Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1820 (S/2009/362)
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 1820 (2008), in which the Council requested me to submit a progress report on implementation of resolution 1820 (2008), including information on, inter alia, situations of armed conflict in which sexual violence has been widely or systematically employed against civilians; analysis of the prevalence and trends of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict; proposals for strategies to minimize the susceptibility of women and girls to such violence; benchmarks for measuring progress in preventing and addressing sexual violence; information on my plans to facilitate the collection of timely, objective, accurate and reliable information on the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict; and information on actions taken by parties to armed conflict to implement their obligations as described in resolution 1820.
2. Following the adoption of the resolution, I entrusted the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in close coordination with all relevant stakeholders, to undertake appropriate follow-up, including the preparation of the present report. To this end, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations established a coordination group at Headquarters, led by a senior focal point, with the participation of all departments, specialized agencies, funds and programmes concerned, including those represented in UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict (UN Action).(1) At the country level, senior-level mission focal points were designated to ensure consolidated inputs from relevant peacekeeping and political mission components, the United Nations country team, and implementing partners. The present report is thus the result of extensive consultations and submissions from headquarters and country-level. It has also been informed by the insights of Member States, non-governmental organizations, legal experts and researchers.
3. In accordance with resolution 1820 (2008), the present report is confined to the implementation of the resolution in the context of situations that are on the agenda of the Council. These situations are not limited to what can at present be described as armed conflict situations. However, the resolution is essentially concerned with sexual violence against civilians during and in the aftermath of armed conflicts and with related issues; the approach in this report is generally similarly focussed. It should also be noted that sexual violence occurs in armed conflicts around the world that are not on the Council's agenda. While the information in this report is limited to the last two decades, sexual violence has been used against civilians, particularly women and girls, in many conflicts throughout history. The main focus of the report is on peace and security and justice matters relating to sexual violence. It is informed by the definitions of rape and other forms of sexual violence under international criminal law.(2) Most of the inputs that were received from the country level refer to definitions that are contained in national law. It is also guided by the meaning of "widespread" and "systematic" as reflected in international jurisprudence in relation to crimes against humanity.(3)
4. The request in resolution 1820 (2008) for analysis of the prevalence and trends of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict must be considered in the light of the complexities of gathering comprehensive information on sexual violence, even in the best of conditions. Sexual violence is deeply dehumanizing, inflicts intense mental and physical trauma, and is often accompanied by fear, shame and stigma.
It is a well-established method of torture.(4) For these reasons and particularly in the absence of protection or services, victims do not easily disclose their experiences and there is gross under-reporting of cases.5 In conflict situations, efforts to document sexual violence are further complicated by chaotic circumstances and population movements, safety concerns, and a breakdown or lack of systems to collect and report information. To ascertain prevalence, population-based surveys would need to be conducted and these are difficult to undertake in conflict settings. However, any lack of comprehensive information should not preclude efforts to prevent and respond to sexual violence. Information from other sources such as police and human rights reports, case report statistics from organizations providing services to survivors, and courts, including international courts, can provide valuable, if partial, insights into a given situation.