Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator Musinga T. Bandora “Youth for Human Rights Namibia: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit 2014” UNAM

Jun 7, 2014

I wish to thank Ambassador Maryanne Young and the British High Commission for inviting me to the Model UN debate on Youth for Human Rights Namibia. I wish commend the Foreign Secretary Hague and the UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie; who will be hosting the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London next week to raise awareness against sexual violence in conflict.

The conversation today is an excellent opportunity for you participants to learn-first through the research you will have done to understand the magnitude and complexity of the problem, secondly on how to coordinate national and regional positions and build consensus around a global problem and lastly how to draft, lobby and negotiate resolutions within a multi lateral inter-governmental setting of the UN General Assembly. Beyond learning and perhaps more important however, is the opportunity you have been given to make a contribution through the resolution you will adopt, to the global debate on preventing sexual violence in armed conflict and to the outcome of the London conference.

Throughout history, sexual violence has been a phenomena and tactics of war.  It represents one of the most serious forms of human rights violations. In recent time have witnessed the perpetration of sexual violence during conflicts in the Balkans, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, DRC, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere-with devastating consequences.  The recent kidnapping of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram terrorits, is an indication that the violence is deepening and therefore the need for urgent and coordinated international action.  

Unfortunately because sexual violence takes place mainly in conflict areas, it is vastly under reported, and underestimated in terms of prevalence and consequences. The deep psychological scars it inflicts on the victims-especially women and girls- are not fully appreciated. In addition, the link between sexual violence and international peace and security is also not always fully appreciated

It is in this spirit that in 2000 Namibia pioneered the adoption of SCR1325 on Peace, Women and Security. It marked the first time the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and recognized that sexual violence is linked with the maintenance of international peace and security.  Since then, the Security Council has adopted five more resolutions on Peace, Women and Security. I wish to commend the Namibian government for this pioneering initiative.

Last year, the General Assembly also adopted the ‘UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict’. The declaration contains a set of political commitments to end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.  It sends an important message- to the victims of these crimes, that the international community has not forgotten them and- to the perpetrators of rape, that they will be held accountable for their actions.

Because armed conflict and violence often overflows beyond national borders, sexual violence also assumes trans-national proportions.  In preventing sexual violence-especially in Africa- therefore  requires us to recognize and address its transnational character as well as the nexus between sexual violence, illicit extraction of natural resources, and illicit trade and proliferation of small arms. For this reason sexual violence cannot be tackled by countries individually. It needs collaboration and partnerships based on a global and holistic approach that commands the support of everyone-countries, societies and organizations.

This is why the UN is working to ensure that international and regional initiatives are coordinated to improve and standardize the investigation of large scale sexual violence in wartime, to help countries build national capacity for effective investigations and prosecutions -so as to bring an end a culture of impunity.

In this regard, the UN and the African Union signed a landmark agreement in February this year on the prevention of and response to sexual violence in Africa. The agreement aims to strengthen national policies, and laws, to train law enforcement officers and peacekeepers on prevention and best responses. The agreement also emphasizes the importance of providing psycho-social support to the survivors, countering stigma and ensuring that reported crimes are quickly investigated and vigorously prosecuted.

Ultimately, conflict and sexual violence are caused and sustained by failures of governance. Therefore, an end to sexual violence in armed conflict must be rooted in the search for better governance and addressing the root causes of the conflicts. The international community can assist in this regard -but the onus rests on governments and societies where these crimes are perpetrated. It requires national leadership and strong political commitment.

As we focus on conflict situations we should not lose sight of the plight of women even in non-conflict situations. Here is Namibia, murder, rape and violence against women is rampant. Only this week it was reported in the press that Namibia leads the region in the rates of Gender Based violence. The Government has put down measures to fight this scourge. It is the responsibility of everyone –especially the youth, to join and support government in fighting this endemic problem. Let’s all play our parts. I wish you a constructive dialogue and I thank you.