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Speakers Voice Deep Concern over Alarming Reports of Violence against Women

Chilling accounts of stonings, enslavement, rape and forced suicide bombings were among the current horrific targeted affects armed conflict had on women and girls, the Security Council was told, hearing from almost 70speakers during its biannual day long debate on civilian protection.

As the 15 member body had continued to receive alarming reports of unacceptable violence committed against women, including many settings in which control of their rights was at the very centre of the armed conflict, speakers today voiced grave concerns and offered suggestions on reversing the worsening conditions worldwide that had displaced millions and affected many more.

The Council and the international community must take steps to tackle the impunity that continued to fuel many conflicts, said Kyung wha Kang, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, delivering a statement on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

"There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought to account for their crimes," she said, adding that collective capacity must be strengthened to find political solutions to conflicts at an early stage rather than struggling to cope with the consequences.

Those consequences were getting increasingly dire, said Helen Durham, Director for International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighting that 2014 saw the number of displaced persons rise to 76million from 52million. As the single most important measure to improve the situation was making sure State and non State parties to armed conflict complied with their legal obligations, the Council had a significant role to play by ensuring that their responsibilities were met in full.

"Sexual violence during armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law," she said. "It is not inevitable. It must and can be stopped. What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it."

Sharing a view from civil society, Iwad Elman of the Non Governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security gave Council members a number of recommendations, including the establishment of more responsive channels for communication of gender protection needs and of protection for female led civil society groups. Urging the Council to mandate gendered decision making throughout the planning and implementation of civilian protection strategies, and to increase the number of female staff in peacekeeping operations, she also called upon that body to insist on accountability for atrocities and ensure justice systems were re established for that purpose.

Further, she said the Council should hold troop contributing countries accountable for gender based crimes. In addition, sex disaggregated data must be mandated for mission reporting, and clear, accessible and confidential complaint mechanisms must be provided by protection focal points.

When the floor opened, Spain's representative summed up a common view that reflected a grim reality alongside a dire need to embolden current efforts. Given that every minute a woman was raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said "we are clearly not doing our job very well".

Many speakers pointed out that, over the last 15years, the Council had sharpened its focus on the situation of women and girls in armed conflict, adopting a range of texts detailing its concerns, including resolutions1325(2000), 1888(2009), 1960(2010) and 2122(2013). However, Jordan's representative said that, even though the Council's resolutions on women and children had been turning points in addressing those issues, the Middle East and Africa had seen a rise in targeted attacks, including sexual violence and abductions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The fight against impunity, she said, was the greatest challenge.

Some speakers described current national and regional challenges while offering suggestions on how to quell the violence. Nigeria's representative said the activities of non State actors had made protection actions more complicated and he demanded that all parties comply with international humanitarian law. In addition, small arms and light weapons must be controlled and cooperation with regional organizations on eradicating sexual violence must be increased, particularly in regard to African Union efforts.

Representatives of some countries emerged in conflict shared their views. Emphasizing that protecting civilians, including women and girls, was the primary responsibility of the relevant State, Syria's representative said that, since the Council had begun its debates on civilian protection, double standards had been used for schemes that ran counter to the fundamental rules of international law. One example, he said, was Libya, which States had intervened in under the pretext of protecting civilians. A comprehensive global approach was needed with regard to protecting civilians, including ending unilaterally coercive measures, particularly measures imposed by certain States on Syria in terms of food, medicine and fuel.

Post conflict challenges also posed obstacles to protecting civilians, some speakers said. Afghanistan's representative said, after three decades of war, his country continued to suffer today, with 2014 being the deadliest year for civilians since 2001, largely resulting from attacks by the Taliban and other extremist armed groups. Women had borne the brunt of conflict over 30years of conflict and were today often targeted with gender based violence. Mitigating the impact of conflict on women was a priority for his Government, which had implemented resolution1325(2000) through its national action plan and was pursuing a national reconciliation process.

Representatives from countries that had trained or contributed troops to peacekeeping forces, including India and Malaysia, supported the inclusion of a gender perspective in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Thailand's representative said it was vital to increase the number of female peacekeepers and women's share of senior positions in United Nations field mission.

