Conflict-related sexual violence does not begin with crises like COVID-19. But the chaos and instability caused by such crises leave women and girls, but also men and boys, in a more vulnerable position.
The increased burden on health services makes it even more difficult for survivors to get the care they need, while limitations due to lockdowns and other restrictive measures further hamper the ability of justice and rule of law institutions to carry out their work.
Two months ago, the Secretary-General sounded the alarm and urged the international community to stop the horrifying surge in gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
146 Member States and Observers joined the statement the EU launched with other partners to support the Secretary-General’s call. Together, we expressed our resolve to take action and ensure that no survivor is left behind.
2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. In the past 20 years, the Security Council has adopted a solid framework to address conflict-related sexual violence. As outlined by EU High Representative Josep Borrell and SRSG Pramila Patten in a joint statement published yesterday, what we need now is implementation in order to (1) prevent conflict-related sexual violence, (2) protect survivors, (3) end impunity for perpetrators, and (4) guarantee access to justice, reparations and redress for survivors.
The EU is redoubling efforts during the COVID-19 crisis to mitigate further risks and eliminate all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence:
1. First, we are placing women and children at the centre of our response. The Team Europe package, worth more than €36 billion, identifies women and girls as a priority group in our coronavirus response and recovery. We are ensuring that all analysis, measures and actions taken are inclusive, gender-responsive and age-sensitive, and take into account the needs of all people, including LGBTI people. Ongoing life-saving responses must continue as much as possible, with adaptation as needed.
2. Second, we are adapting existing programmes and launching new ones to respond to the challenges of COVID-19.
3. Third, we are making sure that efforts are driven by survivors and those who represent them, in particular women-led organisations and women human rights defenders.
Human rights are always most at risk in times of crisis. The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of their review conferences, and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in this context. We are ready to step up efforts to support these rights wherever they are being challenged.
At a time when the rules-based international order is facing increased pressure, the strengthening of the international criminal justice system is more important than ever. The EU reaffirms its full support to the International Criminal Court and invites all States that have not yet done so to consider joining the ICC to end impunity for the most serious crimes, including conflict-related sexual violence.
On this day, like every day, you can count on us to take our full part in the collective efforts to end this abhorrent crime.