Statement by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, for the 10-year Anniversary of the Establishment of the Mandate on Sexual Violence in Conflict
Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG), Ms Pramila Patten,
I would like to extend my thanks to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SRSG), Pramila Patten, for inviting South Africa to co-host this event today.
South Africa welcomes to this occasion the diverse participants, in particular victims and survivors of sexual violence in conflict affected countries.
Our interactions today with the relevant role-players will allow us to not only assess the achievements and challenges of the mandate given to the SRSG, but to also receive first-hand information from practitioners working with those who have suffered the trauma of sexual violence in conflict, as well as the victims and survivors of these heinous acts.
Sexual violence is not only peculiar to conflict affected countries but in varying degrees to all countries - developed and developing countries alike, those in conflict and those at peace.
Even though South Africa is not a country in conflict, we unfortunately can relate to the challenges of dealing with gender based violence, in particular, sexual violence. In our case the most affected by sexual violence are the most vulnerable; women, children, the elderly, the LGBTI community and persons with disabilities.
Sexual violence is not a problem that can be addressed one-dimensionally. A multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach is needed to address this scourge by strengthening law enforcement mechanisms, promoting social cohesion, protecting and reaffirming the rights of victims and survivors and providing support to those affected by it. This means involvement of a variety of sectors in government, as well as non-governmental and civil society organisations.
Through this multi-stakeholder approach, South Africa is currently implementing its own Emergency Response Action Plan to deal with gender based violence. Part of this includes, inter alia, behaviour-change interventions to influence men and boys; the roll-out of training on victim-centric, survivor-focused services, with a specific drive to train police, prosecutors, magistrates and policy-makers; and the establishment of a gender based violence fund for rapid response to assist survivors at the community level.
On this 10th anniversary of the establishment of the mandate and Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, South Africa would like to commend and reiterate its support for the efforts of the UN and the SRSG particularly on ending sexual violence in armed conflict situations and for the full implementation of the measures for the prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence.
We note the significant progress that has been made in the past 10 years on this matter, but at the same time we remain concerned about the prevalence of incidents of conflict-related sexual violence perpetrated by both State and non-State actors, which ravage communities and destroy lives.
It goes without saying that parties to conflict must always adhere to international human rights law and international humanitarian law. However, if these were scrupulously adhered to, we would not be having this discussion today.
Our common objective is to end the scourge of this reprehensible crime. But for this to be attained, we need to address the root causes of sexual violence. It is generally accepted that the key intervention is to address the behaviour of the offenders. Although there is a need for accountability, there is an equal need for measures focusing on prevention and deterrence.
We wish to stress that it is of utmost importance that perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable for their crimes even though in many situations perpetrators remain unidentified. The reality is that most countries in conflict or post-conflict situations have capacity constraints, weak institutions, and justice systems unable to cope with increasing demands.
It is thus important that we partner globally, regionally and nationally, to assist these countries in building capacity and strengthening their institutions such as security and social services to deal with the perpetrators and provide the necessary support to victims and survivors. These countries must, however, demonstrate political will and a commitment to hold perpetrators to account in order to send a clear message of deterrence for would-be offenders.
One of the effective measures taken as a deterrence, and worthy of commending, is the prohibition of all state actors repeatedly listed in the Secretary-General’s reports on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Children and Armed Conflict from participating in UN peacekeeping operations. It is imperative that the implementation and application of these measures is consistent across all country situations.