UNSC High-level open debate on conflict-related sexual violence: turning commitments into compliancets into compliance - PR UN New York

UNSC High-level open debate on conflict-related sexual violence: turning commitments into compliancets into compliance

Statement by The Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations.

NEW YORK, 17 July 2020

Mr. President,

We would like to thank Germany and the Dominican Republic for organizing today’s debate. The Kingdom of the Netherlands fully aligns itself with the statement made by Canada on behalf of 62 Member States of the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security, and with the statement made by the European Union.

As the world is facing a global health crisis with an unprecedented impact on all aspects of human security, and with a disproportionate effect on women and girls in all their diversity, the Kingdom of the Netherlands remains ever more committed to supporting the United Nations’ efforts to prevent and address sexual violence in conflict (SViC).

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution

1325, the present Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict provides an

excellent opportunity to reiterate and strengthen our collective

commitment to preventing and addressing SViC.

The Secretary-General provides us with a clear message in his present

report: we must not forget the profound human suffering that is at the

heart of the SViC agenda. We are here today for the victims and survivors

of SViC. We are speaking about a crime that is widely invisible and

underreported. Hence, the importance of letting disregarded voices be

heard in this Council.

In that regard, let me express my gratitude to Nadia Fornel Poutou, from

the Association de Femmes Juristes de Centrafrique and Khin Omar,

speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and

Security for taking the time to share their experiences with the Council.

Your concerns must be at the centre of our common effort to move from

commitment to compliance. Let me also thank the Special Representative

of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict for briefing the


Allow me to highlight three areas of action for strengthening efforts to

prevent and respond to SViC:

1. Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

Mr. President,

Any response to sexual violence must prioritize the rights, needs and

wishes of survivors.

COVID-19 puts the implementation of a survivor-centred approach to

sexual violence in conflict under further pressure. It is becoming

increasingly challenging for survivors to access essential life-saving

services including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.

SRHR is a fundamental part of a survivor-centred approach to SViC and

must be put at the forefront of the response. Those organizations working

in conflict situations where SVIC occurs, must provide adequate and

comprehensive services to survivors in all their diversity, including sexual

and reproductive health care, mental health and psychosocial support,

protection, legal services, access to justice, and support for livelihoods.

Concrete and sustained actions must be taken to ensure diverse survivors

can claim their right to such services. Preventing and addressing sexual

and gender-based violence (SGBV), including SViC, is a prerequisite for

the realization of women’s rights and their ability to meaningfully

participate in peace, political and security processes. Also, the inclusion of

disrupted communities of which survivors of SViC are part in the response

must ensure collective healing as well as the reintegration of survivors.

In that journey of healing, the importance of accountability and justice

cannot be understated, which brings me to my second point.

2. Accountability for sexual violence

States have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute

violations and uphold international human rights standards. The lack of

criminal accountability for SViC in countries affected by conflict is

concerning. The international community must therefore play a role in

supporting the delivery of justice at the local level.

For justice to be truly survivor-centred, it must be holistic, comprehensive

and occur at multiple levels. Next to international accountability

mechanisms, a greater focus on survivor-centred national and local

justice mechanisms for the prosecution of SViC must be ensured. National

and local prosecution should be close and accessible to survivors, as this

is where most perpetrators and survivors and their communities remain.

We would like to emphasise the importance of the reconstruction of Rule

of Law as a central part of peace processes, with special attention to local

and national laws in which gender and the rights of women are fully


When states are unable or unwilling to prosecute, the International

Criminal Court (ICC) can play an important role in holding perpetrators to

account. The Statute of the ICC was the first international instrument

which included various forms of sexual violence as underlying acts of both

crimes against humanity and war crimes. We remind the Council of its

power to refer situations to the ICC, and call upon all states to become a

party to the Rome Statute and to adopt the most serious crimes into their

national legislation.

3. Dedicated sanctions for sexual violence

Beyond criminal accountability, we must make use of other tools at our

disposal to fight impunity. Targeted sanctions on perpetrators of SVIC is

one of them.

The gap assessment presented in the latest report of the Secretary-

General, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2467, makes painfully

clear the impunity, in which crimes of SViC, remain drenched. It is telling

and confronting that of the 65 parties that have been listed since 2010,

only one has been de-listed. By contrast, 42 listed parties have not

assumed any commitments, while they have been listed for over five


As a world, as an international community, we are not doing enough to

change this. A true survivor-centred approach takes root in prevention as

well as the assurance that those who have torn lives apart will not be

allowed to continue doing so. And impunity is precisely one of the main

drivers of SViC, further fuelling a cycle of violence. In 2018, when the

Netherlands was an elected member of this Council, we pushed for the

systematic inclusion of sexual violence as stand-alone designation criteria

for all existing sanctions regimes.

We would like to reiterate the opportunity we have to strengthen our joint

prevention and response by systematically and explicitly incorporating

and applying sexual violence as a stand-alone designation criterion in

sanctions regimes. Recognizing the meaningful steps that have been

taken in this regard, with specific designation criteria on sexual violence

having been included in seven out of the current fourteen sanctions

regimes, we call upon the Council to extend this practice to all remaining

relevant sanctions regimes and to ensure adequate follow-up. The Council

should not hesitate to list individuals or entities solely for sexual violence.

This sends a clear message to perpetrators that sexual violence in itself

warrants UN sanctions.

To conclude, we call upon the Council and all Member States to ensure

that Women Peace and Security, and in particular preventing and

addressing SViC, is an integral part of country-specific discussions and

mandates. We must not allow our common efforts to prevent and address

SViC to be dwindled down to an annual discussion in this Council. We

need instructive mandates on SViC in order to translate our common

priorities into action.

Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.

Thank you.