduct.

He emphasized that, while the Council had a unique role to play in addressing violence against women, organs and agencies of the United Nations should strengthen their coordination and cooperation.  The Council should focus on prevention of conflicts, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction.  Sexual violence should not be treated as a stand-alone issue.  The participation of women in each stage of the peace process should be enhanced and more attention should be given to their status and role.  Respect for and protection of women’s rights should be mainstreamed throughout the peace process.  His country supported the constructive role that non-governmental organizations played in the protection of women in armed conflict, and encouraged them to increase their communication with United Nations agencies.

GIADALLA A. ETTALHI ( Libya) said his delegation was concerned by reports of sexual violence against women and girls in many conflict situations, and that women and girls were used increasingly as a tool of war.  Impunity for such acts could not continue.  That issue was taken up in resolution 1325 (2000), which had given it a high priority on the global agenda.  Nevertheless, cases of rape and sexual abuse continued.  A sad example of that had been the recent report that some 880 cases of rape had occurred during the month of April alone in the Kivus, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Worse, agencies believed that that might only be 8 to 10 per cent of the actual number.

He went on to say that sexual abuse and rape of women and girls was carried out by both armed groups and international peacekeeping staff.  Every effort must be made to ensure that such violence was tackled at every level.  In many societies, religion had more effect than law.  Indeed, all religions had norms on relations between soldiers and non-combatants, and the treatment of civilians.  For example, Islam had such codes of conduct.  Perhaps the Secretariat could consider concentrating on the moral and religious aspects during its training of peacekeepers.  Also, relevant booklets could be prepared on the religious norms and distributed to soldiers in peace operations.

Further, mechanisms must be in place to open the door for victims to come forward, to make people aware of women’s rights and to eliminate cultural prejudice against women, he said, adding that impunity must also be addressed.  The Security Council could play a role by urging States to prosecute such crimes, especially since impunity for such horrible acts could undercut hard-won peace and development gains in many post-conflict countries.  The United Nations could contribute by providing support for national efforts to empower women, and educate and train women and girls, especially in rural areas.

LE LUONG MINH ( Viet Nam) noted that, among the possible consequences of continuing sexual violence against women and girls were the breakdown of families and the spread of contagious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, which was particularly problematic for countries emerging from conflict.  The best way to protect women and girls was by helping them to understand their rights and by raising their capacity for self-protection.  As such, Viet Nam fully endorsed the measures inscribed in the Beijing Platform for Action directed at women’s empowerment and advancement.

He urged the Security Council to improve its coordination with other United Nations bodies involved in tackling violence against women, although it should guard against creating unnecessary administrative and financial burdens for Member States and United Nations agencies.  Although States bore the primary responsibility for protecting their own civilians, including from sexual violence, he would support recommendations contained in the draft resolution currently being tabled regarding programmes for training peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel to recognize and respond to sexual violence.  Such training, coupled with the empowerment of women and girls, was an essential measure of prevention.

JORGE URBINA ORTEGA ( Costa Rica) said a convergence of efforts was under way to make war more humane and to recognize the full status of women everywhere as human beings.  Two weeks ago, two groups of United Nations ambassadors and members of the Security Council had visited several camps for refugees and internally displaced persons in Darfur, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In those camps, the ambassadors had listened to the voices of women who had spoken of the suffering of war, the murder of their partners, the massacre of their children and the violation of their bodies.  Today’s debate must respond effectively to the wish expressed by those women, none of whom had spoken of vengeance.  Rather, they spoke about their hopes, their desire to return home, their dreams of living in a safe, secure environment, and not to be victims in the future.  The debate should end with a clear disposition to prevent future violence.  Until now, the focus had been on repressing violence against women in situations of armed conflict and on fighting impunity.  Efforts to end impunity, such as through the International Criminal Court and the special tribunals were, albeit important and indispensable, not enough.

Prevention was not the same everywhere, in all places or in all cultural perspectives, he said.  It could not only be tackled from the perspective of women, as that would be tantamount to making women guilty of their own pain.  Preventing violence against women in war and all other contexts could only be done by addressing the perspective of the perpetrators.  Treating violence against women could not be understood or prevented if analysed only through the optic of sexual violence.  Women were not the only casualties; so were their families and communities.  Systematic sexual violence exacerbated armed conflicts and was an enormous obstacle to resolving them and consolidating peace.  He stressed the need for peacekeeping operations to be conceived as integrated missions that brought together all United Nations efforts, including the contributions of the Peacebuilding Commission.

MARTY M. NATALEGAWA ( Indonesia) said the brutalization, rape and mutilation of women were a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as “a violation of our conscience and human dignity”.  The meeting today served, not only to condemn violence against women, but as a showcase of strength and the international community’s unending commitment to end impunity and to protect women in conflict situations.  The international community had long witnessed the endless destructive force of war on innocent civilians, including millions of Palestinian, Congolese, Afghan and Iraqi women.  “We cannot fail them because of our political differences,” he said, calling on the international community to tackle atrocities committed against women with “vigour and iron determination”.

He went on to say that, while resolution 1325 (2000) was a guidepost for international action in the field, much work remained to be done.  The goal should be not only to curb or stop gender-based violence, but to eradicate it entirely.  That could be done, among other ways, by implementing good governance; promoting judicial and security sector reforms and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants; improving basic health services; and ensuring that women had key positions in military and civilian peacekeeping structures.  Barriers must be removed to women receiving justice for the crimes committed against them, including in the courts and communities, where many faced exclusion if they revealed the suffering they endured.  The United Nations system must also do more to bolster women’s and girls’ access to treatment and care.

RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS (Panama) said sexual violence was used as a method of war.  The increase in gender-based violence had become an epidemic, particularly in countries that lacked rule of law and where State bodies could not protect women and girls.  Systematic acts of gender-based violence violated human rights and threatened international peace and security.  Despite the International Criminal Court having designating such acts a war crime, women and girls continued to be objects of violence.  It was indispensable that the Council examine with due attention the situation and step up efforts to eliminate, mitigate and punish such practices.  Justice was the principal guarantor of human rights.  It was essential to support the International Criminal Court so as to ensure that perpetrators were tried and prosecuted.  The Council must give clear, effective and viable mandates to peacekeeping operations to protect civilians, particularly women and girls, as well as to evaluate their effectiveness in implementing those mandates.  The Council must also support the Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance policy.

He added that the Security Council and the rest of the United Nations should redouble their efforts to provide women and girls with adequate health-care services, including free testing for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, post-trauma and psychological care, social reintegration and sufficient compensation.  Such efforts must be supported by awareness-raising and education campaigns on the impact of sexual violence on victims.  Credible and relevant information about sexual violence was also needed.  The Secretary-General should provide regular reports and include greater information in his reports on sexual violence in specific conflict situations.  It was important to recognize that women and girls were essential pillars of all societies and that their active empowerment and participation in all areas of political, social, cultural and economic life were crucial.

VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) said rape and sexual violence against women were crimes deserving broad condemnation and strict sanctions, especially in situations where the practice was widespread and systematic.  The Russian Federation was also concerned by incidents of rape and sexual abuse by peacekeepers, the very people who were in conflict and post-conflict countries to protect civilians.  The international community must address the issue of women, peace and security broadly, not just as a matter of sexual violence.  Such a balanced approach was at the heart of resolution 1325 (2000), which was an important compass pointing the international community towards a path of ensuring that all violence against women was halted.  It was also a priority for the United Nations to respond to widespread and systematic violence against women.

He also cautioned duplication of efforts in the field, as the current draft before the Council asked the Secretary-General to prepare a report on women in conflict situations.  That appeared to be a repetition of efforts taking place outside the Council, including in the General Assembly, where a resolution had been adopted during the current session requiring the Secretary-General to prepare a similar report on sexual violence.  Efforts to end all violence against women must be accompanied by full respect for and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and all other human rights instruments.

YUKIO TAKASU (Japan), Chairperson of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that since the adoption of resolution 1325, steady progress had been made in helping more women participate in post-conflict decision-making.  However, there had been less success in protecting women and girls from gender-based violence during armed conflict, and every effort must be made to promote their human security by physically protecting and empowering them.  For those purposes, the Security Council should collect data on such violence and its perpetrators.  It should also help end impunity and ensure the prosecution of perpetrators, provide relevant training for peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel and strengthen mission mandates in the area of protection.

The Peacebuilding Commission had been promoting an integrated gender perspective in its work, making it a critical priority in the strategies for Burundi and Sierra Leone, he said.  Commitments to be undertaken by the Governments and the international community were clearly articulated to combat gender-based violence, ensure greater participation of women at all levels of decision-making and build the capacity of women’s groups and national gender-equality institutions.  The matter should not, however, be treated as only a women’s issue.  It must be tackled in a holistic manner through the integrated efforts of multiple stakeholders on the ground.  He pledged that the Peacebuilding Commission would continue to make every effort to raise the international profile of the issue and to mobilize the necessary support and resources.

PHILOMÈNE OMATUKU ATSHAKAWO, Minister of Gender, Family and Children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thanked the Secretary-General for placing the suffering of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the centre of his concerns, the Council for visiting her country and the United Nations system for its assistance.  Violence against women in conflict situations was a scandal that required an appropriate and consistent international response.  Rape had become an unprecedented tool of war, weakening the physical, psychological and economic health of women and girls.  They were stigmatized, and 50 per cent of victims of sexual violence were under the age of 18.  The code for the protection of children would be adopted next week in the Congolese Senate.

Sexual violence was leading to the feminization of poverty.  Women victims were no longer able to work the land, or work at all, she said.  The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had adopted a multisectoral approach to fight violence against women and girls, focusing on care, compensation and prevention.  It was providing psychological and medical care in specialized units, socio-economic assistance to reintegrate victims into society and free judicial and legal assistance to encourage victims to bring cases to court.  It was also ensuring that girl victims returned to school and was caring for orphans and abandoned children.

Further, the Government had set up compensation funds for victims, managed with public and civil society partners, she said.  In terms of prevention, it had made the fight against impunity a priority, making legal instruments available to fight ignorance, so that women knew their rights and judges knew their power.  It had strengthened the ability of judges and trained women judges to ensure legal assistance for victims.  It had also increased the number of female military and police.  It had a procedure to prevent rapists from being able to hold public posts and laws to relieve them of their functions.  It was important to stress the value of women and to continue to work to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.  Article 14 of the country’s Constitution provided for implementation of equality between men and women.  A draft bill for implementing gender parity was before Parliament.

CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said that appointing more women to senior positions with regard to preventive diplomacy, mediation and peace operations would have a catalytic effect.  It would empower women affected by armed conflict and it would strengthen the perception that women were stakeholders, not mere victims or aid recipients.  A few years ago, a group of like-minded ambassadors, which she had headed, had aimed to increase the presence of women in such positions.  It was sad to note that almost no progress had been made in that regard.  Sadly, girls and women in affected regions often associated uniformed personnel with sexual violence.  It was, therefore, crucial to deploy more women in civilian components of peacekeeping missions, empower local women leaders and increase their role in all peacekeeping efforts.

Because peacekeepers were currently providing protection of civilians, including against sexual violence, only on an ad hoc basis and under a “flexible interpretation of their vague mandates”, she said that future mandates must provide clear guidance, in particular to commanders, on how to protect civilians, including girls and women from sexual violence.  Significant progress had been made lately with regard to the issue of impunity.  The explicit inclusion of sexual violence in the provisions of the Rome Statute was one of the many significant steps forward.  The International Criminal Court was now fully operational and dealing with situations where sexual violence was rampant, such as in Darfur.  The draft resolution was, therefore, incomplete without a specific reference to that Court.

LESLIE K. CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said rape ranked highly among the core security challenges of the time, and should not be viewed only as a human rights or women’s issue.  Fresh thinking was needed to enable the United Nations to discharge its security mandate.  He noted that, in Ghana, women peacekeepers served as role models and had had positive impacts on security sector reform, electoral support and gender mainstreaming in societies where women were particularly marginalized.  He encouraged troop-contributing countries to take responsibility for deploying well-trained peacekeepers, where “well-trained” must be redefined to include gender awareness.  At the same time, security institutions should be encouraged to work more closely with women’s organizations.

He noted that women were the glue that held families and communities together, even in the midst of war.  They should, therefore, be consulted in times of peace consolidation and must be equitably represented when crafting strategic responses to violence.  For its part, the Council should ensure that equipment, logistics and other resources given to peacekeeping operations be commensurate with the magnitude of sexual violence being committed around them.  Some thought must also be given to civilians who had come to rely on peacekeepers for protection, especially in the period between the drawdown of one force and when its replacement became operational.

He also said States should review and revise laws to ensure that sexual violence against women was always criminalized, while cooperation between the United Nations and the African Union should continue to improve, so as to give meaningful protection to women.  At the moment, intergovernmental oversight of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) was woefully inadequate; efforts should be made to empower women and girls, rather than simply offering reactive, band-aid solutions.  The resolution being tabled was a good one, and Ghana was pleased with the emphasis on the role and conduct of peacekeeping missions, including related recommendations for troop- and police-contributing countries.  Also notable was the provision to strengthen access to justice and services for survivors of sexual violence, and the stress on regional cooperation.

SANJA ŠTIGLIC (Slovenia), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that women had always been particularly vulnerable victims during armed conflicts, but in modern history, sexual violence had been turned into a method of warfare.  It was encouraging, however, that, in recent years, the international community had become more responsive to the plight of women in conflict and had acknowledged the problem as needing urgent attention.  Resolution 1325 (2000), which linked gender equality to global security and acknowledged the importance of women’s voices in building lasting peace, had been a milestone on the road to more gender-sensitive peace processes and security policies.

Despite that growing awareness, she said, current efforts had not proved effective enough to protect women in conflict situations.  Adequate attention was not being paid to the positive role women could play in conflict-affected societies.  “We must considerably strengthen our efforts to guarantee the protection of women and girls in conflict-affected societies and ensure their full and equal participation in peace processes at all levels, including negotiations and decision-making, and insisting that women be fully engaged in humanitarian, reconstruction and development programmes,” she said.