A number of representatives anticipated the forthcoming high level review of the implementation of resolution1325(2000), hoping for progress in the text's implementation.

KYUNG WHA KANG, Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, delivered a statement on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under knock off van cleef wedding ring Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. In the 15years since the Security Council had broken new ground by recognizing the protection of civilians as central to its mandate, the body had taken important steps to implement those commitments, including prioritizing the matter in peacekeeping operations. Yet, the need for protection had increased dramatically, she said, underlining that, during 2014, those in need of assistance rose to 76million from 52million. Further, the brutalization of women remained a persistent feature of conflict, as witnessed in Iraq and Nigeria, and women and children also made up the majority of displaced persons. Those situations were manifestations of deeper, systemic problems that needed to be addressed.

While the primary responsibility for protecting and civilians rested with parties to the conflict, time and again, violations with impunity held grave consequences, she said. Parties to conflict must be pressed to do more to comply with their legal obligations and ensure accountability for violations, but the responsibility did not rest only with the parties themselves. The Council and the international community must take steps to tackle the impunity that fuelled many conflicts, along with the endless flow of weapons and arms. "There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought van cleef engagement ring knock off to account for their crimes," she said, adding that collective capacity must be strengthened to find political solutions to conflicts at an early stage. On the ground, efforts should be more attuned to the specific threats civilians faced and when early warning signs were identified, "we must be able to act quickly and effectively", she said.

HELEN DURHAM, Director for International Law and Policy at International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that no significant progress had been made in the way armed conflicts were being waged, with civilians all too often targeted by warring parties. As the single most important measure to improve the situation was making sure that State and non State parties to armed conflict complied with their legal obligations, the Council had a significant role to play by ensuring that those responsible met their responsibilities. Describing the current situation, she reminded Council members that women were made vulnerable by conditions imposed on them and not by their sex.

However, sexual violence remained comparably invisible, with many victims feeling shamed and silent for fear of reprisals, she said. Sexual violence was a medical emergency and victims needed immediate assistance with the strictest confidentiality. Perpetrators must also be brought to justice. The ICRC had intensified its response, as humanitarian actors had a vital role to play in preventing sexual violence and assisting victims. However, States must bear their primary responsibility in addressing victims' needs, including through laws, regulations, policies, reparation schemes and processes of restorative justice. "Sexual violence during knock off van cleef arpels ring armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law," she said. "It is not inevitable. It must and can be stopped. What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it."

ILWAD ELMAN of the Non Governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security explained that the nature of her work was to provide emergency services for survivors of gender based violence as a director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia, which was founded by her father, who was killed advocating for human rights. Recounting the case of a girl raped by a Ugandan soldier from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), she stressed the "catastrophic consequences of violence against civilians and of protection strategies which are gender blind and have failed to meaningfully include women". In many contexts, women continuously reported feeling unsafe because of assistance strategies that did not take their vulnerabilities into account, such as distribution of food in areas that were not easily accessible, lack of sanitary needs and for collecting firewood and water.

To reverse that situation, more responsive channels for communication of gender protection needs was necessary, as was protection for women led civil society groups, she said. The Council should mandate gendered decision making throughout the planning and implementation of civilian protection strategies, and increase the number of female staff in peacekeeping operations. In addition, she urged the body to ensure that missions with protection mandates had adequate logistical support and to address the protection needs of all humanitarian workers and human rights defenders. Also, as a matter of priority, the Council must insist on accountability for atrocities and ensure justice systems were re established for that purpose, and hold troop contributing countries accountable for gender based crimes. Sex disaggregated data must be mandated for mission reporting, and clear, accessible and confidential complaint mechanisms must be provided by protection focal points. In general protection strategies, the impact of explosive weapons in civilian areas, must be addressed. Implementation of international humanitarian law in a gender responsive manner was an overall key.

