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Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
A little less than a year ago, the global community commemorated the first International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. On this occasion, the European Union reaffirmed its strongest support for zero tolerance to any form of sexual violence. We said it then, and we say it now: sexual violence is a flagrant and unacceptable violation of human rights, and we stand in solidarity with its victims and survivors, as well as with their families who suffered from any form of sexual violence in conflict and its ramifications.
I thank the Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed, and Ms. Mina Jaf on behalf of civil society for their statements. Let me use this opportunity to also congratulate Ms. Pramila Patten on her appointment as Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and to wish her every success in her work. The EU has been and will remain a staunch supporter of her important mandate as well as of the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Through 2016, the EU continued its close cooperation with and support to the work of the former Special Representative, Ms. Zainab Bangura, to help enhance the coordination of international efforts against sexual violence and the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual violence crimes.
The EU applauds the measures taken by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, which led to the delisting of the Forces Armées de Côte d’Ivoire from the Annex of the UN Secretary-General’s report. This first delisting under the mandate of the Special Representative coincided with other key developments in 2016, including consequential verdicts in cases of conflict-related sexual violence crimes. These milestone decisions of justice delivery undergird the EU’s long-standing support to the International Criminal Court, as well as to non-permanent International Criminal Tribunals. At the same time, we recall that the primary responsibility for bringing perpetrators to justice resides with States.
We welcome the report submitted by the Secretary-General and note the updates to the annex of the report. We commend the in-depth, comprehensive analysis in the report and emphasize the importance of its actionable recommendations. We highlight the assessment that for gains in the fight against conflict-related sexual violence to be consolidated, continued monitoring, technical assistance and support to security and justice sector reform will be required. The EU is committed to continue its global support actions on all these counts. The EU also emphasizes the continued importance of a holistic approach, which addresses sexual violence in conflict as part of the broader women, peace and security agenda, recognising that sexual and gender-based violence are also the results of gender inequalities and of women’s subordinated positions in too many parts of the world. We should avoid fragmentation and selective approaches, and tackle all forms of sexual and gender-based violence holistically, may it be in peace, conflict or times of crisis. In addition, the issue of stigma should be analysed and addressed within the broader context of sexual and gender-based violence, which might or might not be related to conflict.
The EU fully supports the focus of the Secretary-General on conflict prevention, and please allow me to echo from the Secretary-General’s report that “the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence forms an integral part of wider conflict prevention.” Efforts to prevent sexual and gender-based violence fall in line with the key objective of the European Union’s Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy, which is to address conflicts at an early stage while building resilience as a key priority for states and societies.
As underlined by the Secretary-General in his 2016 report on women, peace and security, conflict-related sexual violence needs to be addressed as part of a continuum of gender-based violence, closely intertwined with persistent inequalities and broader attacks on gender equality and women’s human rights. While sexual and gender-based violence predominantly targets women and girls, men and boys are also among the primary and secondary victims of these crimes.
The EU is determined to remain a global leader in ending sexual and gender-based violence, including in conflict-related situations. We know that policy is only relevant when it is properly implemented, and it is our determination that implementation remain at the centre of gravity, where our main efforts continue to be placed.
The EU also remains determined to lead by example in preventing sexual and gender-based violence and protecting individuals and communities from it. We know that accountability starts at home, and in this spirit, we have launched a series of actions in 2017 to combat violence against women and girls in all its forms in the European Union. Discussions have well progressed within the EU on our accession to the Council of Europe’s ‘Istanbul Convention’. Combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting the victims will remain a key priority of the EU’s internal gender equality policy in the years to come.
Situations of protracted armed conflict and instability, of rising violent extremism, terrorism and criminality, as well as situations of mass migration and displacement – they all amplify the vulnerability of populations to sexual and gender-based violence.
The EU welcomes the focus of the Council on the issue of trafficking in human beings in armed conflict, culminating in the adoption last December of UNSCR 2331. The EU has built an ambitious, gender-specific and comprehensive legal and policy framework to combat trafficking in human beings. Anti-trafficking actions also form a key part of our external policies and funding. Since 2015, our vessels have saved more than 240,000 people in the Mediterranean. Operation EUNAVFOR MED Sophia, also by virtue of a mandate from the UNSC, is disrupting traffickers’ networks and bringing smugglers to justice.
The EU firmly shares the zero tolerance policy of the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. We strongly support the Secretary-General’s leadership in dealing with this challenge. The EU is currently revising the Generic Standards of Behavior for its field missions and operations in order to ensure that the highest standards of professionalism and conduct are upheld, and to lay the ground for stronger preventive, protective and accountability measures. Through its humanitarian aid budget, the EU has funded IOM to develop tools that will assist the humanitarian community to prevent and respond to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by humanitarian staff, and we hope that these tools will also be useful for the wider UN-system reform on this issue, which the EU very much welcomes.
