From peacekeepers in Darfur escorting women and girls to prevent “firewood rapes” to blue helmets in Kosovo setting up an emergency hotline for at-risk communities and lone women, the United Nations launched today its first compilation of the best practices of its staff to prevent, deter and respond to the use of rape as a war tactic.
“This is practical information to move from words to deeds,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, told the UN News Centre on the sidelines of the launch of the booklet, Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence-An Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for example, the peacekeeping mission known as MONUC has provided escorts for women to resume trading at the local markets, which has improved their sense of security and their economic development.
In Kosovo, peacekeepers noted that unannounced, random foot patrols and checkpoints kept perpetrators off balance, while in Liberia night patrols have been deployed around camps for the displaced.
“From the moment their boots touch the ground, tomorrow’s peacekeepers will have a reference that explains this issue [prevention of sexual violence] in operational, not theoretical, terms,” Ms. Wallström said of the plastic-covered booklet, which is designed to be easy to read.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Major General Abhijit Guha, Deputy Military Adviser to the Under-Secretary-General, said that the nature of conflict requires changes in peacekeeping practices.
“The Analytical Inventory is part of our efforts to adapt to the evolving requirements of peacekeeping and supports our new military guidelines on gender,” he said.
The inventory includes a 10-item checklist of emerging elements of an effective response.
Items include consultations with all segments of community, particularly women, to hear what they need and how they move; enhanced training starting with the practical and moving to the theoretical; and role modelling to help leave a legacy of security for women and girls.
It also addresses potential ways to mitigate risk, such as working with civil society groups to provide fuel-efficient stoves in Somalia or Darfur to prevent women from having to walk far to collect biofuels. Such stoves would also support environmental sustainability and alleviate some related illnesses, which are part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which world leaders hope to achieve by 2015.
Released by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Stop Rape Now campaign, UN Department of Peacekeeping (DPKO) and the Australian Government, the idea is for the booklet to be distributed to peacekeepers on the ground to be used for training and as an education tool.
“We have to work together as a UN family to move this forward. Stopping the use of rape in conflict areas is not just a matter of time. It requires pro-active measures, political will and military responsibility,” Ms. Wallström told the UN News Centre.
“Acts of sexual violence on this scale are crimes against humanity. To say they cannot be stopped makes no sense. As someone said in today’s launch – what other crime against humanity is inevitable?” she added.