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Address at Missing Peace Symposium

Speech transcript | Oslo, Dec. 7, 2017 | By State Secretary Marianne Hagen | State Secretary Marianne Hagen's opening address at the Missing Peace Symposium 2017 - on how international criminal prosecution of conflict-related sexual violence impacts peacebuilding. (Check against delivery.)

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends,

This is a major call to action: To end the agonising abuse.

Children being raped. Girls being impregnated by the enemy. Women being violated in front of their families. Gradually, the devastating stories of the women are being echoed by the stories of men. Different, but the same. Physical and mental wounds. Shame and loneliness. Unbearable pain.

Every single day, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war. Domestic violence increases as tensions grow. The chaos of conflict prepares the ground for new unreported, unprosecuted abuse.

The persisting impunity is intolerable. The numbing stigma must be dealt with; this pain that continues long after the gunfire has ceased.


Somehow, we still treat rape as a burden the woman herself must carry, while a gunshot wound is a matter of national security. And yet, rape tears families and communities apart just as effectively as bullets do.

Sexual violence erodes the societies we are striving to stabilise and rebuild. It destroys the future as well as the present for many more than the women and girls, men and boys, who are directly affected.

If we are to ensure that we're not missing peace, preventing sexual violence should be at the very forefront of our efforts.


I am pleased to say that this is the case for Norway. Preventing and responding to sexual violence is a cross-cutting priority in all of our peace and security efforts.

We deploy many women police officers to international operations, and we are working to increase the number of women in our military contingents. Because we want to recruit the best, irrespective of gender. A diverse team delivers better on the ground.

We want our men to speak out, too. Gender is never only about women. And sexual violence cannot be stopped by women alone.

We train our personnel well, to ensure that those who are entrusted with people's lives can in fact be trusted.

We have good examples to showcase, such as the special team in Haiti. They are working with Haitian police to develop better responses to sexual violence – from registering a case to prosecuting the crime.

We cooperate with the African Union in the Training for Peace programme and with Special Envoy Diop's office.

In close cooperation with the UN, we are developing a whole-of-mission handbook for UN operations, on how to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict. We are looking forward to launching it next year.

We are strengthening the gender perspective in our humanitarian efforts; asking more of our implementing partners and monitoring their work better. We will develop a new humanitarian strategy, with a strong focus on gender.

And we are renewing our partnership with Special Representative Patten's office. Because we know we need the UN to lead and coordinate our response.

Our civil society partners run shelters, provide psychosocial and legal support, and engage in livelihoods programmes.

In mediation, we work to ensure that victims are heard. That amnesty for sexual crimes is not accepted. We learned through the Colombia process that this is possible, with the commitment of the parties and a strong push from civil society.


I am proud of Norway's efforts. But we all have a way to go.

We must design our efforts better and coordinate them more effectively. We commend the work of the UK to this end.

Sexual violence must be included in ceasefire agreements. It must be on the table in peace negotiations. It must be part of our analysis when we set up humanitarian operations, and at the forefront in our peacekeeping.

This should not be the exception, but the rule.

And when we have been unable to prevent sexual abuse, our approach must be centred on those who have suffered the crime: we must fight the stigma, while providing support – and justice. It is time to move from monitoring to prosecuting.

Our response to conflict-related sexual violence needs to be as varied as its causes. If discipline is the problem, we should offer capacity building and technical support. If the use of sexual violence by the armed forces is intentional, this needs to be addressed head-on.

Irrespective of cause and context, we cannot accept impunity.

States have a duty to prevent as well as investigate and prosecute. The perpetrators must be held responsible, and their leaders – military or civilian – must be held to account. Even if – especially if – they are leaders of UN peace operations.

Leaders must have incentives to take action and even more importantly, inaction must have consequences. As the main global provider of peacekeepers, the UN has set high standards. These standards must be upheld.


The Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security have provided a robust normative framework, which calls for an end to impunity for sexual violence, and for greater national accountability.

The Rome Statute was an important milestone. The work of the International Criminal Court merits widespread recognition.

Justice and the legal order are increasingly recognised as prerequisites for lasting peace and stability. ICC judgements have achieved justice for many victims. We appreciate the Prosecutor's continued focus on sexual and gender-based crimes and on crimes against children.

Some of you might have seen the film The Uncondemned, which is set in Rwanda. It demonstrates that progress is possible and that justice can be attained.

However, it also demonstrates how power protects perpetrators. How hard it is to access evidence that will hold in court, without re-victimising those who have already suffered too much. What courage it takes to reach a conviction.


Today's discussion is not about victims. It is about survivors: resourceful women, men and children.

They must be protected. They are entitled to justice. And we need their participation – if we are to build resilience and peace. They must be enabled to take part in rebuilding their societies.


Some of the people who can truly make a difference are here today.

I am honoured to be sharing the podium with the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten. We are pleased to be partnering with you and your office.

We appreciate our long-standing cooperation with the African Union and recognise your leadership, Ms Diop.

We value and have high hopes for your work. But we know that you cannot end sexual violence or impunity on your own. None of us escapes responsibility. Everyone has an opportunity to make a difference.

This is why we are here. To take a closer look at what we can do. How can we address sexual violence in such a way that peace can be achieved – and sustained.