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Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2017/249) [EN/AR]

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I. Introduction

1. The present report, which covers the period from January to December 2016, is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2106 (2013), in which the Council requested me to report annually on the implementation of resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1960 (2010) and to recommend strategic actions. Developments during the reporting period, including the rise in violent extremism and mass migration, drew attention to the attendant risk of trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual violence/exploitation. Among the perpetrators are hybrid criminal-terrorist networks, which have used the bodies of women and girls as a form of currency in the political economy of war. In response, the Council adopted resolution 2331 (2016), the first to address the nexus between such trafficking, sexual violence, terrorism and transnational organized crime. This paves the way for more systematic monitoring and reporting, as well as enhanced information-sharing and judicial cooperation. It further affirmed that victims of trafficking and sexual violence committed by terrorist groups should be eligible for official redress as victims of terrorism. The acknowledgement of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism, integral to recruitment, resourcing and radicalization strategies, links this issue formally to global action aimed at curbing terrorist financing, including the work of relevant sanctions regimes.

2. The term “conflict-related sexual violence”, as used in the present report, refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. This link may be evident in the profile of the perpetrator (often affiliated with a State or non-State armed group, including a terrorist entity or network), the profile of the victim (who is frequently an actual or perceived member of a persecuted political, ethnic or religious minority, or is targeted on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity), the climate of impunity (which is generally associated with State collapse), cross-border consequences (such as displacement or trafficking in persons) and/or violations of the provisions of a ceasefire agreement. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence/exploitation.

3. While many countries are affected by the threat, occurrence or legacy of conflict-related sexual violence, the present report is focused on 19 countries for which credible information is available. It should be read in conjunction with my previous annual reports on conflict-related sexual violence, which provide a cumulative basis for the listing of 46 parties (see annex). The majority of listed parties are non-State actors, with seven of these having been designated as terrorist groups pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015), the ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida sanctions list. Regarding national military and police forces, those that are listed are required to engage with my Special Representative in order to develop specific, time-bound commitments and action plans to address violations and, since 2010, several have done so. Effective implementation of commitments is a key requirement for the delisting of parties. All States repeatedly listed for grave violations against children and/or conflict-related sexual violence will be prohibited from participating in United Nations peace operations.

4. The report is based on information collected by the United Nations. In this regard, the increased presence of women’s protection advisers, who are responsible for convening the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence in the field, has improved the availability and quality of information. Currently, 34 women’s protection advisers are deployed in eight mission settings. All six peacekeeping missions with mandates that include the protection of civilians have established the monitoring arrangements and incorporated the matrix of early-warning indicators of conflict-related sexual violence into their broader protection structures. Two special political missions have also begun to establish these monitoring arrangements. A concerted effort to enhance prevention, early warning and swift responses to this historically hidden crime will require dedicated human and financial resources commensurate with the scale of the challenge. The prevention of sexual violence is an integral part of wider conflict prevention and, as stated in my inaugural address to the Security Council, prevention is not merely a priority, but the priority.

5. Strengthening the capacity of national institutions is critical to ensuring accountability for past crimes, as well as prevention and deterrence for the future. In this regard, the Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, in accordance with its mandate under Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), has assisted governments with criminal investigation and prosecution, military justice, legislative reform, protection of victims and witnesses and reparations. Reporting directly to my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Team of Experts is composed of specialists from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supplemented by a roster of experts with a range of specializations. With dedicated assistance, Governments can effectively adjudicate such crimes, as demonstrated by the case of Guinea, where the technical support provided by the Team of Experts to a national panel of judges investigating mass rape and other crimes committed in September 2009, resulted in the indictments of 17 high-ranking military and political officials, including the former President, Moussa Dadis Camara. These efforts also led to the arrest of key suspects through enhanced judicial cooperation with neighbouring countries. During the reporting period, the Team continued to promote the sharing of experiences between countries facing similar challenges and to assist in developing policies and tools such as guidelines for armed forces in Africa. By virtue of its structure and composition, the Team has contributed to enhanced coherence among its constituent entities. To date, it has engaged in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan.

6. The United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict network, which consists of 13 entities and is chaired by my Special Representative, is aimed at strengthening sexual violence prevention and response through a coordinated, coherent and comprehensive approach. In 2016, through the United Nations Action multi-partner trust fund, catalytic funding was provided for the deployment of the first women’s protection adviser to Iraq. An international expert was deployed to Mali on secondment from the Government of Switzerland to support the development of a national strategy on gender-based violence/sexual violence in conflict. In 2016, the network also funded five projects in the Middle East and North Africa, which support primarily Syrian and Iraqi survivors, including refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. United Nations Action further conducted a workshop in Jordan to foster synergies between the different projects, and to support the development of results-based monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Joint technical support missions were conducted to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Côte d’Ivoire, Jordan and Mali in 2016. A number of tools and knowledge products were produced to improve practice in the field, including a mapping of the global policy landscape on conflict-related sexual violence, in which gaps and opportunities linked to the implementation of the mandate on conflict-related sexual violence are assessed.

7. Recognizing that the United Nations has individuals among its ranks who engage in egregious acts of sexual exploitation and abuse, I have pledged to dramatically improve the way the United Nations prevents and responds to sexual exploitation and abuse by our own personnel and those deployed under the auspices of the United Nations. In my recent report on special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: a new approach (A/71/818), I have undertaken measures within my own authority. I have set out a strategic framework to prioritize the rights and dignity of victims and to end impunity. I have also called on Member States to join me in a unified effort to detect, control and prevent incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse in order to make zero tolerance a reality.