Remarks at the UN Security Council High-Level Annual Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 17, 2020

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Minister. And thank you for hosting this debate to discuss the survivor-centered approach to addressing sexual violence in conflict. We appreciate the participation of our briefers today, as well as their contributions in this important effort.

We cannot discuss sexual violence in conflict without acknowledging the very serious impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women and girls. When we discussed the pandemic on July 2, we talked about the impact of self-quarantine and stay-at-home orders as an exacerbating risk factor for gender-based violence, particularly intimate partner violence against women. We are pleased that Resolution 2532 specifically addresses this dynamic.

The United States brought sexual violence in conflict to the attention of the Security Council in 2008 when the Council passed Resolution 1820. Since its inception, we have been an ardent supporter of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Sexual violence in conflict is a matter of international security. It requires continued leadership and action from the United Nations and from all Member States.

Sexual violence in conflict inflicts trauma that extends far beyond survivors. It degrades individuals, fuels instability, forces people to flee their homes, and fractures families and societies. It is linked with other forms of violence and abuse, including child, early, and forced marriage, and sexual slavery.

Many perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict are non-state actors, and the increased presence of gender advisors in UN Missions is helping collect information on these terrible crimes. Strengthening the capacity of rule-of-law institutions will be critical to advancing credible and inclusive accountability processes for past crimes.

This year’s debate on sexual violence in conflict holds a new-found significance as our work evolves to focus on a survivor-centered and rights-based approach to the issue. This approach empowers survivors by respecting their rights and prioritizing their needs.

For the Trump Administration, this means ensuring that survivors have access to appropriate, accessible, and quality services including health care, psychological and social support, security, and legal assistance. These services allow survivors to recover and fully participate in reconciliation and development.

We read the Secretary-General’s report on Sexual Violence in Conflict with great interest, particularly the portion dedicated to the Central African Republic.

We know from the report that armed groups and signatories to the 2019 peace agreement are continuing to use sexual violence in conflict as a tactic of war. That’s why the Trump Administration is supporting sexual violence survivors in the Central African Republic and training personnel from CAR’s judicial system to initiate investigations and prosecutions of gender-based violence crimes. In doing so, we are increasing the availability of legal resources for victims and conducting a public information campaign on sexual and gender-based violence. This work is aligned with our own Women, Peace, and Security Strategy implementation plan by Ivanka Trump.

Addressing sexual violence in all forms requires many entities and organizations acting together. We must ensure that humanitarian efforts and relevant organizations integrate prevention and mitigation of sexual violence, including through making greater use of age- and sex-disaggregated data, and strengthening support services for survivors beginning in the earliest stages of humanitarian response.

Mr. President, we know that collectively we can hold perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict accountable and ensure compliance with commitments to end sexual violence in conflict as a tactic of war. The Trump Administration is doing our part, supporting gender-based violence programming with more than $150 million in 2019 foreign assistance funds. We will continue to work with civil society, including women human rights defenders, and the SRSG to strengthen compliance with previous commitments to eradicate sexual violence in conflict.

We – each of us – we owe this to ensure every victim has a voice and that every victim is heard. With this very important meeting today, we are telling those victims, we hear you, we will not stop doing our part to make sure that the world hears you, too.

Thank you very much.

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