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Statement on Speaking Up on Silent Crimes

 20.04.2015

Your Royal Highness, High Commissioner, Excellences,

We would like to thank Denmark and Ambassador Staur for this meeting and for the commitment shown by her royal highness, the high commissioner for refugees and deputy director Meige of ICRC to the combat sexual violence and speak out for the survivors. Thank you for the opportunity to take the floor on this issue of priority for Norway.

We have often expressed concern about the weak and sometimes lacking response to sexual and gender based violence in conflict and in particular in situations of displacement. Sadly, in the most acute emergencies, where the vulnerability is high, it is not given the necessary priority. The panel has very well described the challenges, and how they are working to combat sexual and gender based violence, to empower women and increase involvement of men. We appreciate that the High Commissioner echoed the ICRC approach, to reverse the burden of proof, to assume that sexual violence takes place and be prepared to respond. We believe it is not so much the silence on the issue that is the key challenge; it is how we translate political commitments into action.

Let me share a few of the priorities of the Norwegian Government in this area, reflected in Norway’s own policies and support to humanitarian and human rights actors.

Women’s empowerment and participation is essential to address, respond to, and end sexual violence. Equally, men should be involved as agents of change in this work. Preventing sexual violence in conflict is a matter of ensuring human rights and promoting gender equality. Sexual violence is very closely connected to the broader women, peace and security agenda, and cannot be dealt with in isolation. We must recognise the importance of both women and men participating in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the work to build sustainable peace.

Perpetrators of sexual violence must be prosecuted. It will not be possible to prevent new crimes unless we hold perpetrators accountable. There must be no impunity for this type of crime. Equal access to the justice system is vital in the fight against impunity. However, access to the justice system is not enough in itself; it is also important that the judiciary and the police are gender sensitive and have the knowledge and capacity to deal with sexual violence in a good way. We therefor support women’s participation and influence on the design of security sector reform, in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes.

The response to sexual and gender based violence in conflict must have its rightful place in all phases of the humanitarian response. It is a priority for Norway to include a gender perspective, prevention of and response to of sexual violence in all our humanitarian assistance, also in needs analyses. Protection activities like education is a priority. So is access to proper health and rehabilitation services, including a strong mental health component. We must not forget or neglect the men and boys who are victims of sexual violence. Services for victims must be designed to address the particular social stigmas in question.

Civil society also plays a leading role in advancing this agenda. The Nansen refugee award laureates for the last three years have been grassroots activists that have provided protection and support to survivors of sexual violence. We are convinced that cooperation with civil society makes this work more effective and more accountable.