The European Union believed that the best way to promote women’s rights and women’s empowerment was through a gender-sensitive approach, she said.  Human rights and gender issues were being mainstreamed in the Union’s development cooperation policies.  In partnership with UNIFEM, the Union was working to build capacity to improve accountability for gender equality in its partner countries, with a specific focus on women in peacebuilding and the implementation of resolution 1325.

She stressed that durable peace and reconciliation were heavily compromised if the perpetrators of such acts were not prosecuted.  Impunity and insufficient response to the needs of survivors was also unacceptable, and grave violations of women’s human rights, through massive rape and other sexual violence, required the immediate attention of the International Criminal Court or other tribunals.  Further, national and international courts must have adequate resources; access to gender expertise; gender training for all staff, including judges; and gender-sensitive programmes to prosecute effectively those responsible for such crimes.

ROBERT HILL (Australia) condemned sexual violence during conflict, calling it a war crime and a crime against humanity.  He said the international community must hold rapists to account, urgently using the tools at its disposal, including the International Criminal Court.  He declared any sexual abuse on the part of peacekeeping personnel unacceptable.  His country strongly supported the zero-tolerance policy and believed that, in the absence of an effective system to prosecute United Nations personnel who perpetrate sexual crimes, the State of nationality should take action to hold them to account.

The role of peacekeepers in protecting civilians from all violence, including sexual violence, was an important one.  While such protection was specifically included in peacekeeping mandates, there was a strong need for clear guidelines and adequate resources.  He reiterated his country’s calls for effective training and strong command structures for military contingents and police units to prevent and prosecute such crimes.  Australia provided training for its own police contributions and those from regional countries, and recognized the important role of women in peacekeeping missions.  Almost 20 per cent of Australia’s police and military personnel involved in peacekeeping were women.  National Governments must put in place effective legislation and judicial procedures, strict behavioural standards for their security personnel and community education to condemn sexual violence and remove the stigma from victims.  “We cannot stand by and allow these egregious violations to continue”, he said.

JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain) said that an integral response to sexual abuse used as a weapon of war remained a challenge.  It was imperative that the United Nations system, in close consultation with regional organizations, stakeholders and civil society, study how to structure and institutionalize an efficient response to the problem.  Progress made in prevention and protection mechanisms was not enough if a coordinated and efficient response to impunity was not articulated.  Universal accession to the Rome Statute, which categorized systematic rape as a war crime, would constitute a crucial step forward in the fight against impunity.

He said that Spain had adopted an action plan to implement resolution 1325 in 2007, within the context of the objectives highlighted in the “Organic Law for the Effective Equality of Women and Men”.  That plan focused on, among other things, promotion of the presence of women in peace missions; gender mainstreaming and gender-specific training in missions; and the principle of equality in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes.  Special units within peacekeeping operations should be created to pay individual attention to women and girls who had been targets of sexual violence.  He announced that Spain would contribute €50 million to a Gender and Development Multi-Donor Trust Fund, managed by UNIFEM.  That Fund had been called for in the Final Declaration of the “Third Meeting of African and Spanish Women for a Better World”, which had taken place in Niamey, Niger, last May.

KIRSTY GRAHAM (New Zealand) welcomed the increased Security Council attention to the reality of sexual violence during conflict and the need to end impunity for such crimes.  Sexual violence was an attack, not only on the dignity of women, but on a peace process itself, and it raised significant barriers to reconciliation and peace.  The need to eliminate such violence was urgent.

Endorsing the various approaches being taken within the United Nations system towards that goal, she said her own country’s response to resolution 1325 was proactive and included concrete steps to encourage implementation, both domestically and internationally.  Women were encouraged to undertake assignments in peacekeeping missions.  The Defence Forces were actively working to integrate women at all levels and trades, including combat.  Promoting women’s rights had been prioritized through delivery of official development assistance (ODA), with gender-based violence a core focus for New Zealand’s development agency, NZAID.

Further, she said, NZAID’s conflict and peacebuilding policy identified women and girls in conflict and post-conflict areas as a priority group for attention.  A provision had been included on the need to support the implementation of resolution 1325.  Progress towards achieving the major goals of the resolution had been “slow and uneven”, and thus its systematic implementation must be given urgent increased political commitment and resources, wherever necessary.

ISMAT JAHAN (Bangladesh) said there had been some progress in implementing resolution 1325.  He expressed hope that the remaining shortcomings be addressed in the updated 2008-2009 action plan.  There was still inadequate understanding of the gender dimensions on conflict situations.  That led to gaps in institutional and organizational capacity to address the various provisions of the resolution.  That lack of understanding would continue to exclude women from peacebuilding.  Efforts must be further intensified to incorporate gender perspectives into levels of peacebuilding and to create expertise to address issues related to sexual violence.  Capacity-building could be augmented by facilitating women’s participation in formal and non-formal peace negotiations.

The availability of gender-disaggregated data was particularly important to understand the situation of women and girls who were victims of war and conflicts, she continued.  Focused examination of issues related to violence against women was important for formulating policy guidelines.  The sharing of best practices and lessons learned was useful for sustaining peace and guiding policy.

Multifaceted peacekeeping operations had large potential for addressing women’s security, she said.  While a gender perspective had been successfully integrated into some aspects of peacekeeping operations, much remained to be done in post-conflict peacebuilding.  Bangladesh, one of the largest troop-contributing countries to United Nations peacekeeping operations, had more than 30 police personnel deployed in such operations.  She expected that the newly recruited female officers from the military would shortly join the peacekeeping missions’ observers and staff.  The number of women in United Nations peacekeeping operations and in police forces from Bangladesh would increase in the coming days.  Also, a strong Security Council mechanism was needed to monitor implementation of resolution 1325.  Setting up a working group on women, peace and security might be useful and a good option in that regard.

PIET DE KLERK (Netherlands) said that, for his country, empowering women was a national priority and, indeed, “women’s rights were everyone’s concern”.  The Netherlands was, therefore, taking a firm stand against horrific violations of women’s rights and human dignity in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.  It was also supporting the United Nations Trust Fund on violence against women and, last December, the Netherlands Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Interior had joined with 15 civil society organizations to agree on a national action plan regarding Council resolution 1325 (2000).  He added that an increasing number of Member States were elaborating similar plans.

“We need to focus on implementation.  We need to join forces,” he said, stressing that, first and foremost, such collaborative action should target men.  Gender equality and women’s empowerment could not be achieved without men.  In fact, men needed to talk to men; they needed to talk openly to militia leaders, gang members and even generals, if that was necessary to ensure they would be better role models.  “If we want sexual violence to end, we need to raise awareness among men about the consequences of their actions,” he said, adding that boys and girls should be brought in on those conversations, especially since boys were continuously confronted with images of violent masculinity.

Second, Governments needed to take vigorous action against perpetrators, and national judicial systems should be strengthened to ensure that those criminals were caught, tried and effectively punished.  Third, efforts needed to be taken to address sexual abuse and exploitation perpetrated by soldiers.  Gender training was mandatory in the Netherlands School for Peace Operations, and the Ministry of Defence was invested in engendering armed forces.  The Netherlands, therefore, believed that all peacekeeping troops and police contingents should follow comprehensive gender training before deployment.