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that the protection of civilians was the raison d'tre of the Security Council, but every day brought new reports of atrocities, particularly those committed against women and girls. To counter that situation, the underlying causes of gender violence and inequality must be addressed, not only in conflict, but in peacetime, as well. His country strove to eliminate those ills domestically, but countries in conflict had a much greater challenge. For example, one woman was raped every minute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Women must participate at every level in efforts to protect women and girls. He reported his country's aid to a range of countries for such protection, adding that gender sensitive protection should be a priority for all missions, for which the appropriate training and support must be provided, along with a much tighter regime for preventing abuse by peacekeepers. Gender sensitive training should be a central part of security sector reform and concrete efforts must be made to increase women's engagement in that sector.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that civilians, particularly women and girls, continued to be victims of conflicts around the world as there was no end to the indiscriminate use of force. He condemned in that context the shelling of civilian areas in eastern Ukraine and called for investigations. The number of victims had already exceeded 5,000 in that conflict and destruction of humanitarian infrastructure was widespread, he said, calling for inclusive, direct political dialogue to end the situation. Humanitarian workers were sounding the alarm over a disaster there. In protection strategies to counter such situations, it was critical to be guided by the United Nations Charter. On the ground, the right kind of peacekeepers should be contributed according to the specific situation and well constructed mandates. At the policy level, the United Nations should avoid overlapping mandates of different organs. Within civilian strategies, it was important, moreover, to focus strategies on the particular situation of women.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said protection of civilians had become an important feature of peacekeeping mandates, but shortcomings were evident. Discussions among stakeholders must focus on options for solutions. Women and girls were important agents in preventing and resolving conflict, yet that notion was not being consistently applied in practice. Persons with disabilities and the elderly were also especially neglected and vulnerable, he said, emphasizing that armed conflict could lead to disability, as well as affect persons with disabilities. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had obliged States to protect vulnerable groups. However, peacekeeper training should focus on the challenges facing those groups, who should be included in peacebuilding efforts. If those groups were protected, it would mean overall progress in the protection of civilians.

WANG MIN (China) said the traditional challenges had intertwined with non traditional threats amid terrorist activities, with women and children being targeted. The root causes must be addressed and practical and effective measures were needed for national reconciliation and for preventing women from suffering the scourge of war. Also important were national economic development, gender equality and respect for national leadership and capacity building in countries concerned. It was essential to address the difficulties faced by those countries, including financial needs. Certain conflict regions of some countries had a role for women to play in mediation and conflict resolution. Overall, coordination and cooperation should be strengthened with regard to protecting women and children. United Nations agencies and bodies should also leverage their respective activities to promote the interests of women's rights, he said, noting that the twentieth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women was an opportunity to refocus on those issues.

ROMN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said against a backdrop of disturbing reports of sexual violence committed against women in the 1990s, important steps had been taken. However, gender violence was getting worse and the Council was lagging behind. To be effective in protecting civilians, it was essential to address compliance with humanitarian law, accountability and the role of non State actors. Measures were needed to address the different types of threats facing women. Hoping that the review of resolution1325(2000) would be a success, he said efforts were being made towards achieving a new gender architecture within the United Nations. Accountability and the role played by women in peace talks were crucial elements. Great efforts were now needed to find improvements and solutions to those and similar situations. Given that every minute a woman was raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, "we are clearly not doing our job very well".

BANT MANGARAL (Chad) said solutions were needed to address current situations, as described in Security Council resolution1325(2000), which focused on women in armed conflict. Resolution2122(2013) had strengthened those initiatives, providing technical elements to identify violence against women. The Council had taken other steps, including in presidential statements, that had, among other things, encouraged Member States to strengthen the role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. The African Union was now finalizing a code of conduct for missions. But, violence against women as a weapon of war was spreading, he said, citing examples in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The resurgence of armed terrorist groups had targeted girls, as was the case with Boko Haram in Nigeria. Impunity and the lack of technical and financial resources were only exacerbating the situation. Efforts should include stepping up and implementing the sanctions regime and creating a "black list", which should resemble a similar list concerning violence against children. He hoped the 2015 strategic reviews would contribute to progress.

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