Preventing Sexual and Gender Based Violence with Specialized Policing

Statement by Ambassador Mari Skåre on Preventing Sexual and Gender Based Violence with Specialized Policing, 8 March 2019.

Let me start by congratulating everybody: Happy International Women’s Day! It is my great pleasure to be here with you to celebrate the progress that we have made in our struggle for gender equality - but also to acknowledge the huge challenges that remains and discuss good strategies for the way forward.

To say it with the words of the Secretary General: ‘Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. We live in a male-dominated culture. Only when we see women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance.’

We are pleased to host this event together with some of our key partners here in New York: The Mission of Haiti, UN Women, the UN Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict and the UN Police Division. I would like to thank all of you here today for the crucial work you are doing at the policy level and in the field.

There are still structural and cultural impediments for women’s full and equal participation in our societies. Norway is, together with other partners, working hard to close enormous gender gap in education in the world today. Likewise, to improve women’s health services which far from adequate many places. We must secure women the same opportunities as men in the work force, in businesses, in the security sector and in politics. Women’s and girl’s access to justice are in many places non-existent or limited. There is no equality without access to justice. Sexual and Gender Based Violence, the topic for today’s discussion, is still an ugly and widespread phenomenon – and often a crime committed with impunity for the perpetrator.

Sexual and gender based violence occur in peace times and in war times. It occurs in stable, prosperous societies and in societies in deep economic and humanitarian crisis. Both men and women, boys and girls are victims of such crimes.

But, the majority of the victims are female. According to UN Women, estimates show that as much as 35 per cent of women worldwide has experienced Sexual and Gender Based Violence in their lifetime. This is a shocking number!

We need cross-sectorial approaches that includes a full range of measures. We need to understand the character of these crimes and reason why they occur. We need continued and better research. We need education. We need leadership. We need civil society activists and we need the media on our side.

Of particular relevance for our discussion here today – we need professional police institutions that have the right competence and tools to carry out preventive measures as well as investigate and prosecute such crimes.

The police, and other security institutions, need not only to recruit women, but to also provide safe and conducive working environments to ensure that women are given the same professional opportunities as men. We need women at all levels in our police forces. It is about the legitimacy of these institutions, it is about recruiting the best and the brightest from the whole population group - not only 50 percent of it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

War and conflict comes with very high costs. Contemporary conflicts have devastating consequences for civilians. Our overall objective is, of course, to prevent conflicts from happening. When they occur, however, we need to understand that conflicts affect women and men differently. Women and children are often harder hit than men. Women and girls are in many conflicts subjected to sexual violence. 

Dr. Dennis Mukwege and Nadia Murad - a doctor and a survivor - received the Nobel Peace Prize last year for their leadership and tireless and courageous work. Dr. Mukwege reminded us in his Nobel Lecture that Conflict-Related Sexual and Gender Based Violence it is a method that aims to destroy not just the victim, but families and communities - the very social fabric of societies.

Therefore in all UN-led efforts on prevention and resolution of conflicts, the UN needs to ensure that it has the right competence and that women 
are employed and deployed at all levels in the institution. The UN strategies must be developed based on comprehensive analysis’ and with a gender perspective.

Clearly, troop and police contributing countries have a responsibility both to provide female candidates and to deploy women in peace operations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Norway has for a number of years advocated good gender based strategies also in humanitarian operations and crises. 23 and 24 may Norway, together with UN OCHA, UNFPA, SRSG Patten and others, will host an International Conference with the aim of closing the gaps in the humanitarian response to sexual and gender based violence, focusing especially on conflict-related sexual violence.

Let me finish by saying a few words about the team in Haiti and the development of the Specialized Policing Model.

It all began in 2010 when a team of Norwegian police officers formed a Specialized Police Teams to support the Haitian National Police’s capacity to response to sexual violence. Norway’s Police Adviser here at the UN, Jon Christian Møller, has himself been deployed to the team twice. Two Canadian officers joined the team in 2014 and we appreciate very much our collaboration with Canada on this.

As with all projects, there is a start and a finish. Now we have crossed the finish-line. I believe it is with confidence that the Norwegian Specialized Police Team now leaves the continuous development and implementation of the field of Sexual and Gender Based Violence policing in Haiti in the hands of the Haitian National Police Service.

Key deliverances include, amongst others, a specialized police unit within the Haitian National Police for the investigation of sexual crimes, the training of police trainers, adoption of a one week Sexual and Gender Based Violence investigation course into basic police school training, and training of investigators, magistrates and prosecutors. 

As with all pilot projects, there has been challenges and hiccups along the way, and it is important that we share and learn from these experiences.

We are happy to see that specialized police teams as a tool for capacity building is being institutionalized as a peacekeeping tool within the UN. This is the case not only when it comes to Sexual and Gender Based Violence, but in various fields, such as community policing, crime-scene management and live-stock protection. As noted by the Secretary General in his report about the UN Police last year: “the Special Police Team approach has proven to be an effective and efficient tool for providing required police expertise for the implementation of UN police mandate in field missions”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence need a proper support system, need justice. I wish to underscore, however, that the best strategy is not to see only the victimization – but to see women and girls as actors and contributors to peace, to security, to prosperity. The strategies preventing and ensuring justice of these crimes must focus on Women’s Empowerment and promote Gender Equality worldwide.

I look forward to hearing from all the presenters, Thank you.