DANIEL CARMON (Israel) said that, while the international community had recognized that sexual violence could amount to a war crime, crimes against humanity or constitutive acts with respect to genocide, many challenges remained to end sexual violence in armed conflict.  One particular obstacle was the reluctance of victims to come forward.  That silence not only harmed victims and their families, it also led to faulty statistics.  Sources in the field confirmed that, indeed, the number of incidents of sexual violence in armed conflict was greatly underreported.  Victims must be empowered to reclaim their human dignity.  States should enforce the rule of law, bring perpetrators to justice and end the cycle of impunity.  A change in societal attitudes and norms on sexual violence was needed, bringing perpetrators to justice.  Ending impunity would also encourage victims to come forward to seek justice and rehabilitation.  It was important to educate at the earliest stages about the rights, dignity and worth of every human being, regardless of gender.

At the recent Wilton Park conference, recommendations had been made for sexual violence to be viewed a security issue and for the international community to identify the circumstances under which sexual violence threatened national and international peace and security, he said.  In that regard, the Council could play a greater role in ensuring that peacekeeping mandates specifically refer to sexual violence prevention, peacekeepers were appropriately trained and informed about sexual violence, and sanctions and other tools were used against perpetrators.  Resolution 1804 of 31 March 2008, which imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on individuals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who committed serious violations of international law, including sexual violence against children, was a poignant example of how the Council could act more effectively.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported more than 32,000 registered cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo province of South Kivu alone.  “Sexual violence is not an inevitable outcome of conflict.  It can be stopped.  States, regional bodies, non-governmental organizations and even individuals each have their own roles to play in seeing an end to this detestable practice.”  The Council, in particular, could focus reporting on sexual violence and seek to fully implement resolution 1325.

HJALMAR W. HANNESSON (Iceland), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, said that while women were often the victims of armed conflict, they could also play a central role in preventing and resolving violent conflict, as actors in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  The ongoing high incidence of horrific sexual violence against women and girls in conflict demanded the attention of the international community.  Towards that goal, resolution 1325 required full implementation, which was all the more critical, because it was becoming clear that the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon war meant that the impact of such crimes lingered long after hostilities ended.  Sexual violence left deep scars on individuals, families and societies, making reconciliation and peacebuilding difficult.

“We all have to join forces to end impunity for such crimes,” he continued, stressing that the Security Council should respond urgently to incidents of sexual violence in conflict situations and bring measures to bear so that all parties to conflict understood that they would pay a heavy price for employing or permitting such acts.  Further, all Member States must do their part to ensure that individuals suspected of such crimes were brought to justice in accordance with national legislation.  Clear guidance should be provided for peacekeeping missions on how to make civilian protection mandates more effective, including the protection of women and girls from sexual violence.  A critical element of protecting women and girls in conflict was the inclusion of more women in decision-making positions on the ground.  Whether it was practical matters, such as gathering of water and fuel in safety, or more complex concerns, such as the reintegration of former combatants, the input and experience of women were essential to the success and long-term sustainability of peace.

BUKUN-OLU ONEMOLA (Nigeria) expressed concern that, eight years after the adoption of resolution 1325, which served both as an action framework and reinforced other existing mechanisms, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Declaration, progress towards its implementation had been slow and uneven.  The resolution’s objectives -– enhancing women’s participation in decision-making, integrating gender perspectives into peacekeeping operations, protecting women from gender-based violence and mainstreaming gender into United Nations programme mechanisms -- remained largely unfulfilled.  In Africa, the most significant achievements under resolution 1325 had taken place in post-conflict environments, where women now enjoyed a considerably enhanced role in decision-making.  Strengthened by the African Union’s 2005 Protocol on the Rights of Women and the 2004 Heads of States Solemn Declaration on Gender Equity in Africa, several countries had scaled up women’s participation in politics and decision-making.

Through special measures, such as gender quotas and minimum thresholds, some countries had accelerated women’s integration into national decision-making processes, he said.  Increasingly, women were being included in national and continental peace and security initiatives.  Nigeria had signed and ratified the African Protocol on the Rights of Women and it had taken special steps to guarantee women’s participation in governance and decision-making.  Federal and state-level efforts were under way to outlaw discriminatory customary or traditional practices that were harmful to women’s and girl’s physical and mental health.  Despite such efforts, implementation of resolution 1325 in Africa’s conflict areas was fitful.  The most critical challenge was how to concretely implement special measures to protect women and children against sexual violence, as well as prosecute those responsible for large-scale violations of women’s rights.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said rape and all other forms of sexual abuse must be vehemently condemned, no matter their purpose, and the perpetrators must be punished.  In order to successfully face that most daunting challenge, there was a need for practical and concrete measures by the international community as a whole.  Current international instruments provided an adequate framework, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and pertinent instruments of international humanitarian law.  Resolution 1325 should be carried out in conjunction with all Assembly resolutions on violence against women, the agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women, as well as the 1974 General Assembly Declaration on the protection of women and children in emergency and armed conflict.

She said that no victim of sexual violence could reconstruct her life unless the cycle of recurrence was broken.  “Beyond the lack of respect for the human being, impunity signals the continuation of a horrendous crime, which has multiplying negative effects on family members and the community as a whole.”  The crucial role played by the International Criminal Court in ensuring accountability and punishing perpetrators of rape and sexual violence, therefore, must be strengthened.  Empowering women must be at the centre of any effort to address gender-based violence.  The overall situation of women and girls would only improve if equal participation in decision-making at all levels was ensured.  Women’s full-fledged participation in peacebuilding efforts was critical.  Brazil was involved in an initiative of South-South cooperation concerning Haiti.  That initiative supported the implementation of the Haitian national plan to prevent violence against women and to address the needs of women victims of sexual violence.

ANDREAS BAUM (Switzerland) said his delegation was deeply concerned that sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflict was still being carried out.  His Government had adopted an action plan to implement resolution 1325, and had attached high priority to combating gender-based and sexual violence in armed conflict.  Practical measures were urgently needed to strengthen prevention and protection against such violence and, to that end, Switzerland believed, among other things, that all States must step up the fight against impunity.  When states were unwilling or unable to prosecute actions of sexual violence amounting to crimes against humanity, such cases must be referred to the International Criminal Court.  It was necessary to strengthen national law enforcement capabilities to ensure that States were able to prosecute such crimes.

Switzerland underlined that disciplinary measures at commander level could not be a substitute for military criminal prosecution, he continued, adding further that systematic gender training should be provided to all personnel working in security sectors, including those active in armed forces, police, justice and penal systems, as well as United Nations personnel.  Switzerland also believed that the Security Council might want to consider establishing a monitoring mechanism to increase accountability and ensure the integration of resolution 1325 (2000) into its country-specific and thematic work.  To that end, the Council should set up a structure for reliable information on sexual violence committed in conflict situations and beyond.  He added that United Nations field missions could be entrusted with that task, and serve as an “early warning system”.

