On September 14, 2009 IPI hosted a policy forum to discuss how to strengthen the United Nation’s responses to sexual violence in conflict. The forum, which took place as the Security Council was preparing its debate on Resolution 1820 on Women, Peace and Security, provided a timely opportunity to take stock of both the political dynamics at the UN as well as realities on the ground.
The forum was hosted in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN and UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict. Panelists included Dr. Izumi Nakamitsu, Director of the Policy, Evaluation and Training Division at the UN Department of Peacekeeping and Co-Chair of the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Ian Martin, former UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Nepal.
Dr. Nakamitsu opened the forum by reporting on key-findings from the recent High-Level Colloquium organized by UN Action. The June 2009 colloquium assembled high-level mediators, UN officials, women’s rights activists, and specialists on various aspects of peace accords to discuss the challenges in addressing sexual violence during peace negotiations. It highlighted that only about 18 out of 300 peace accords since 1989 have addressed sexual violence, by either acknowledging its use as a tactic of warfare, or by setting in place measures to respond to the needs of survivors. Dr. Nakamitsu said that in order for the UN to be more effective, political commitment from UN member states must be backed up by real support in financial and human resources to the UN missions and agencies active on the ground.
In his remarks, panelist Ian Martin reflected upon his own experience as a UN mediator in places where sexual threat and violence, including systematic rape, remains an ongoing threat to personal and state security. He noted that addressing sexual violence during peace negotiations and mediation remains one of the most difficult challenges for the UN today, and that much of the problem is rooted in the gender imbalance reflected in the number of female mediators and SRSGs. In the case of Nepal, he noted, there was “not one single woman representing either parties of the conflict.” And while UN’s political mission in Nepal subsequently had several female human rights rapporteurs, this could not compensate for the insufficient female representation in solving the conflict in the first place.
Mr. Martin also noted that in order to prevent impunity and guard against the recurrence of sexual violence after conflict a comprehensive approach must be taken from the outset in peace negotiations. This includes addressing sexual violence in the following components of peace accords: ceasefire agreements; humanitarian pre-ceasefire agreements; disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR); security sector reform (SSR); and justice.
A few of audience’s questions focused on how to strengthen the political momentum for a strong resolution in light of the Security Council’s upcoming discussion on SCR 1820. Other questions included how to prevent stigmatization by victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as how to achieve a better gender balance in the number of female UN mediators and SRSGs.