Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the international conference Ending Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Crises, Oslo 24 May 2019.
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Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Hearing the stories of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence leaves a deep impression.
It is not easy to listen to their accounts.
But we cannot, and must not, pretend these atrocities are not taking place.
Sexual and gender-based violence tears apart the very fabric of society, and inflicts lasting wounds on individuals and whole communities.
The use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war is nothing new.
It is not limited to any single period of history, nor to any one culture or religion.
And despite being completely unacceptable, SGBV continues to be widespread.
Not least in crisis and conflict.
The human costs are enormous.
And the consequences are devastating.
Survivors are left with physical and psychological wounds.
They face stigma, and often social exclusion.
This is often even more serious for women who become pregnant and have children as a result of rape.
Many local communities do not know how to treat these women.
Although men and boys are also targeted, women and girls are most at risk.
At risk of rape, sexual slavery, trafficking and forced marriage.
But despite this, women play a leading role in the fight against SGBV.
They are often the first responders in a crisis.
They often play a central role in establishing an operational humanitarian response, in building networks to support survivors, and in demanding justice.
We must support them in this vital work.
Now is not the time to stand idly by. Now is the time for action.
We must build a global coalition of states, international organisations and civil society to combat SGBV.
And we must safeguard the sexual and reproductive health and rights of the survivors.
We are here today to mobilise resources and political commitment for the global SGBV response, and to make the response more effective.
I would like to extend my thanks to the co-hosts of this conference.
Iraq, Somalia and the United Arab Emirates have taken a firm stand against sexual and gender-based violence.
I commend you for you leadership in this area.
UNFPA, OCHA and the ICRC are at the centre of the global response to Sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises. They deserve our full support.
Last, but not least, I would like to commend civil society for its crucial role in the humanitarian response at the local level.
As I see it, six factors are critical for success:
First, our efforts need to be integrated into our overall response to humanitarian crises.
This is not a stand-alone issue.
Preventing SGBV and protecting and assisting survivors must be a priority in all our humanitarian efforts – when assisting displaced populations, providing education in emergencies or setting up health clinics in a war zone.
Combating SGBV is an integral part of Norway’s new humanitarian strategy.
We maintain close dialogue with our humanitarian partners to ensure that Norway’s financial support is used effectively to enhance protection against sexual violence.
The ICRC and Norwegian Church Aid are two of our most important partners in this area.
They have made protection a key priority in their humanitarian work.
It is vital that we learn from these organisations’ experience and best practices.
This will benefit both those affected and those working to combat SGBV.
Second, we need to remove the stigma associated with rape and other forms of SGBV.
It is the perpetrators who should bear the shame, not the victims.
Survivors, human rights defenders and local women’s groups have a key role to play in the efforts to ensure justice and restore dignity.
Survivors must be empowered so that they can decide their own destinies and help shape the future of their communities.
Third, the individual and collective wounds need to heal if we are to create lasting peace.
As communities make the transition from war to peace, we must prevent new incidents of sexual violence.
We must provide those affected with the support they need to rebuild their lives.
These are key points in Norway’s national action plan on women, peace and security.
Fourth, we need to strengthen cooperation and avoid duplication in the international community’s overall response.
That is why, since 2007, Norway has supported UN Action, which coordinates the activities of 13 UN organisations working to combat sexual violence in conflict.
Fifth, state and non-state donors must allocate financial resources to the fight against SGBV in humanitarian crises.
The SGBV response in humanitarian crises is critically underfunded.
Sixth, there must be no impunity for sexual and gender-based violence.
Rape and other forms of sexual violence in armed conflict are war crimes, and may even constitute crimes against humanity.
Ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable is the best deterrent.
We must respond to the call for justice, which was made so effectively by Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege in their moving Nobel lectures last year.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my sincere hope that this conference will help to turn the tables;
that we will succeed in mobilising stronger political commitment, raising more financial resources and promoting best practices for preventing and responding to SGBV in humanitarian crises.
On behalf of all the co-hosts, I would like to thank you for being here today and for your ongoing commitment to bringing an end to sexual and gender-based violence.