PAUL KAVANAGH (Ireland) said that, despite progress, it remained a challenge to ensure that the United Nations and its Member States fully implemented resolution 1325.  Ireland, for its part, was actively engaged in promoting the role of women in conflict resolution and post-conflict recovery.  The recent establishment of a major conflict-resolution dimension within the Department of Foreign Affairs had further opened avenues for supporting resolution 1325 in conflict and post-conflict settings.  Earlier this year, the Irish Government had formally agreed that resolution 1325 would be one of three cross-cutting themes that guided the work of a newly designated Conflict Resolution Unit.  Women’s participation in the Northern Ireland peace progress, together with a strong research and activist base, would permit tangible lessons to be drawn and shared internationally to help advance and implement the 1325 agenda.

As Chair through May 2009 of the Human Security Network, Ireland would focus on gender-based violence, he said.  The promotion of gender equality and the elimination of gender-based violence was a prominent feature of Ireland’s aid policy and activities overseas, and of its National Women’s Strategy.  In 2004, Ireland had set up a national joint consortium on gender-based violence.  Training on gender equality and protection from gender-based violence was provided to Irish peacekeepers at the Irish Defence Forces United Nations Training School.  Turning to the concept paper drawn up by the United States for today’s debate, he said it correctly identified three priority areas for consideration: understanding the problem; prevention and protection; and consequences for the perpetrators.  He encouraged the Council to recognize that gender-based violence directly impacted international peace and security, and request that the Secretary-General report to the Council on a heightened engagement of the United Nations in stopping such violence in conflict situations.  Accountability by State and non-State actors should be ensured, including through effective prosecution and punishment.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada) said that sexual violence against women and girls was a clear threat to international peace and security.  That fact was especially clear in Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider Great Lakes region, where the problem required a security-based response.  Resolution 1325 called on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and had emphasized the need to end impunity for such crimes.  But, eight years later, despite some progress, significant challenges remained in implementing that landmark text.  “As we all call for further concerted action to eliminate sexual violence, let us reaffirm our commitment to the equal participation and full involvement of women in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, including peace processes,” he said.

He went on to say that his Government had been pleased to co-sponsor, two weeks ago, a conference at Wilton Park to examine the role of military peacekeepers in addressing sexual violence.  That conference had included a mix of practitioners and policy-makers with military, police, civilian and diplomatic backgrounds.  Among the conclusions that had emerged was the fact that peacekeeping missions needed clear, strong mandates from the Security Council, and that the Council’s monitoring of sexual violence and efforts to address it must become more systematic. Indeed, systematic data on grave violations of women’s and girl’s rights was of utmost importance here.   Canada, therefore, reiterated its recommendation that violence against women and girls, including sexual violence, be systematically included in all the reports of the Secretary-General to the Council.  Through rigorous data collection and monitoring, the Council would increase its capacity to develop effective peace support mandates that better addressed violence, including by way of prevention in the first instance.

MARIA FERNANDA ESPINOSA (Ecuador) said her country was committed to ending sexual violence.  The Council had made a major contribution by passing several resolutions on the subject of violence against civilians during times of armed conflict, particularly against women and children.  Several paragraphs of resolution 1325 referred to the issue of today’s debate.  Several aspects of today’s draft were embodied in resolution 1325, including the important role played by women in the prevention of violence and the settlement of armed conflict, as well as in gender mainstreaming of peacekeeping operations.  When asking the Secretary-General to issue a report on the subject, it was important that such a report be based on situations that were within the competence of the Council.  It was important to remember that resolutions adopted by the General Assembly called for similar reports on the same subject.  Efforts should not be duplicated.  Better collaboration was needed between the main United Nations bodies to combat sexual violence, bearing in mind that the Assembly was the main body to address such issues.

She supported the criteria set forth by the General Assembly President, whereby the subject of sexual violence, including violence perpetrated during times of armed conflict, should be systematically and permanently examined by the Council.  The issue of sexual violence, including as a weapon of warfare, must be addressed, as it had been in the thematic debates convened by the Assembly on human security and human trafficking.  A decisive aspect of combating all forms of sexual violence, including as a weapon of war, was to end impunity, including through the mandate of the International Criminal Court.  The international community must commit itself to ensuring that nobody enjoyed impunity.  Such a sensitive subject should be considered in a broad-ranging and systematic manner by all Member States.  As such, the best way to prevent armed conflict and violence was to tackle poverty and underdevelopment.  The Millennium Development Goals could play a big role, in that regard.

PARK IN-KOOK (Republic of Korea) said that, while many States during the Council’s debate on women, peace and security last October had expressed serious concern about the destructive phenomenon of systematic sexual violence in armed conflict, recent reports suggested that the practice was becoming increasingly commonplace in may conflict and post-conflict settings.  In fact, contrary to the United Nations call for “consciousness and commitment”, the horrifying intensity and severity of sexual violence as a weapon of war was clearly evident, especially in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan’s western Darfur region.

With that in mind, the Republic of Korea supported all efforts to end such violence, not only for the sake of human rights, but also to ensure sustainable peace and security.  He went on to draw the Council’s attention to the issue of children in armed conflict, as they often made up a large number of the victims of sexual violence.  He recalled that the Council had adopted a presidential statement on children in armed conflict, expressing its readiness to review the relevant provisions of resolution 1612 (2005), with a view to further bolstering relevant action.  The Republic of Korea looked forward to further substantive progress in that regard.

SOCORRO ROVIROSA (Mexico) said resolution 1325 constituted a milestone in gender mainstreaming, but expressed concern over the limited progress in implementing it.  There was still widespread and systematic sexual violence in armed conflict situations.  Such violence was a war crime and a crime against humanity when it was committed as part of a systematic attack, as stated in the Rome Statute.  She supported the Council’s appeal to demand the cessation of all forms of sexual violence.  Such abuses could not be tolerated.  However, if that appeal was to be morally effective, it must remove the causes of the sexual violence.  Although the United Nations had made progress in developing standards of conduct for peacekeeping staff and for protecting victims of sexual abuse committed by United Nations personnel, much remained to be done to ensure an effective international response mechanism to deal with gender violence.  It was necessary to continue to develop and apply mandatory training programmes on gender issues for United Nations staff in peacekeeping and in humanitarian situations.

She condemned sexual violence as a method of war and called on all States to prosecute perpetrators of all such acts.  They must take effective measures to respond to all acts of widespread and systematic acts of sexual violence.  She expressed hope that the Secretary-General’s report would clearly identify practical proposals for strategies to minimize the vulnerability of women and girls to sexual violence.  There was a moral obligation to act.  Sexual violence -- together with weapons that caused excessive damage, such as anti-personnel mines -- should be totally eradicated from any military doctrine.

GERHARD PFANZELTER (Austria) said it was becoming clear that sexual violence was not only a manifestation of war, but a deliberate wartime tactic.  Such violence also adversely affected peace processes, reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction, making clear that it was, indeed, a security threat.  Austria strongly supported the United Nations system-wide response to the shocking phenomenon of sexual violence, and hoped to see significant progress towards ending it by 2015.  Also, recent measures strengthening enforcement of the zero-tolerance policy against sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeepers and related personnel was another major contribution to that effort.  “The United Nations must lead by example -- sexual violence is unacceptable under all circumstances,” he said.

