An initiative announced today in London by the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries to ramp up the fight against rape and other sexual violence in conflict represents “a beacon of light and hope” for the countless survivors around the world, a United Nations envoy said today.
“We have an opportunity like at no time before in history to break the back of this age-old evil,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura at the launch of the Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence.
“May this be a decisive moment; our moment to put an end to this heinous crime which is a blight on our collective humanity.”
The Declaration, which was endorsed by all G8 members – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States – commits the group to help victims of sexual violence in war, prevent further attacks and hold perpetrators responsible for their crimes, with $35.5 million in funding targeted to those efforts.
In a statement, Ms. Bangura stressed that the Declaration “affirms our conviction that this crime constitutes a fundamental threat to international peace and security, and as such requires an operational and strategic security and justice response.”
She noted that conflict-related sexual violence does not only affect one person, but is an assault on the peace and security of entire communities. This crime makes post-conflict reconciliation more difficult, and hinders efforts to create enduring peace.
“Even as we concentrate on our obligations to the survivors of sexual violence – the critical health, psycho-social, legal and other services needed for them to rebuild their lives – we now also train a more concerted spotlight on all those who commit, command, or condone sexual violence in conflict,” Ms. Bangura said.
She added that perpetrators should be pursued by any and all means, and emphasized that by doing so the stigma of this crime would be transferred from the victims to the perpetrators.
The special envoy for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Angelina Jolie, was also present at the G8 meeting. She welcomed the Declaration but said it was “long overdue” for sexual violence survivors.
“For too long, they have been the forgotten victims of war, responsible for none of the blame but bearing the worst of the pain,” Ms. Jolie said, adding that millions of people will be watching to see countries implement the commitments made today.