Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on the 10 Year Anniversary of the Sexual Violence in Conflict Mandate

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 29, 2019


Thank you, Pamela, for the introduction, and thank you to Special Representative Pramila Patten for convening this important commemorative event and it is very good to see Margot Wallstrom and Zainb Bangura here as well. The United States is steadfast in recognizing that conflict-related sexual violence is a matter of international peace and security.

As the historic penholder on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the United States is strongly committed to preventing conflict-related sexual violence, holding perpetrators accountable, and supporting survivors. As was highlighted earlier, we first raised the issue of sexual violence in conflict to the attention of the Security Council in 2008 when the Council adopted resolution 1820, which marked the first time the Security Council explicitly linked sexual violence as a tactic of war.

This resolution provided a strategic framework on which the international response is now based. As Secretary General Guterres has said, ‘this was a paradigm shift’. Later, we introduced resolution 1888 which established the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and mandated that peacekeeping missions protect women and children from rampant sexual violence during armed conflict.

We remain fully committed to UN Security Council Resolutions 1820 and 1888, and to providing justice for the most vulnerable.

The United States has been an ardent supporter of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict since its inception, both politically and financially. Our last voluntary contribution in September of $1.7 million is a testament of our continued support. This money will be used to provide treatment and restorative programs to survivors of sexual violence, assistance to children of mothers victimized by sexual violence in conflict, and funding for further research, an issue that was just raised by the Foreign Minister of South Africa, to ensure we are supporting survivors. Special Representative Patten, we value the leadership, action, and momentum you and you predecessors have created in addressing this issue particularly in challenging operating environments. We further value you and your team’s expertise, and will continue to work with UN entities to define new and innovative approaches to this complex issue.

However, there are many challenges ahead. Sexual violence in armed conflict continues to exacerbate conflict in many countries. It is used as a tactic of violence inflicting trauma and injustice that extends far beyond survivors. Sexual violence fuels instability, forces women and children to flee their homes, and fractures societies. It is used alongside other forms of violence and abuse, such as torture, early and forced marriage, and sexual slavery. We must collectively do more to prevent sexual violence and bring justice to survivors.

We have developed national policies and programs, with support from the highest levels of our government, to address sexual violence in conflict. In yesterday’s Security Council debate on this issue, we detailed the United States Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security, which the President released in June pursuant to the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017. We are proud of the fact that the United States continues to be a leader by establishing a standalone, comprehensive law on Women, Peace, and Security.

With this historic milestone comes an unwavering U.S. commitment to enhance women’s meaningful participation to prevent and mitigate conflict, while also protecting women during conflict and crisis.

The strategy underscores the United States’ commitment to protecting the rights of women and girls, and acknowledges that women and girls bear unique, and disproportionate impacts of armed conflict. It calls on us to support solutions to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. More specifically, the strategy seeks to address sexual violence, human trafficking, and slavery. It will also consider the root causes of violence against women and incorporate them into our conflict and atrocity prevention strategies.

Beyond our strategy we can all prevent sexual violence in conflict through increasing the number of women in peacekeeping. Female peacekeepers are often able to engage with women at the local level, gathering valuable information on conflict-related sexual violence. It is important that the United Nations along with its Member States increase the number of women peacekeepers. It is vital that women participate at all levels of decision-making in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes.

Beyond having more women in blue helmets, it’s important that all peacekeeping personnel receive pre-deployment and in-mission training on gender-based violence, including in early-warning preparedness. This competence should be integrated into the performance and operational readiness standards used for assessments of troops and police.

Sexual violence erodes security and unravels families perpetuating cycles of conflict, indignity, and human rights abuses. This is a security issue, a human rights issue, and a public health issue that deserves a collective response. We are deeply appreciative of the Special Representative’s role in mobilizing such responses and we look forward to continued partnership with all member states to end sexual violence in conflict. That’s why we are participating in the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative international conference in late November.

We know that sexual violence is preventable. We believe that together, member states, the UN, and civil society can take concrete steps to eradicate sexual violence in conflict, protect the rights of women and girls, and elevate their role in promoting international peace and security.

Thank you.