Sexual and Gender-based Violence (SGBV) - Advocacy in Action

In October 2007, OCHA successfully advocated with the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations to expand a planned Arria Formula meeting on women in situations of armed conflict in Africa. Chaired by France’s Human Rights Minister Rama Yade, the meeting highlighted the testimonies of former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson and Executive Director of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) Bineta Diop, following their visit to the Chad and Darfur. It also included the potent and compelling accounts of Eve Ensler, who had recently returned from DRC. 

Robust advocacy around SGBV also came from UN Action and its partners, in particular Peace Women, Oxfam and International Rescue Committee, and from former Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, and Yakin Eturk, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Its Causes and Consequences.

Criticism directed at the Security Council noted that although the Council had recognized that sexual violence continues to manifest itself throughout many conflicts, little had been done to address it as a threat to peace and security, even in post-conflict situations.

Joining Forces

Recently there have been a number of relevant initiatives within the UN. These include Security Council and Arria Formula meetings on Women, Peace and Security, and the 40th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), where in February 2008 the Secretary-General launched his UNite Campaign to End Violence against Women. The Campaign, which OCHA is supporting, calls on Governments, civil society, the private sector, the media and the entire UN System to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls. 

On 27 May 2008, former ERC John Holmes addressed the issue of sexual violence in his speech to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians, reiterating his call for improved reporting on sexual violence, and highlighting the need to improve the administration of justice for these crimes. Mr. Holmes also underlined the importance of the Secretary-General’s recommendation for targeted sanctions in response to sexual violence. 

That same day, a conference in the United Kingdom, sponsored jointly by UNIFEM and DPKO, examined the role of military peacekeepers in providing protection to women in conflict situations. The conference, which OCHA also participated in, laid the groundwork for a UK-hosted Arria Formula meeting held in June on the same topic, bringing many of the issues addressed and conclusions formulated at the previous meeting to the attention of Security Council members, and setting the stage for a planned debate on 19 June 2008 on Women, Peace, and Security.