UNGA: Sexual and Gender-based Violence in humanitarian crises

Statement by Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide at the Strengthening commitments to prevent, respond, and protect against Sexual and Gender-based Violence in humanitarian crises high-level event, 28 September 2020.

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I would first like to thank the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Somalia and Iraq alongside UNOCHA, UNFPA, the ICRC and our many local civil society partners for your commitment to following up last year’s conference on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

The main goals of the conference in Oslo were to mobilise political will, financial resources and operational capacity – in order to improve both the protection of people at risk of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian situations and assistance to survivors.

As you will learn shortly, we are largely on track to achieve the policy commitments and financial pledges made in Oslo last year.

Through the conference in Oslo and several other recent events and processes, I believe we have been able to move the fight against sexual and gender-based violence further up the agenda – both at international level and in operational responses at country level.  

But it is also clear that we still have a very long way to go.

With one in three women experiencing physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime, SGBV is a global problem. We know that girls are being held as sex slaves, women and girls are being systematically gang-raped, child soldiers are being sexually abused. These and other atrocities are taking place right now, around the world, with devastating impacts on the lives of children and adolescents, women and men. Communities are being shattered and the fabric of society torn apart.

And as many of the partners who are with us today are experiencing on the ground, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.

To state the obvious: we must deal with this problem as a matter of urgency.

In particular, we must do more to involve civil society actors at local level and provide them with resources. And we must do more to ensure that frontline humanitarian workers have both sufficient resources and safe and unhindered access to affected populations. Their capacity and safety are vital if they are to provide protection, deliver sexual and reproductive health services and give psycho-social support to survivors.

I would also like to underline that the humanitarian efforts in this field need to be closely linked to the longer-term effort to prevent SGBV and fight impunity. We must do more to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice and to put an end to the widespread use of sexual violence as a tactic of war.

The courageous leadership of Dr. Mukwege and Nadia Murad is still crucial. I would like to commend you for your tireless work, and thank you both for participating in today’s event.

In Oslo, states, international organizations and various civil society organisations pledged substantial resources, and made hundreds of other commitments relating to operational support, prevention and response services, leadership and coordination. This momentum must be maintained.

I am encouraged to see that from all around the world, we are once again coming together - both today and at the Call to Action event last Friday – to share experience and lessons learned and to reaffirm our commitments. 

I can promise that Norway will keep this issue high on the agenda in its dialogue with other states and key humanitarian partners. Protection of civilians, including protection from SGBV, will be a priority when we take up our seat as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2021 and 2022.

Finally, I would like to extend my thanks to Norway’s co-hosts for their continued commitment, and say a special thank you to our colleagues from the UAE for preparing this event so efficiently and to Humanitarian Outcomes for compiling the Progress Report that was presented today.

We look forward to continuing to cooperate with all of you to achieve our common goal of ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises.