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Greg Dorey


Part of FCDO Human Rights

12th June 2014

Ending Sexual Violence as a Tool of War

JolieSexual violence committed in war zones has been not only an abomination against humanity but a growing problem. Long seen as an inevitable consequence of a breakdown of law and order and often regarded as a ‘lesser crime’, it is increasingly being used as a means of war to humiliate and devastate communities belonging to the ‘enemy.’

Over time, a culture of impunity for the perpetrators has developed.

The effects of sexual violence in conflict are profound. Most victims who survive never see justice for the crimes committed against them. And where these injustices go unpunished, they become part of the cycle of violence that perpetuates conflict and prevents national reconciliation and reconstruction.

In May 2012 the #UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (#PSVI). Its goal is to end the culture of impunity for the use of sexual violence as a tool and a side-effect of war worldwide.

In 2013, a Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict was agreed by #G8 Ministers and then by the #UN General Assembly. Some 150 governments have now endorsed this Declaration, including #Ethiopia.

And this important initiative is still gathering pace. The Foreign Secretary is now co-hosting – with Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. This is taking place in London from 10-13 June 2014. It is the largest international gathering ever held on this issue, with over 1,200 high level delegates from all around the world, from governments, international organisations, NGOs and civil society.

We want the Summit to create a sense of irreversible movement towards ending the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict. These include an International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict to ensure solid accountability mechanisms. The Summit will also explore how to provide greater support and protection to survivors of sexual violence, including children, and how better to train military and peacekeepers to prevent such crimes.

Here, the British Embassy in Addis Ababa hosted a large reception at the British Council on Tuesday to mark the opening of the Summit. Almost all our guests signed our Pledge Canvass, committing themselves to work to end sexual violence in conflict. Blen Sahlu, from The Yellow Movement (#Yellowmvt) of Addis Ababa University (#AAU), spoke about women’s empowerment issues and those present enjoyed music from Ethiopia’s first girl band Yegna, part of a project to empower women and girls. The winners of a schools competition in which students were invited to design pictures of empowered women were also announced.

I awoke today feeling optimistic that the support for PSVI is growing inexorably and that we can together put an end to this evil.