Statement at the 7th Syrian Humanitarian Forum

Held by Ambassador Mr. Kongstad 

19. February 2013

Norway is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Syria, and the devastating effects on the Syrian people. The humanitarian actors that in the most demanding circumstances are trying to reach populations in desperate need, deserve our support and appreciation. We continue to urge all parties to the conflict to respect international law and to allow humanitarian actors full access to all parts of the country. Humanitarian access remains a key issue.

We agree with the substance of the statement of Belgium emphasising the obligations under International law to respect and protect medical personnel and facilities.

But today, we wish to highlight the role and situation of Syrian women and girls. Syrian women should be recognized for their efforts to provide relief in their country. We must support them in their efforts to alleviate the suffering of war.

We are appalled and deeply concerned by the reports of grave sexual violence targeting women and girls.

The International Rescue Committee’s Commission on Syria in their report from January describes rape as a significant and disturbing feature of the war, and how sexual violence consistently is identified by Syrian women, men and community leaders as a primary reason their families fled the country.

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, in their report launched yesterday here in Geneva, also speaks of the prevalence of sexual violence targeting women, men and children.

These are issues we must address in our humanitarian assistance inside and outside Syria. All humanitarian actors should step up their support to, protection and inclusion of women.  To this end:

  • We must ensure the active participation of affected women in needs assessments and implementation of humanitarian assistance.
  • We must emphasise prevention of sexual violence and addressing the needs of the victims of sexual violence in our humanitarian response.
  • We must make concerted efforts to effectively implement the UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and 1820  on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict. This includes holding perpetrators of sexual violence and their leaders      accountable for their crimes. We cannot accept that these abuses are met with impunity and silence.
  • We must ensure that camps and other areas where civilians are seeking refuge are safe.  Shelter, water, sanitation and other services must address the safety needs of women and girls.

Syrian women carry a heavy burden in trying to salvage the social fabric of their societies, save lives and protect their families. In searching for a political solution and shaping the future of a peaceful Syria, women must have a key role