Speech/statement | Date: 2014-06-11 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
'It is a priority for the Norwegian Government to include a gender perspective and prevention of sexual violence in all our humanitarian assistance. This will be a priority goal in our new strategic plan for the women, peace and security agenda', Foreign Minister Børge Brende said in his speech in Oslo on 11 June 2014.
Thank you, Ambassador Owen. And thank you for your Government’s partnership in this important task.
Tomorrow, I will participate in the Global Summit in London. A momentum has been created. I truly hope that governments will grasp this opportunity to strengthen their commitment to ending sexual violence in conflict. Then, the political commitments must be translated into concrete action.
First of all, I want to underline that what we are talking about today is human rights. Preventing sexual violence in conflict is a matter of ensuring human rights and promoting gender equality. Gender inequalities are often exacerbated in conflict. Besides, 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.
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.
Let me share a few reflections on preventing conflict-related sexual violence, and the priorities of the Norwegian Government in this area. I have three main points in addition to the one I have already made about the importance of women’s empowerment and participation.
Firstly, 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, as has often been the case in the past.
The Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, which will be launched at the Summit tomorrow, is an important instrument for increasing accountability for sexual violence. We fully support the basic principles and methods set out in the Protocol.
When national accountability is lacking, the international community must step up. Norway is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is highly regrettable that the Security Council failed to refer the situation in Syria to the ICC.
There must be clear codes of conduct, and proper training for military forces and peacekeepers to ensure that those who are acting as protectors do not become perpetrators themselves. Military leaders must be held responsible for crimes of sexual violence committed by soldiers under their command. People should be able to run to peacekeepers – and not have to run from them.
Secondly, equal access to the justice system is vital in the fight against impunity. Norway has, for example, supported the work of mobile courts in DR Congo. These mobile courts hold trials in districts where abuses have been committed, which makes it easier for victims in remote areas to access the judicial system.
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. This is often not the case in conflict-ridden areas.
It is therefore crucial that women participate in and influence the design of security sector reform, and are involved in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration processes.
Thirdly, it is a priority for the Norwegian Government to include a gender perspective and prevention of sexual violence in all our humanitarian assistance. This will be a priority goal in our new strategic plan for the women, peace and security agenda.
In the international arena, we are playing a proactive role in advocating that the gender perspective is integrated into all phases of humanitarian aid, and especially in needs analyses. For example, we support the GenCap team that deploys gender advisers to assist the UN humanitarian coordinator or country team on the ground. We support the special appeal of the ICRC (the International Committee of the Red Cross) on sexual violence. The ICRC, and others, are doing interesting work in engaging in dialogue with armed groups to persuade them to adhere to the principles of humanitarian law and not target civilians.
In addition, it is important that survivors of sexual violence in conflict have access to proper health and rehabilitation services. And we must not forget or neglect the men and boys who are victims of sexual violence. They may face even higher barriers related to stigma and shame. While it cannot be denied that most victims are women and girls, our work must have a true gender perspective. This means that services for victims must be designed to address the particular social stigmas in question.
The international community has an obligation to address sexual violence in conflict. The Security Council has recognised sexual violence as an issue of importance in the context of international peace and security.
Given that sexual violence is being systematically dealt with in the Council’s work, the UN and its member states are obliged to follow up. Therefore, it is important that this issue stays on the Security Council’s agenda. We will do our uttermost to ensure that it does.
The UN – and especially UN Women and Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Ms Zainab Bangura – are central partners for Norway in our work on women, peace and security.
Civil society also plays a leading role in advancing this agenda, and we cooperate closely with a number of NGOs, both at the normative, global level, and at the grassroots level. We are convinced that cooperation with civil society makes this work more effective and more accountable.
Lastly, I would like to underline the importance of engagement at the highest political level in this agenda. The Norwegian Government is committed. I consider the whole women, peace and security agenda as well as the issue of sexual violence in conflict as a central part of our foreign policy. And I therefore greatly appreciate the fact that our British friends, and all of you here today, share the goal of putting an end to sexual violence.