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National statements

Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Thematic issues

  • Accountability
  • Humanitarian
  • Justice
  • Mali
  • Peacebuilding
  • Peacekeeping
  • Regional Organisations
  • Rule of Law
  • Sanctions
  • Small arms
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Women

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Madam President

Thank you to the Secretary-General for his report and personal leadership against sexual violence in conflict. And to Special Representative Bangura for her fearlessness. Both have been instrumental in driving the unprecedented global commitment we have to ending conflict-related sexual violence.

But the challenge as we know never ceases. Last week in South Sudan we witnessed the horror of radio broadcast hate speech inciting rape and sexual violence against women and girls as a brutal weapon of war. It aimed to terrorise communities by ruthlessly targeting civilians on the basis of their gender and ethnicity. It is very dangerous being a woman or girl when rule of law fails and insecurity prevails.

Thank you also to Ms Misaka for her briefing which has reminded us – inspirationally – how essential it is that the entire international community – the Council, Governments, regional organisations, the UN, and NGOs – to work collaboratively to combat sexual violence. We support regular briefings to the Council by such experts.

The international prohibition on sexual violence in conflict is, of course, long-standing. But our plan for combating it has not previously been laid out. This is why the advances in 2013 were so important. These include:

  • resolution 2106, setting out a comprehensive prevention framework; and
  • the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, now signed
    by over 140 nations. We congratulate the UK and Foreign Secretary Hague for
    their efforts on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, in which Australia's
    Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, is an active champion.

Our challenge now – as always – is implementation: "turning the resolutions into solutions", as SRSG Bangura has just said to us. Fundamental to this is timely and comprehensive information. Unhindered humanitarian access is essential, as are measures to fight the stigma and threats of reprisal for survivors, which impede its reporting. Increasing the numbers of women in peacekeeping missions and police units can help, and we must address barriers to their recruitment, deployment and retention. We must ensure the early deployment of Women Protection Advisors in UN missions.

Commitments from Governments and parties to conflict to combat sexual violence are crucial to change on the ground. We commend Ms Bangura for securing new commitments with the DRC and Somalia in 2013. Reaching armed groups is hard but we must try. Ceasefire agreements should always include sexual violence as a prohibited act.

Specific actions to prevent sexual violence must be included in security sector reform, rule of law initiatives, and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes. As resolution 2117 recognised, the misuse of small arms and light weapons exacerbates sexual violence, and we call on all States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.

There must be situation-specific training to all peacekeeping personnel, including military and police, and which addresses the full range of sexual violence crimes, including abductions, forced marriage, and sexual slavery.

Particular attention must also be given to the needs of the most vulnerable populations, including the marginalised children, older persons, indigenous communities, those with disabilities and displaced persons. The needs of men and boy survivors must also be considered.

As Ms Misaka has reminded us this morning, it is crucial that survivors have quick access to comprehensive services, including sexual and reproductive health services, psychosocial, legal, and livelihood support. We must confront the issue of pregnancy as a result of rape, particularly where abortion services are illegal and the health consequences of unsafe abortion and a lack of maternity care are dire.

Civil society and women's organisations providing services, and giving political voice to women affected by conflict, must be adequately resourced.

Australian Foreign Minister Bishop announced in Jordan this week a $20 million contribution to the UN's 'No Lost Generation' initiative to support Syrian refugee children, including child survivors of sexual violence. Sexual violence is a persistent – and deliberate – feature of the conflict, brutalising civilians, displacing populations, and a constant threat in the refugee camps.

Decisively, we must, of course, move beyond just the immediate or short-term provision of support – vital though that is. Empowering survivors with their own economic future can be a transformative way to reconstruct their lives.

Obviously, accountability is centrally important. States must accept their primary obligation to investigate and prosecute sexual violence crimes, provide support for survivors and protect witnesses who testify. Teams of experts working to support local justice mechanisms can make lasting impacts. As part of the regional peacebuilding mission to Solomon Islands, Australia mentored female Solomon Islands police to take victim statements, compile evidence and support survivors throughout court processes. Such models exist elsewhere and should have broad application.

Where national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to prosecute perpetrators, the Council should consider International Criminal Court referral. Targeted Council sanctions have a clear role to play – to expose and circumscribe the perpetrators and create a powerful deterrent to others.

The current events in South Sudan encapsulate the challenges we face in this. In consultations two days ago, the Security Council was told the exact times and content of the media broadcasts inciting rape and the names of the individuals who made them. We must ensure they are held to account.

To conclude, Madam President,

The Security Council's debate on sexual violence may only take place once a year, but our work to end this barbaric practice – this crime – must be a daily commitment and attract serious action by us across the whole of our agenda. The Council must take every opportunity and use every tool it has to end this abhorrent crime, and to provide survivors the justice and services they need to rebuild their lives.

Thank you, Madam President.

Last Updated: 5 June 2015
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