Statement by Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist at the UNSC Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict
Statement by H.E. Mr Peter Hultqvist, Minister of Defence of Sweden, at the Security Council Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict Settings, Monday, 15 May 2017
Of all the evil acts that take place in conflict settings sexual violence may be the one that casts the longest shadow.
The lives of victims are changed forever. Besides the physical scars they bear, they will carry the hidden trauma and stigma for the rest of their lives. We can see that the use of sexual violence in conflicts destroys societies, families and community structures, with a goal to dominate and control the society.
Therefore, every effort must be taken to end sexual violence in conflict, and I thank Uruguay for organizing this Open Debate.
We would also like to thank the Deputy Secretary-General and the acting SRSG for their insightful and, sadly, very troubling accounts of sexual violence in conflict settings.
Let me also thank the outgoing Special Representative Bangura for her strong leadership during her tenure, and welcome the incoming Special Representative Patten. You have our strong support.
We also express our thanks to the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict.
Sexual violence in any situation is a crime. But, conflict-related sexual violence is also a core security challenge that must be kept on this Council's agenda.
Why? Because the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terrorism has not stopped. On the contrary, sexual violence, human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable persons through modern slavery in the midst of migration are growing trends worldwide.
We must move from expressing outrage towards taking decisive action. These are some concrete measures that the Security Council and each Member State can undertake:
First: apply a comprehensive rights-based approach focused on the needs and experiences of victims.
Ensuring human rights, especially the right to freedom from violence, as well as to sexual and reproductive health and rights, remains essential.
Sexual violence in all its forms is prohibited in armed conflict according to International Humanitarian Law. Perpetrators must be held accountable.
Second: make conflict-related sexual violence a priority issue in monitoring the implementation of Security Council mandates.
To that end, we need improved data, including sex-disaggregated statistics, as well as accurate accounts.
That is why we strongly welcome briefings by civil society to the Council, such as Mina Jaf's today.
We also welcome the use of conclusions from the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and summaries of the Informal Experts Group on Women, Peace and Security.
Third: use all of the Council's tools to combat sexual violence in conflict, including sanctions.
Resolution 2339 on the Central African Republic introduced the first-ever separate designation criteria on conflict-related sexual violence in a sanctions regime. Let's work to include similar criteria in all relevant sanctions regimes.
Four: increase the numbers of women peacekeepers, police and correction officers.
The evidence is compelling. With more female peacekeepers and female police officers we reach the whole population in a conflict area and become more efficient in operations. There is a clear need for more female leaders in executive positions.
Sweden is working to meet the target of 15 percent women military observers and staff officers by December 2017.
Sweden actively promotes the agenda for women, peace and security and has had a national action plan in place for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 since 2006. In its work Sweden seeks to actively ensure that a gender perspective is integrated in all international operations in conflict and post-conflict countries. That ambition must be integrated into all peace and security efforts.
Women, peace and security is an integral part of pre-deployment preparations for all Swedish troops, and all deployed contingents have specially trained gender advisers.
Furthermore, the UN must be trusted to be effective. That's why, in this context, it's key to expeditiously implement the Secretary-General's approach for eliminating sexual exploitation and abuse committed by men and women working for the UN.
Fifthly: integrate gender throughout counter-terrorism work in line with Security Council Resolution 2242. Sexual violence whether it's politically or religiously motivated in any situation is totally unacceptable and a crime. In addition, Resolution 2331 highlights that acts of sexual and gender-based violence are known to be part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups, and used as a tactic of terrorism.
A clear political leadership is needed at all levels to change norms in society.
It can support female victims of sexual violence to speak out. Indeed, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Low levels of reporting is a sign of stigma and failed systems. High numbers is a step in the right direction of tackling the problem.
It is important that we break the silence regarding sexual violence in conflict: making it visible and not shameful. Making it part of peace negotiations, reconciliation and transitional justice.
Real leadership and engagement must also come from political leaders, as military commanders, as elders, as judges, community leaders, teachers, peer-to-peer. I am proud to be a Minister in a feminist government. All leaders have a duty to challenge sexist views and violent behavior and attitudes towards women and children. The responsibility to address and speak up falls greater on us in male dominated sectors, such as defense and security. We are working actively within the Swedish Armed Forces with education for our own troops and with troops from other countries. We are ready to share our experiences.
We cannot spare any effort in combatting these evil crimes. Only by shining a light on this can we lift the long shadow of sexual violence in conflict for the survivors and prevent another generation falling victim. We all can, and must, improve.