He went on to say that, for women, “war is not over when its over”.  Examples in recent post-conflict areas, such as Burundi and Uganda, had demonstrated that sexual violence could persist and even become socially accepted long after hostilities had ended.  While gender mainstreaming, as well as the human rights of women and girls, figured in many peacebuilding frameworks, it seemed difficult to translate general recognition of the importance of gender into concrete measures that could be effectively implemented.  All stakeholders needed to make more efforts not to fall into the post-conflict trap of focusing almost exclusively on the so-called “angry young men”, while neglecting the needs and rights of women.  Peacebuilding efforts should also focus on establishing gender-sensitive judicial systems and set up programmes that promoted the inclusion of women as judges, lawyers and lawmakers.

JORGE ARGÜELLO (Argentina) said his country was one of four carrying out the “Pilot Programme for the Implementation of Resolution 1325” and had incorporated the United Nations recommendations on gender in all aspects of its participation in peacekeeping operations.  There was an increasing use of sexual violence as a political or military tool in some current conflicts.  “A regrettable chapter of our past has showed us that rape and other heinous forms of sexual violence can be used by agents of the State as a tool to spread terror, to torture and degrade those it considers ‘its enemies’,” he said.  Sexual violence as a warfare method was categorically prohibited and was a grave violation of international law, in light of the Rome Statute, as well as the Geneva Conventions.

He said that any effective response to the phenomenon must include two pillars: the defence of full respect for the human rights of the victims; and an end to impunity for the perpetrators.  The draft resolution could have benefited, in that regard, from a strengthened reference to the legal framework, and particularly from a firm reaffirmation of the Rome Statue and the International Criminal Court.  That Court was the main tool currently available to the international community to make sure that nobody could commit with impunity such heinous crimes.

CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia) said her country rejected all forms of sexual violence and had been meeting its obligations under resolution 1325 by submitting the required reports and working to include a gender perspective in all Government operations, particularly in its Armed Forces, which had a comprehensive human rights and humanitarian policy.  As part of the peace process in the country, a specialized commission sought to guarantee the rights of victims to truth, justice and redress.  Crimes of sexual violence were thus being addressed through legal action.  In addition, humanitarian assistance was being provided to women who were former partners of members of illegal armed groups.

Maintaining that regional activities were important for the implementation of resolution 1325, she noted a high-level dialogue that had taken place in November 2007 in Chile and the role of the Inter-American Commission on Women.  She also noted with approval the growing participation of women in peacekeeping-related work, including the all-female police contingent from India in UNMIL.  She supported further increases in the percentage of women participating in peacekeeping forces.  Also, she stressed that action of the Security Council on the issue of sexual violence should focus on situations where peacekeeping missions were deployed and corresponded to situations on the agenda of the Council.  That included giving due regard to zero-tolerance for sexual abuse on the part of peacekeepers.

AUGUSTINE MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania) said that, despite the number of calls in various Security Council documents to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence, there had been an escalation of systematic and brutal acts as calculated tools of war against civilians, especially women and girls.  The Council, with Member States’ support, must take bold steps to stop that trend.  He expressed hope that the debate would lead to recommendations that would enable the Council to respond effectively to the use of sexual violence in conflict situations and crystallize international action against it.  He called upon all parties to conflicts to end such barbarous acts and to take steps to protect civilians, including women and girls.  The Council must send a clear message to the parties in armed conflicts that sexual violence was not condoned and stern measures would be taken against perpetrators in order to end impunity.  He called upon Member States to comply with their obligations for prosecuting perpetrators, as well as to support the work of the International Criminal Court.

It was unfortunate that civilians, particularly women and children, were increasingly targeted in current warfare, that humanitarian law was blatantly being violated and its perpetrators escaped with impunity, he said.  The international community and peacekeeping missions had the enormous challenge of protecting civilians.  He was encouraged that addressing sexual violence was included in the mandates of some peacekeeping operations.  Those mandates, however, must be matched with political resolve, resources, doctrine and guidance.  The national defence policies of troop-contributing countries must be explicit and emphatic on protection of civilians, including women and girls, in training their troops for peacekeeping missions.  National laws must be robust in dealing with those responsible for such acts.  He encouraged women to report when they were attacked.  Assistance mechanisms for victims must also be put in place.

MARTIN NEY (Germany) expressed shock over recurring reports indicating that brutal rapes were becoming more commonplace in conflict and post-conflict situations.  Sexual violence was a security problem requiring a systematic security response from the Security Council, the International Criminal Court and through campaigns such as the Secretary-General’s “United to end violence against women” and “Stop rape now: United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict”.

He said that Germany -- whose Federal Government had recently presented its second action plan to combat violence against women -- had just submitted a detailed report on its contributions towards the fulfilment of resolution 1325.  The report described how women’s involvement in decision-making mechanisms relating to the prevention, management and resolution of conflict had risen.  It also described concrete projects aimed at ending violence against women.

He expressed support for a stronger normative and operative framework on gender equality and the empowerment of women at the United Nations.  That topic should be mainstreamed into the Council’s work programme, including in its discussion of conflict and post-conflict situations.  He welcomed the fact that information on sexual violence would be systematically included in the Council’s country situation reports, because effective prevention depended on systematic reporting and reliable data.

BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan) expressed agreement with others who had said that women’s involvement in decision-making on security issues and peacebuilding had a positive effect on the peaceful resolution of conflicts and in post-conflict rehabilitation.  However, women and girls subject to “indecent assault” during times of conflict tended to hide what had happened for fear of losing their life or family.  For that reason, she stressed the importance of developing a victim protection programme, similar to witness protection programmes.

She added that there was a need to tighten laws against perpetrators, to educate local communities about the dangers of sexual violence in zones of conflict and to raise awareness about the legal consequences of committing such crimes.  Eliminating sexual violence was a responsibility of every stakeholder on a humanitarian basis, and those who encouraged such violence must be strongly condemned.

HAMID AL BAYATI (Iraq) said women in his country had suffered systematic abuse under the previous regime and were now victims of terrorist attacks and recruited as suicide bombers.  Equality between men and women was enshrined in the newly adopted Iraqi Constitution, but violence against women was rooted in some traditional practices and compounded by the socio-economic and security situation in Iraq.  Iraqi women, however, had faced recent difficulties with courage and had been playing a larger role in the political process, gaining 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, forming a cross-party women’s caucus that was working with United Nations to help victims of violence and establishing women’s groups.

Further amendments of the Iraqi Constitution offered an opportunity to redress persistent violations of women’s rights, he said, and the Government was working with UNIFEM and others on programmes to reduce violence against women.  Sexual violence as part of conflict should be considered a crime against humanity and should not find a place in any culture and not be excused under any circumstances.  Due to the social exclusion of victims, culturally specific awareness campaigns must be conducted in post-conflict societies.  He expressed his full support to an action-oriented resolution that could help put an end to the crimes and atrocities in question.

