Combating sexual violence is a crucial fight [fr]
Sexual violence in conflict
Statement by Mr. François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 23 April 2019
I would like to begin by warmly thanking Germany and in particular you, Mr. President, as its Foreign Minister, for your commitment to the women and peace and security agenda and to eliminating sexual violence in times of conflict. I thank you for this initiative, Mr. President, and for being with us in the Chamber today. I would also like to thank Secretary-General António Guterres and his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms. Pramila Patten, for their valuable briefings, and to reiterate our full support for them in their and their teams’ daily struggle. On behalf of France, I want to express special thanks to Ms. Murad and Dr. Mukwege, whose commitment, courage and vision command our admiration. It is an honour for the Security Council to hear them today and see them side by side before us. They know that they can count on France to support them in the fight against sexual violence, as we have done for many years. Finally, I would like to warmly thank Ms. Amal Clooney and Ms. Inas Miloud for their unwavering commitment to this fight and for their powerful and informative briefings.
At the outset, I want to make a short but worrying comment before returning to possible courses of action that we can take in our work. We must be uncompromising, given that in 2019 we are still facing an intolerable situation. As various of our speakers have eloquently stated, it is our shared responsibility to condemn as firmly as possible the use of sexual violence as a tactic or weapon of war, often on a large scale and sometimes systematically. In 2018, this type of violence once again threatened first and foremost the most vulnerable, the women and girls who continue to be the primary victims of discrimination. It has forcibly displaced them, as happened in South Sudan and Burma. It has been used to repress, terrorize and control populations, as in Syria. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram have made sexual violence a strategy of action in its own right, understood as such and methodically executed. Migrant women and girls are also particularly vulnerable, as we have seen in Libya and elsewhere.
There are still 47 parties remaining on the Secretary-General’s blacklist. While some progress has certainly been made, such as the revised legislation enacted in Afghanistan and the signing of a joint communiqué in Mali, so much remains to be done, including putting a definitive end to issues such as forced marriage, the practice of bacha bazi in Afghanistan and the association of rape with adultery. We must seize every political opportunity to make progress in the fight against sexual violence, as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, for example.
Combating impunity is an indispensable weapon for deterrence as well as justice in this fight. International tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, to which France affirms its full support, and national, regional and mixed courts must be able to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes. It is unacceptable, if not inconceivable, that not a single individual associated with Da’esh or Boko Haram who has used sexual violence as a weapon of war on a large scale has ever been convicted. To take just two more examples, full light must be shed on the sexual violence committed in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, and those responsible must be prosecuted, as the Secretary-General’s report (S/2019/280) recommends. Investigative mechanisms should also be able to begin collecting the necessary information immediately so that justice can eventually be done, as in Syria.
As we mark the tenth anniversary of the mandate on sexual violence in conflict situations, we have a priority both to consolidate that mandate, of course, but also and above all to strengthen its implementation. I would like to briefly touch on four areas of action in that regard.
First of all, the Security Council has a decisive role to play in fighting sexual violence, which implies that it must be mobilized and united. That is why France supports draft resolution S/2019/328, proposed by Germany. This important draft resolution should make it possible to make major progress on expanding on the declaration adopted by the Group of Seven in Dinard on 5 March, particularly with regard to recognizing a victim-centred approach, emphasizing the fight against impunity and including gender-related crimes, for example, among the most serious types. The draft resolution also requests the Secretary-General to produce a report by 2021 on children born of rape, which is a top priority for France.
In spite of the threats that some have made, I nevertheless want to emphasize how essential it is for France, and for the victims, to ensure that they have access to sexual and reproductive health. That is crucial. The Council should also continue working to impose sanctions on those who are responsible for this type of violence. In that regard, we welcome the explicit criteria added to the mandates of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013) concerning the Central African Republic, the Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia and the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya. We also think that the Council should invite Ms. Patten to brief us more regularly on her remarkable efforts to intervene in specific situations. We met with her twice in March and we invite other Council members to do the same.
The second line of action that I would like to highlight is the United Nations itself, which must continue to play a major role in monitoring and implementing this agenda. We want to once again express our full support for Ms. Patten, especially in the often difficult dialogue she has with parties to conflicts. The results she has achieved, for example in Mali and South Sudan, in convincing Riek Machar to give orders to prevent and punish this type of violence, are all illustrations of the effectiveness of her commitment, even if we know that the war is never won and must continue to be waged on a daily basis. We also support the team of experts working under Ms. Patten’s auspices, including by funding its staff as they work to strengthen States’ judicial capacities. That is a key element. While much remains to be done, we must strengthen and improve mechanisms such as the mixed unit for rapid intervention and suppression of sexual violence against women and children in the Central African Republic, which should result in trials. Peacekeeping operations must also have the necessary means to protect women in armed conflict, including the deployment of women’s protection and gender advisers.
Thirdly, the elimination of sexual violence in conflict can be achieved only with strong support for the members of civil society who work and resist so bravely on the ground. Needless to say I am thinking here of Ms. Murad and Dr. Mukwege, both of whom are a source of inspiration and admiration for the entire international community and with whom we continue to work closely. France is proud to have been the first country to pledge funding for the establishment of a fund for survivors of sexual violence, announced by Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, our Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Ms. Marlène Schiappa, Secretary of State to the Prime Minister for Equality between Women and Men. France will continue its commitment to providing appropriate assistance to victims of sexual violence as part of its presidency of the Group of Seven (G-7). Ms. Murad and Dr. Mukwege can count on France’s support. Our presidency of the G-7 is also a framework for strengthening the monitoring of sexual violence. In the past few years we have cooperated on projects with civil society in Yemen, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo designed to provide holistic care for victims of sexual violence.
Lastly, and we have hammered away at this point in every Security Council debate, only a holistic approach can ensure that the women and peace and security agenda is effectively implemented. Women, who are the primary victims of sexual violence, will be better protected if they can be significant participants in political processes and if they have the same economic and social rights and opportunities as men. It is therefore crucial that we work relentlessly in our fight against sexual violence to address gender inequalities and stereotypes, its underlying causes. Support for stakeholders on the ground is also essential in that regard, which is why President Macron has announced the establishment of a fund of €120 million to support women’s movements in countries of the South. That is also why France, in partnership with Mexico, will host a forum commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, which will bring together States, regional organizations and civil-society actors.
Combating sexual violence is a crucial fight. It is also a fight that should unite us over the long term. On behalf of France, I once again call for unity among all the members of the Council.