The EU has been firmly advocating for and promoting women’s meaningful participation in conflict prevention, crisis management, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. In 2016, we completed a first baseline study on how human rights and gender have been integrated across the planning and conduct of our civilian missions and military operations under our Common Security and Defence Policy. Through the implementation of the recommendations of this baseline study, we aim to improve inter alia women’s representation and participation across all our civilian and military deployments.
We want to see practical steps to tackle impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war and to continue to change global attitudes to these crimes. Accountability and access to justice are a must, victims and witnesses of sexual violence have to be ensured access to impartial and gender-sensitive tribunals and to reparations, including as a form of transitional gender justice. The EU has adopted a framework for transitional justice that ensures gender is a variable taken into account in these processes.
Efforts to fight sexual violence in conflict also need to comprise measures to ensure adequate information, fact-finding, analysis and proper documentation as well as the rapid and effective investigation of these crimes. The partnership between UN Women and Justice Rapid Response is an example of how to take practical steps ensure accountability by providing the international community with expertise to investigate and prosecute sexual and gender-based violence .We acknowledge the key role of civil society organisations in all efforts to identify and protect victims and to advise them on measures that need to be taken, and we will continue to work together with them in this common endeavour.
The EU underlines the need to make full use of the mechanisms and tools created by the UNSC to combat and prevent conflict related sexual violence. We welcome and encourage further use of the human rights and sexual violence related criteria in the UNSC sanctions regimes. The EU also salutes the activation of the UNSC Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security.
Let me invoke the key frameworks of EU action to fight conflict-related sexual violence.
The EU continues to implement its dedicated policy on women, peace and security, including through close cooperation with the UN, our regional partner organizations and with civil society. To this date, 18 out of 28 EU Member States have adopted National Action Plans on UNSCR 1325.
The EU continues to systematically follow up on the 2014 Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. In this context, we have continued the implementation of the Guide to Practical Actions at EU level for Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, which promotes a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and multidimensional approach. A new annual reporting mechanism on EU efforts to end sexual violence in conflict is currently under elaboration.
The EU has worked to ensure that all its humanitarian assistance systematically tailors its responses to the different and gender-specific needs of women and men of all ages. The EU remained a committed and active member of the initiative ‘Call to Action on Protection from Gender Based Violence in Emergencies’, and we have decided to take over as lead for the ‘Call to Action’ in 2017.
In 2016, the EU has actively supported the UN’s ‘Orange campaign’ and 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence both at Brussels HQ, and worldwide through our network of EU Delegations and field deployments.
Let me flag up a few concrete EU initiatives around the world to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.
The EU Madad Trust Fund launched the biggest EU response package ever to the Syrian refugee crisis. Among other components, the programme strengthens access to protection from sexual and gender-based violence to at least 700.000 Syrian refugees and IDPs in neighbouring countries.
In Somalia, the EU has been funding the International Rescue Committee to provide integrated lifesaving health services to gender-based violence victims in eight health clinics and one hospital.
In the DRC, the EU has been funding the Panzi hospital for a decade. This is a hospital that specialises in treating women with gynaecological conditions, specifically those due to reproductive trauma and trauma from sexual violence.
In Ivory Coast, an EU funded project on prevention and care for women victims of sexual violence offered legal care and psychosocial support to 300 female victims and protection to 6.000 girls.
We have allocated €3.5 million to a project implemented by UN Women to ensure that transitional justice processes in Kosovo, Colombia and the Philippines are tackling past abuses against women.
We have maintained a strong focus on combatting sexual and gender based violence in humanitarian settings. In 2016, the EU allocated over €18 million of its humanitarian aid budget for the prevention of and response to gender-based violence, in 84 different projects reaching almost 3.4 million beneficiaries.
The EU will continue to accelerate the implementation of all obligations and commitments to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, both within and outside our borders. In 2017, we will provide specific support to victims of violence in the most remote and fragile areas. The EU is also strengthening efforts to ensure that women and girls arriving in the EU fleeing conflict, persecution, instability or poverty have access to medical care, legal support, appropriate trauma counselling and psycho-social care if they have been victims of discrimination and/or violence.
The EU would like to see us collectively build on, and strengthen, what is already in place. We should remain careful to ensure that new initiatives bring added value and avoid fragmenting the women, peace and security agenda.
Much has been achieved, but we must also acknowledge that much work remains to be done collectively until conflict-related sexual violence becomes a scourge of the past. We need to stay focused on combating these violations, further coordinating, systematising and strengthening our actions until women, men, girls, and boys are able to lead a life free from fear and violence anywhere in the world.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.