Press Release - UN Must Seize Opportunity to End Rape in Conflict
04 Aug 2009 - The International Rescue Committee yesterday released the following statement calling for the United Nations to step up efforts to prevent and respond to rape in armed conflict:
New York, August 3, 2009 — The United Nations Security Council should live up to its pledge to prevent and punish rape in conflict by using this week’s debate on resolution 1820 to develop a concrete action plan to carry it out, says the International Rescue Committee.
The landmark resolution, unanimously adopted just over a year ago, rightfully recognizes sexual violence in war as a threat to international peace and security and calls for the international community to step up efforts to respond to it.
“Women in war zones continue to be raped, abused and threatened at an alarming and unacceptable scale,” says Heidi Lehmann, director of IRC’s programs to address violence against women and girls. “It’s no longer a hidden crisis, yet action still lags far behind awareness.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo attacks on women and girls continue at horrific levels. IRC teams there have aided 40,000 survivors since 2002 and the crisis shows no sign of abating.
“Each year we see a new wave of violence and rape and each year the response fails to live up to the magnitude of the problem,” says Lehmann.This week, the UN Security Council will review and consider a report that documents the use of sexual violence in recent and ongoing armed conflicts. This is the most recent piece of evidence in the avalanche of research, commentary and testimonials that attempts to map out the contours of countless and inexcusable atrocities. Women living in conflict cannot afford more deliberation.
Resolution 1820 holds the promise of action but the clock is ticking. Unless steps are taken now, women and girls will continue living in fear of being targeted every time fighting escalates and every day as they go to their fields and markets.
“As devastating and seemingly overwhelming as the war on women is, there are things that can and must be done to address the crisis,” says IRC’s advocacy officer, Elisabeth Roesch. “It’s critical that the words of resolution 1820 are transformed into forceful and coherent action and we hope the Security Council will seize the opportunity at this week’s debate to do that.”
The IRC urges the creation of a high level post, such as a Special Representative to the Secretary-General, to coordinate a robust prevention and response effort. Implementation of resolution 1820 requires clear and strong UN leadership to address the health, human rights, security and development aspects of the issue. Such leadership currently doesn’t exist. While a range of good efforts have been piloted across the UN system, their effectiveness and impact are hindered by a lack of coordination and accountability. The result is that often survivors go without critically needed health and psychological support in the midst of conflict.
Programs to prevent sexual violence and provide appropriate assistance for survivors are also chronically underfunded. This appointed official should be charged with spotlighting the crisis and mobilizing resources to address it.
To Learn More
Special Report: Ending Violence Against Women