JOSEPH NSENGIMANA (Rwanda) said gender-based violence and violence against women had been an integral component of armed conflict throughout history.  The 1994 genocide in his country had been marked by horrific forms of such violence.  An estimated 500,000 girls and women had been victims of rape and up to two thirds had been infected with HIV.  It was now evident that rape had been part of the genocidal plan and of the systematic degradation of women and girls, a practice that had been exported into eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through militias.  It was critical that the United Nations system address the specific protection needs of women in armed conflict through implementation of resolution 1325 and through regional mechanisms, such as the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

Within his own Government, he said, a national policy on gender-based violence and violence against women had been elaborated.  The policy addressed the issue within national, regional and international contexts and linked it to peacebuilding and economic development and growth.  The Rwanda genocide law also addressed the issue as a crime against humanity, punishable by a maximum term of life imprisonment.  As a major troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, Rwanda had also worked with UNIFEM to mainstream gender-sensitive training into the curricula of all military schools and training institutions, and into the preparation of troops for peace missions abroad.

The United Nations system must take concerted action to address the plight of women in armed conflict, he said, adding that resolution 1325 must be enforced.  Impunity must be rejected by supporting and strengthening national jurisdictions.  Victims of sexual violence must also be provided with support, and the United Nations system must also strengthen its work on gender.

ELMER CATO (Philippines) said the sexual abuse committed against women and girls was deeply rooted in a pervasive culture of discrimination, highlighted by the unequal power equation that denied equal status to women, which was manifested during conflict through the social, political and cultural norms identifying women and girls as the property of men, as well as sexual objects.  The inequality also found form as a tool of war, with the violence directed at women regarded as an attack against the values and honour of a society.

Expressing support for the United Nations mechanisms to eliminate violence against women, he said the response to sexual exploitation in conflict situations required a comprehensive approach.  The Council should address the question to the extent possible, in line with its mandate.  The regional context should be considered, along with the broader context in which the violence was occurring.  The Council should also integrate gender issues into its work and facilitate the establishment of infrastructure and capacity-building for women’s access to justice.  Systems for gender-sensitive monitoring of conflicts should also receive the Council’s support.

Further, he said the Council could ensure that the design and training of peacekeeping missions included the deployment of more female police and military personnel; that troop contributors conducted gender-sensitivity training; and that they enforced a policy of zero-tolerance towards sexual exploitation and abuse involving peacekeepers.  His own country’s zero-tolerance policy had been incorporated into the revised policy framework and guidelines governing participation in missions.  As one of the largest contributors of police officers to peacekeeping operations, the Philippines also supported calls for deploying more female police officers.

ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) noted that armed groups often used violence against civilians, especially women, as a deliberate war tactic.  Under the Taliban regime, atrocities against women had occurred constantly, such as the “slaughtering” of women at Kabul stadium and their “bludgeoning” in the street for “un-virtuous behaviour”.  Sexual violence was not systematically employed by armed groups in Afghanistan in times of war because of certain cultural limits, but it was, indeed, being used by some individuals and groups as an instrument of war.  It was also true that, in both conflict and post-conflict situations, violence against women extended beyond sexual violence.  The international community should duly acknowledge the wide variety of violence inflicted on women.

He said that, since the fall of the Taliban, the Government of Afghanistan had made considerable progress in creating a secure environment for women, where their rights were protected and where their participation in decision-making bodies and in the peacebuilding process was guaranteed.  The Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs was leading that effort, through the ministerial task force that it chaired.  The disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process was being seized as an opportunity to minimize violence against women and to create an environment where they felt empowered.  More female law enforcement officers were being recruited, and the police were being given gender-sensitivity training.  Women were also being hired to staff the police family response units, and given training to deal with domestic violence and to respond to female victims of crime.

He said the escalation of violence and insecurity in some parts of the country, as a result of terrorist activities carried out by the Taliban and Al-Qaida, had hampered the implementation of the rule of law, rendering women vulnerable to all forms of violence.  Violence was being used against women by those two groups to force their retreat from public activities and to limit their access to health care and other social services, especially in the south and east.  It had particularly affected girls’ school attendance, and both female students and teachers had been attacked and threatened.  The legacy of the long conflict, including easy access to weapons, instability and rampant poverty, manifested itself in self-immolation, forced marriage and domestic violence.  As such, he asked for help from the international community to strengthen national capacities to improve economic and social conditions within the country, while requesting that peacekeepers be given gender-sensitivity training.

CARMEN MARÍA GALLARDO HERNÁNDEZ (El Salvador) said resolution 1325 was a cornerstone for an appeal for women’s equal participation in all peace and security initiatives and in post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.  Resolution 1325 emphasized the need to boost women’s role in conflict prevention and resolution.  In El Salvador’s post-conflict situation, men and women experienced peace in different ways.  In the context of armed conflict and in peacebuilding processes, one may wonder whether gender roles and relations were different, since men and women adapted differently to situations.  Resolution 1325 allowed for the consideration of situations in a broad, gender-based manner.  She noted the limited progress in enforcing resolution 1325 since its adoption.

A study by the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) contributed to facilitating the development of national action plans that were realistic and effective for implementing resolution 1325, based on good practices, specific recommendations and the six-step process, she said.  In terms of gender mainstreaming in the context of armed conflict, problems came to light, such as the lack of prevention and protection for women and girls of all forms of violence, including sexual violence used as a tool of war.  The Secretary-General should systematically include information on acts of sexual violence and gender-based violence in all his reports on conflict situations.  There must be a broader framework of action and an integral approach to gender in armed conflict situations.  Further efforts were also needed to tackle issues in an integrated manner and avoid overlap with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council.  The Peacebuilding Commission was in an ideal situation to promote and assess on the ground implementation of resolution 1325.

MAHE TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that rape and sexual assault were systematically used as war tactics in order to destroy the cohesion of communities.  He urged the Council to recognize gender-based violence as a threat to international peace and security, recommending that it systematically monitor gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict.  He welcomed the draft resolution’s reaffirmation of the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and in peacebuilding, as well as in highlighting the fact that violence, intimidation and discrimination might erode women’s capacity and legitimacy to participate in post-conflict reconciliation and peacebuilding processes.

He said that sexual and gender-based violence did not occur in a vacuum.  Unfavourable political, social, cultural, economical and environmental circumstances reinforced existing vulnerabilities and gender inequality.  The Council, therefore, should address cross-cutting issues, such as climate change, in relation to women’s security.  Women and children accounted for an estimated 70 per cent of the world’s poorest people.  Gender differences were made more prominent in the process of adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change.   Thus, the lack of provisions in integrating a gender perspective into adaptation and mitigation strategies would seriously threaten women’s security.  Climate change could lead to “resource wars” over oil, water and arable land, and it was very likely that women would be exposed to gender-based violence in such conflicts.  The Council should, therefore, consider climate change as a threat to women’s security, as well as to international security and peace.

MILOŠ PRICA (Bosnia and Herzegovina) expressed his country’s concern that systematic sexual violence against women and girls in armed conflicts had been, and still was, used as a war strategy and remained a direct threat to international peace and security.  Speaking from its own experience, his country strongly condemned such violence.  Two years ago, his Government had adopted a five-year gender action plan, which incorporated the main provisions of resolution 1325.  Also, appropriate legislation gave women victims a status of civil victims of war and helped them on their path to full recovery into the community, giving them a chance for professional improvement, monthly allowances, as well as medical and psychosocial assistance.

He said that a project by the non-governmental sector had established a data base of women victims in his country, which had already inscribed 3,000 women -- despite the traditional attitude towards women victims in his country.  Privacy was guaranteed and all women were granted long-term financial aid.  Bosnia and Herzegovina strongly believed that women should be more involved in prevention and resolution of conflict, peace negotiations, peacebuilding and the promotion of sustainable peace.  Women, however, still needed considerable support and capacity-building to be more effective in a society that had been traditionally dominated by men.

RAMTANE LEMAMRA, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, said he welcomed the seriousness with which the Security Council addressed the question of violence against women.  The question ranked highly on the Union’s list of priorities, and preparations had begun for a conference on gender in post-conflict reconstruction and development, to be held in 2009.

He said the Union had been greatly honoured by the leadership and contributions of women in recent peace processes on the continent, such as in Mozambique, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The involvement of women should be strengthened in the future.  Further, the issues involved in violence against women during conflict were well known.  Concrete action must now be taken to ensure that the knowledge was fully integrated into the new and emerging era of closer cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations in maintaining international peace and security.  That included the participation of women in peacekeeping operations at all levels.  Coordination of efforts between the United Nations and the African Union was crucial.

The Union was faced with the challenge of ensuring that its emerging peace and security architecture adequately reflected its vision of women and peace and security, he said.  The United Nations mandate on gender equality should be elevated to the highest level.  Efforts centred on women and peace and security should receive adequate support within the on-going efforts to strengthen the mobilization of resources and support for international peace and security.

THAN SWE (Myanmar) said tackling the root causes of conflict, which included disunity, poverty, socio-economic and gender inequality and underdevelopment, were extremely important.  He fully supported the zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women and girls.  Myanmar’s traditions, culture and values strongly favoured efforts to promote gender equality, and they contributed strongly to the Government’s endeavours to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and abuses.  The Government set up the National Committee for Women’s Affairs in 1996 to carry out the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  In 2003, it formed the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation.  Both bodies focused on ending violence against women.  The best way to protect civilians, particularly women and children in armed conflict, was to speedily end conflict.  National reconciliation was the only way to end conflict in a speedy manner. 

Peace and stability now prevailed in almost all corners of Myanmar, significantly improving the daily life of civilians, particularly women and children, he said.  He strongly condemned all sexual violence and other forms of violence committed against civilians in armed conflict, particularly women and children.  He stressed the importance of avoiding politicization of that important issue.  Sexual violence as a weapon of war must be strongly condemned, as should fabricating allegations and using disinformation as a weapon of political pressure.  He categorically rejected the unfounded allegations of sexual violence levelled against Myanmar’s armed forces by groups associated with the insurgents.  The Council had first-hand experience that reports emanating from exiles were not realistic.

HABIB MANSOUR (Tunisia) said the international community had long strived for the advancement of women, and, as such, it followed that Member States should call upon each other to protect them in times of conflict.  Indeed, sexual violence against women was an abject violation of human rights, and was a crime that must be fought and forcibly punished.  Yet, reports showed an alarming trend of violence against women.  Member States had affirmed, at the 2005 World Summit, the importance of protecting women in times of conflict, and of promoting women’s rights, more generally, as a precondition for peace, security and development.  To further the elimination of discrimination against women, the international community must implement the various instruments at its disposal.

He said the international community must endeavour to ensure that gender issues were properly mainstreamed, so that women were able to exercise their rights, and take up their roles, as full-fledged members of society.  Women should be viewed as vehicles of development and as the vanguard of progress, as Tunisia had chosen to do when it achieved independence in 1956.  Its civil code enshrined the principle of legal equality between women and men, with women placed squarely at the forefront of Tunisian political life.

JEAN-FRANCIS REGIS ZINSOU (Benin) said the unconscionable violence that parties to armed conflict continued to inflict on women was in full contradiction to international standards.  The seriousness of sexual violence was multiplied when it was perpetrated on a large scale, but it still did not compare to the use of mass rape as a weapon of war.  The international community must adopt the means to gain access to such lawless regions by carrying out investigations on such cases.  The Council should be able to order special operations under the concept of the responsibility to protect, in order to document the activities of the armed groups that were committing sexual violence against women and girls and to determine the nature and scope of actions taken in order to end them.  It was important to establish synergy between human rights counsellors and monitoring and information bodies established in the framework of resolution 1612 (2005).  That mechanism had been tested and was operational, since it allowed for identifying perpetrators of abuses against children.  The strengthening of legal provisions to fight impunity would be very useful. 

He stressed the need to return dignity to female victims by organizing awareness campaigns and establishing structures for psychological rehabilitation.  That should be taken into account in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  United Nations missions should determine which measures could be taken in the field to prevent sexual attacks by peacekeepers.  Adding women to peacekeeping contingents could facilitate contact and information gathering, but the absence of women in those situations should not impede the development of strategies to end it.  While it was necessary, in some cases, to give amnesty to war lords, their crimes of sexual violence against women should not be permitted to go unpunished.  Perpetrators must be brought to account in international or national jurisdiction.  It was also essential to strengthen awareness about sexual violence among law enforcement in order to effectively protect the population. 

ABDERRAHIN OULD HADRAMI (Mauritania) said sexual violence persisted, despite the profusion of laws banning it, and of international initiatives put in place to protect and promote women’s rights.  In Islam, which was the religion of his country, women were revered figures in society.  Sexual violence against them was detrimental to society as a whole, because it led to unwanted pregnancy, the spread of disease and the “de-moralizing” of women victims.  Inflicting sexual violence on civilians during times of conflict was especially worrisome, and the international community should strive to put an end to it.  Zero tolerance should be applied to those who committed such crimes.

He said the office of the special representative should be a strong one, and he supported the proposal by Belgium to appoint a woman investigator in charge of sexual violence.  Women should take an active part in peacekeeping operations.  However, the language requirement for assignment to UNAMID was overly stringent.  That requirement should be re-examined, so that sufficiently qualified women who wished to serve there could apply for posts.

DANIELE D. BODINI (San Marino) said his country’s Foreign Minister had spear-headed the Council of Europe’s campaign on violence against women, which ended last week, while its Parliament had adopted a strong law directed at eliminating violence against women just yesterday.  San Marino had also organized a symposium at the United Nations to link the work of the Council of Europe with activities of the Organization, in support of that cause.  In his country, women were seen as pillars of the family, and families were the cornerstones of society.  As such, he condemned violence against women, and war and violence in general, adding that San Marino had maintained itself for centuries without having had an army.

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Published in: "Security Council Demands Immediate and Complete Halt to Acts of Sexual Violence Against Civilians in Conflict Zones, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1820 (2008)," United Nations Press Releases & Meetings Coverage, 19 June 2008.