SC: Sexual Violence in Conflict

Joint Nordic Statement by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden on the occasion of the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “Sexual Violence in Conflict”, 14 April 2021

I deliver this statement on behalf of Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and my own country Denmark. Allow me to thank Vietnam for organizing today’s open debate as well as to express sincere gratitude to SRSG Pramila Patten and her Office for their important work and ceaseless commitment to ending sexual violence in conflict.

Conflict-related sexual violence is a horrifying reality. It is always a violation of international humanitarian law, and may constitute international crimes such as war crime or crime against humanity. It is a pervasive and life-threatening health, human rights and protection issue. It remains a cruel tactic of war, terror, political repression and torture aggravated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has gone hand-in-hand with a spike in sexual and gender-based violence worldwide. Survivors have lost access to essential services, training of judicial and security actors has been suspended, humanitarian access has been limited, and sociocultural and structural impediments to reporting have been amplified. The needs of survivors at this challenging time should be taken into account, including in all aspects of COVID-19 responses.

We the international community, have a responsibility to provide protection, uphold human rights, and address these setbacks. The fight against sexual violence is key in our work to secure international peace and security.

In 2019, the Nordic countries together with representatives from 100 states, organizations, survivors and experts came together and made several hundred commitments to end SGBV in humanitarian crises at the Oslo Conference, a number of which have been fulfilled. Much remains to be done in the field of implementation of sexual violence responses and the wider WPS agenda. 

We must acknowledge the urgent need for concrete action. It is important to respond to the needs of victims and survivors in, amongst others, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen. We must not be afraid to try innovative approaches. We need to increase partnerships with local communities and with survivor-focused women’s rights organizations. We must promote their safe and meaningful engagement and full, effective and meaningful participation in decision-making. This includes ensuring that they receive flexible and sustainable financial support.

We must ensure that efforts to fight SGBV are integrated into all action dealing with conflict situations and crises. To do this, survivors – women, girls, men and boys –must be at the centre of shaping prevention and response. As recognized in UNSCR 2467, a survivor-centered approach is crucial for preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, and survivors of sexual violence must receive non-discriminatory access to services such as medical and psychosocial care. The Nordic countries call for a strengthening of services for survivors of sexual violence, including through ensuring comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights such as access to emergency contraception and the safe termination of pregnancies.

It is key to fight impunity and to hold perpetrators accountable. We must establish credible systems of accountability, including by supporting law enforcement institutions to fight impunity, not least through collection of documentation and evidence, as well as capacity-building of national judicial systems. We recall the important role that the International Criminal Court plays at the international level, complementing the work undertaken at the national level.  Accountability mechanisms must be informed by survivors. The Nordic countries call on the Security Council to include and apply sexual violence as a designation criterion in UN sanction regimes in contexts where such crimes are continuously committed as this can act like an effective deterrent.

Moreover, we must address root causes and adopt preventive measures to address the structural gender inequalities that underpin sexual and gender-based violence. To this end, we must focus on the full implementation of the WPS Agenda and an increased use of intersectional approaches, e.g. gender, age and disability disaggregated data and knowledge to inform policy and action. Frameworks and mechanisms only function if they receive the necessary priority and funding. This calls for political will at the highest level.

Let me highlight the work of the Global Network of the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies, which Denmark is currently leading. The network counts more than 90 members - states, donors, UN organizations and NGOs - who have come together to advocate and implement concrete actions to prevent and respond to conflict-related gender-based violence. We aim to increase our voice and promote improved action on the ground and hope that many more partners will join the network. The Nordic countries continue to advance these goals – in our bilateral work, in collaboration with a wide range of partners and in our active multilateral cooperation.

Thank you.