Security Council: Statement by Ambassador Wittig on Women, Peace and Security

Apr 17, 2013

(Statement as prepared for delivery by Ambassador Wittig in an Open Debate of the Security Council on Women, Peace and Security)

"Mr President,

I would like to thank Rwanda for organizing today’s open debate on this important issue. My thanks also goes to the Secretary-General and to his Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, for their insightful briefings, as well as to Ms Saran Keita Diakite for her moving statement.

Germany aligns itself with the statements delivered by the European Union as well as by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.

Mr President,

Although the Security Council clearly stipulated in its resolutions 1820, 1888 and 1960 that sexual violence in conflict is a serious threat to peace and security, it still remains a neglected and under-reported crime.

The recent annual report of the Secretary General has brought to light some very disturbing findings. It shows that sexual violence is used in many conflicts as a “weapon of war” by armed groups and, in some cases, even by the armed forces. More than 30 parties from five countries are credibly suspected of committing or condoning sexual violence in conflict. And these are only parties in countries on the Council's agenda and on which the UN had verified information; the actual figures are, without doubt, much higher. Especially alarming is the fact that many of the victims are children.

Therefore, the ultimate goal of our discussion here today must be to find new and better ways of addressing this abhorrent crime. And the report before us contains some good recommendations in this regard.

Let me mention four points, especially important for us:

First: We welcome the work of the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism and hope that it will continue to work together closely with other UN mechanisms to guarantee the best possible concerted action in the fight against sexual violence. We also welcome the dedicated work of SRSG Bangura and the fact that she was able to brief the Council several times during the past months, including on the situation in Syria and Central African Republic. However, the Council should make more use of the information received and do more to act and hold perpetrators accountable. It could, for example, release corresponding press statements, write specific letters to concerned governments or, more often, refer specific cases to the Sanctions Committees and – as a last resort – to the ICC.

Second: The Council should keep the issue of women, peace and security, including sexual violence, high on its agenda and make sure that all relevant reports, mandate renewals as well as country visits by the Council contain specific provisions in this regard. More Women Protection Advisors need to be deployed, including in UN assessment teams and missions.

Third: In “Security Sector Reform” and “Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR)” programmes, more focus should be given to the needs of women and girls, not only as victims but also with a view to their active participation in reintegration processes. In peace agreements, sexual violence shall figure as one important provision; those who have formerly committed or condoned sexual violence should be excluded from amnesty provisions and not be accepted to serve in relevant official functions.

Fourth: Member States and regional organisations can also do more. Sexual violence shall under no circumstances be socially accepted. It is paramount to criminalize sexual violence by law, hold perpetrators accountable and provide help services and reparations for survivors. In this regard, we welcome the recent press statement by the African Union Peace and Security Council and its call to develop new strategies to fight sexual violence in conflict. Also, we are confident that the recent commitments made in the G8 context to address impunity for sexual violence in conflict will have a significant impact.

For my Government, confronting sexual violence is one of the priority areas in our new “National Action Plan on the implementation of resolution 1325”. We actively support the UN, member states and civil society in their fight against sexual violence. Particularly NGOs and human rights defenders, as well as journalists who report about cases of sexual violence, are often at a higher risk of being targeted themselves. They all need our support to continue their invaluable work in raising awareness and helping governments prevent or ease the consequences of sexual violence.

Let me conclude by saying that the Council should remain seized of this important issue. It should not and cannot be separated from the broader security issues.

Thank you Mr President."

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Women's rights and gender equality

Sexual abuse, trafficking in women, domestic violence, forced marriage and genital mutilation are human rights violations which affect women and children almost exclusively. That's why the protection of women are central to Germany's human rights policy.