Madame President –
New Zealand wishes to express its appreciation to the Secretary-General, Special Representative Bangura and Ms Misaka for their statements. We also thank you, Madame President, for convening this debate today. It is important that the Council continues to state in the clearest possible terms that conflict-related sexual violence will not be tolerated, and makes all efforts to give effect to those words.
We have seen some significant steps forward since the Council last convened an open debate to consider this issue, including the adoption of Resolution 2106. We have also welcomed specific commitments made by a number of countries to combat sexual violence in armed conflict over the past year.
The Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence is sobering; it illustrates the scale and severity of the challenges that remain. It is clear that political commitments need to translate into concrete actions on the ground. The international community must address the use of sexual violence to intimidate and maintain social control, reprisals against those who report crimes, targeting of children and lack of access to justice, as well as many other difficult challenges.
In the face of these challenges, what can be done? First and foremost, national governments themselves must show leadership. We, as an international community, must support efforts by national governments and by other actors, including civil society. The United Nations Security Council must also continue to focus on this issue.
Madame President –
If lasting progress is to be made then we must focus on preventing conflict-related sexual violence from occurring in the first place by dealing with root causes. This requires national governments, supported by the UN, to emphasise better education at all levels of communities – from schools to health centres to the military - to help shift social attitudes and improve understanding of sexual violence.
The Security Council must ensure that there is ongoing systematic focus on prevention, including in all relevant country-specific resolutions, peacekeeping mandate authorisations and renewals, and special political missions. Ensuring strong monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements will help to identify situations of risk early so they can be addressed. This will also require coordination and information-sharing across UN activities.
We strongly encourage ongoing training of UN peacekeepers to protect populations from sexual violence. Peacekeepers can provide a strong line of prevention and response, both in terms of recognising early warning signs and reporting them, as well as addressing appropriately instances where sexual violence has occurred. Good quality training which is comprehensive and contextual should ensure that peacekeepers are able to recognise and respond to those most vulnerable to sexual violence. This includes, for example, persons with disabilities who have a heightened risk of sexual violence, but often have challenges to both prevent and report sexual violence.
Women protection advisers have a critical role to play in prevention and response and New Zealand calls for more advisers to be deployed to relevant Missions. Consideration should also be given to ensuring adequate deployment of child protection advisers, reflecting that young people are often victims.
Effective accountability is vital to hold perpetrators to account, to ensure recognition for victims and to deter future crimes. We acknowledge the important work done by international tribunals and the ICC in strengthening international law on sexual violence. The focus this Council paid to accountability in Resolution 2106 was welcome and we must continue this trend by ensuring accountability and access to justice are part of all our conversations about conflict-related sexual violence.
At the national level, effective accountability requires strong domestic laws, institutions and practical mechanisms that actually enable access to justice. We applaud the engagement so far of UN actors, in particular the Team of Experts to support national authorities to achieve accountability. New Zealand encourages the continuation and deepening of this support.
New Zealand is one of the 144 countries that endorsed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, an initiative of the United Kingdom. This demonstrated that the political will exists to tackle conflict-related sexual violence. The upcoming summit in London this June provides an important opportunity to grow this political will and identify practical actions, reflecting on some of the concerns raised today.
Madame President –
New Zealand strongly endorses the Secretary-General and others’ call for all parties to conflict responsible for acts of sexual violence to cease this horrendous conduct and to make protection commitments. We also call for further strengthening and implementation of the protection framework, ensuring that protection is extended to those most vulnerable to conflict-related sexual violence.