Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 14, 2023


Good. Thank you, Lord Ahmad, and I thank your country’s leadership on preventing conflict-related sexual violence and providing this incredible opportunity for us today. And in particular, for you sharing your experiences in dealing with this issue. I also want to thank today’s civil society briefers for their powerful messages, and Special Representative Patten for her compelling remarks.

From signing Frameworks of Cooperation to leading the UN Action Network for prevention and response coordination, the Special Representative and her team have made a real difference. We proudly support the SRSG’s mandate, including through financial support, which last year was over 2 million dollars. And we encourage other Member States to back this important work. Finally, let me add our strong support for her participation in this meeting, and object to the personal attacks against her for amplifying the voices of women by the Russian Federation.

Colleagues, the United States is deeply committed to preventing and responding to conflict-related sexual violence and all other forms of gender-based violence. We know that in conflicts around the world, sexual violence is often used as a weapon of war.

In Ukraine, contrary to Russian objections and insinuations, there is ample evidence and horrific reports of Russian soldiers deploying sexual violence against men, women, children – with victims ranging from ages 4 to over 80.

In Sudan, girls on the way to school are sexually assaulted by the military, Rapid Support Forces, and armed nomads.

In Myanmar, the bodies of women extrajudicially executed by the military, have injuries consistent with sexual violence.

And the Secretary-General’s report highlights a shocking number of sexual crimes committed by criminal and illegal armed groups in a host of other countries, including in Haiti as we heard earlier today.

The international community must do more to address this profound crisis. We owe it to the courageous survivors who have come forward – and those who have been silenced by fear – to take swift and meaningful action.

First, we must recognize that gender-based violence is fundamentally rooted in gender inequality. We must take on harmful gender norms. And we must empower women and girls in all their diversity.

The United Nations and Member States must apply conflict-sensitive and participatory gender analysis to ensure our interventions address underlying inequities. These inequities, when combined with weak or absent state institutions, can lead to widespread gender-based violence.

So it’s on us. It’s on us to continue to promote the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in decision-making roles at all levels of conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding.

Second, we must adopt a survivor-centered and trauma-informed approach. This means providing survivors with access to medical care, particularly clinical management of rape, psycho-social support, reproductive health services, and legal support.

This also means listening to those who have experienced sexual violence in conflict, and responding to their unique needs, which will help facilitate their recovery and legal remedies. And this means creating supportive environments. Environments where survivors’ rights are respected, re-traumatization is avoided, and survivors have the resources they need to thrive.

Finally, we cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities. There must be accountability. Nadine, we heard you. Hser Hser, we heard you. We must use our diplomatic tools to reduce impunity for perpetrators and deter future acts of violence.

The United States is committed to exercising existing authorities to impose economic sanctions and implement visa restrictions.

I would also like to highlight the Secretary-General’s recommendation that the Security Council systematically monitor conflict-related sexual violence and include this as a standalone criteria for targeted sanctions.

We must all increase accountability within conflict-affected regions. And we can do so by strengthening documentation efforts, passing relevant national legislation, and changing institutional culture.

Colleagues, this Council has spent a great deal of time discussing these issues, but we cannot discuss away the crisis. It’s time for us to act. The most vulnerable are counting on us. Those trapped in conflict zones, who want nothing more than the chance to live in peace, who yearn for justice. We must commit to action. And we must do so with urgency.

Thank you, Mr. President.