Avatar photo

Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of FCDO Human Rights UK in Holy See

4th June 2014

Time to Act: mobilising Catholic networks against sexual violence in conflict

photo (10)

I often have to remind people that I am accredited not to the Vatican City State, but to the Holy See, the governance of the global Catholic Church. As such, this embassy has reach into an extraordinary worldwide network of civil society organisations, religious congregations, diplomats, universities and other components that make up the Catholic universe. This gives us real opportunities when we want to take action on an issue of cross-border significance.

Next week, from 10-13 June, the United Kingdom will host the largest ever conference on sexual violence in conflict, chaired by the Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy Angelina Jolie. 1,200 people will come together with a common aim: to end the scandal of sexual violence in conflict, and turn the undoubted political will that exists (150 countries have signed the UN Declaration sponsored by the UK) into hard, practical action. It is a complex issue, and will need governments, international organisations, civil society, military experts, lawyers, human rights defenders, teachers, medical and psychological practitioners to work together to improve support for survivors, end impunity for perpetrators, and stop the systematic use of this brutal crime under cover of conflict.

Religious networks have a huge role to play. Women religious in Africa, for example, are often first responders, on the scene to help the survivors and rebuild trust within the community. Organisations like the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and the Caritas Internationalis Federation (CI) are on the ground with a long term presence in countries from Sri Lanka to Colombia to witness, support, rehabilitate and regenerate. It was therefore an honour for me to join representatives of the Catholic world like Sister Elena Balatti of the Comboni Missionaries or Sister Victoria Chiharhula of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa at Vatican Radio this week to debate the issue, to listen to their stories from South Sudan and Congo, and hear their recommendations for the London Summit. JRS and CI were also there, and representatives of the Holy See Secretariat of State observed the debate.

Watch the webcast and make up your own mind. One session at the London Summit will address specifically the responsibilities of faith networks.  It’s #TimeToAct against this brutal crime that affects hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide. The Summit will be an important milestone. But it can only succeed if we all work together, the global Catholic network included.

1 comment on “Time to Act: mobilising Catholic networks against sexual violence in conflict

  1. This battle against sexual crimes is a great cause to fight for.

    Congrats to people who are involved. I agree.

    Francine DesChênes

Comments are closed.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

Follow Nigel