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Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict in Africa

Norwegian statement by Ambassador Morten Aasland at the AUPSC open session, 23. july 2019

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Distinguished Chair, SRSGs Patten and Tetteh, Special Envoy Diop, Excellencies, Ambassadors,

I would like to commend the Chair, H E the ambassador of Togo, and the PSC, for scheduling this important session.

Thank you also for the important statements made this morning.

 

Norway welcomes the achievements over this last decade, by the AUC and by African nations, in close cooperation with the United Nations.

At the same time, there is a pressing need to further strengthening norms and instruments, and in particular implementation by all, as brought out by the presenters this morning.

 

Sexual violence destroys lives, tears apart the social fabric of communities, creates rifts between neighbours, and preys on the differences that enrich our societies.

The scale of sexual violence we are witnessing in zones of conflict and crises all over the world, including in Africa, is something we cannot accept.

That is why Norway in Oslo in May this year, together with the governments of Somalia, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, and UNOCHA, UNFPA and ICRC, hosted an international conference to end sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.

The main purpose of the conference was to mobilize political will, increase financial resources, and ensure better protection to people at risk of SGBV in humanitarian situations as well as improve assistance to survivors.

The conference brought together survivors and specialists, members of 167 national and 76 international civil society organizations, representatives from 100 nations, global leaders and representatives of international organisations, including from the African Union.

During the conference, states committed to provide a total of more than 363 million US dollars to SGBV prevention and response in 2019 and beyond.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Mme Cessouma Minata Samate, and the AU Chairperson’s Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, Mme Bineta Diop, for their important contributions to the conference. Our thanks also to SRSG Patten, and to Minister Dega Yasin of Somalia, who is with us today and spoke a moment ago.

 

Chair,

The African Union has an important role in collecting evidence, creating norms and standards, and promoting efforts to protect and assist victims of sexual violence. The African Union gender strategy, launched by Chairperson Faki earlier this year, is a useful framework when advancing the Union and its member states’ efforts towards eliminating sexual violence in conflict. Furthermore, the Guidelines on Combating Sexual Violence and its Consequences in Africa, adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in May 2017, clarifies the obligations of states and presents a number of strategies aimed at preventing sexual violence and protecting and supporting victims, including in conflicts and crises.

 

Preventing SGBV and providing reparations to victims and survivors is a key priority in Norway’s humanitarian strategy.

Going forward, let me highlight three priorities:

Working to end impunity: Strengthening prosecution of perpetrators, and supporting relevant national instruments, in accordance with UN and AU decisions.   

For victims: Building a survivor-centric approach, in accordance with UN SCR 2467, adopted earlier this year. The survivors know best themselves how they can be assisted in rebuilding their lives and removing stigma. Their voice must be heard.

Thirdly, communities: While assisting the individual victim, we also need to underpin efforts by communities and indeed nations in repairing the social fabric at large. There is  inspiration in impressive work done in conflict zones in Africa and in other parts of the world. Dr. Mukwege’s work in Bukavu is one case in point.

Thank you for your attention.