EU Global Strategy

EU Statement -- United Nations Security Council: Open VTC on Sexual Violence in Conflict

New York, 17/07/2020 - 15:54, UNIQUE ID: 200717_13
Statements on behalf of the EU

17 July 2020, New York -- Statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States by H.E. Ambassador Mara Marinaki, Principal Advisor on Gender and on Women, Peace and Security, European Union – European External Action Service, at the Security Council Open VTC on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Mr President, Excellences, Distinguished Participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries the Republic of North 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.

We thank Germany and the Dominican Republic for keeping this important topic on the agenda of the Council. We owe this to all victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. They expect us to move resolutely from commitments to compliance on sexual violence in conflict until the day when there are no longer any cases of these crimes.

This anniversary year for UN Security Council resolution 1325, marking 20 years since the Security Council recognised the relationship between the rights and safety of women and international peace and security, has been disrupted by the current pandemic. Yet this will not deter us. We will adapt, and continue to work resolutely for the comprehensive implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and its inter-related pillars of women’s rights, agency and safety.

It is alarming that, as the Secretary General points out in his latest report on Sexual Violence in Conflict, “the level of compliance by all parties to conflict with the resolutions of the Security Council remains low after a decade of concerted focus”. The EU and its Member States are determined to show political leadership, and make all efforts to fill these gaps in compliance.

While this report was finalised before the COVID-19 outbreak, the pandemic has provided fresh evidence that such crises exacerbate and amplify structural gender inequalities. Recent data have confirmed an increased level of gender based violence at large, including a rise in domestic violence under quarantine. We must therefore put the safety of women and girls first, in our response to COVID19.

As EU High Representative Josep Borrell and the UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten stressed in their joint statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we must now move from words to action in order to prevent that such violence occurs. We need to protect victims, hold perpetrators to account, and guarantee access to justice, reparations and redress for survivors. In line with the survivor-centred approach defined by UN Security Council resolution 2467 and previously adopted resolutions, we will put the needs of victims and survivors at the front and centre of our actions.

In this respect, we recognise the important work done by civil society, human rights defenders and peacebuilders, who are often putting their lives at risk to fight injustice. We express our gratitude to these champions, most often, women, whose work and advocacy have been an essential part of everything that has been achieved to date.

Gender matters in humanitarian settings because women, girls, boys and men are affected by crises and conflicts in different ways. They have different needs, suffer from different vulnerabilities, face particular risks, but do not necessarily have access to the same resources and services. Furthermore, they develop diverse coping or survival mechanisms and possess specific capacities to support their families and communities during and after disasters and conflict. Responses must take into account the root causes of gender-based violence and must follow an intersectional approach, taking into account the specific challenges of those suffering from multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. This includes also recognising the agency of women and girls in shaping the response. 

The past months have shown the importance of investing massively in the health sector to ensure immediate support to victims and survivors. Comprehensive health services, which include access to sexual and reproductive health, mental health and psychological support for victims, are a fundamental part of a survivor-centred approach. 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.

The EU has taken concrete actions to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence based on a holistic approach. Through the EU-UN Spotlight initiative, many projects have been launched to scale-up existing hotlines, provide shelters and to reinforce the capacity of the health, justice and other sectors. With funding of EUR 500 million, the Spotlight is the largest global investment in eliminating violence against women and girls.

While humanitarian emergencies affect entire communities, the consequences are most severely felt by women and girls. We are concerned that sexual and gender-based violence remains among the most underfunded humanitarian appeals. In 2019, the EU allocated approximately EUR 26 million of its humanitarian aid budget to preventing and responding to gender-based violence worldwide and an additional EUR 20 million was allocated for reproductive health. We call on all Member States to step up support for gender-responsive programming.

Awareness raising is essential to transform gender stereotypes and social norms and prevent sexual violence. An example of which we are proud of is  the European Training Mission in Mali where Malian soldiers and officers receives mandatory SGBV and IHL training as part of the regular training curriculum. Incentives must be accompanied by decisive measures to deter and prevent sexual violence.

The EU regrets that the level of compliance by conflicting parties to current Security Council resolutions remains very limited. This is unacceptable. We call on the Security Council to use sanctions and other targeted measures in order to enhance compliance. Inclusion of sexual violence as stand-alone designation criterion in existing sanctions regimes has proven both an effective tool for prevention and accountability.    

Today is the Day for International Criminal Justice (17 July). Justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence and crimes are still too often the exception. At a time when the rules-based international order is facing increased pressure, it is more important than ever to strengthen the international criminal justice system and bring an end to (the vicious cycle of) impunity for sexual violence. The EU and its Member States reaffirm their full support for the International Criminal Court and invite 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 crimes.

In Colombia, Kosovo[1] and the Philippines, the EU supported programmes prioritising help for victims, and increasing the effectiveness of transitional justice processes aimed at building a more just and stable society. In Colombia, we are supporting the work of Colombian Human Rights Defenders.

Justice must be accompanied by reparations to allow survivors to rebuild their lives, and recover from their traumas. The EU was one of the first contributors to the Global Survivors Fund launched by Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege last year, with an enveloped of EUR 2 million. We have also mobilised EUR 15 million for direct and flexible support to women’s and grassroots’ organisations through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women’s in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Women Peace and Humanitarian fund in Haiti, Afghanistan and Papua New Guinea.

Finally, the UN Secretary General’s recent report makes it clear that there is still a long way ahead before sexual violence is effectively stamped out across the world. Sadly, despite all our achievements, cases of sexual violence remain all too numerous. Let us change that. Let us do more and better, together. With that in mind, the EU is co-leading the Action Coalition on gender-based violence under the Generation Equality Forum, which offers a good opportunity to renew and combine our efforts to end sexual violence in peace as well as in conflict.


* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

[1] This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.