For an English transcript of the French remarks made by Ms. Desanges Kabuo in the video above please click here.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, the United Nations Department of Peace Operations, and Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) held a virtual event launch of CIVIC’s new report “We Have to Break the Silence Somehow:” Preventing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence through UN Peacekeeping.

Experts from UN peacekeeping missions, civil society, and Member States discussed the report’s findings, the impacts of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) on individuals and communities, and how to incorporate CRSV into broader peace and security strategies. They stressed the importance of ensuring CRSV remains a core part of protection of civilians in armed conflict and highlighted examples of good practice missions have implemented in identifying, analyzing, and addressing CRSV, including adopting a survivor-centered approach.

In addition to the dangerous physical consequences of CRSV for survivors, there are often long-term psychological and socio-economic effects for survivors and their children. They are often shunned by their communities with social stigmas that impede access to education, healthcare and livelihoods. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where rape as a weapon of war remains pervasive and impunity widespread, victims’ right to justice and reparations, as well as treatment and support is central to civilian protection and to broader peace efforts. In adopting a survivor-centered approach, missions were advised to expand the use of women peacekeepers, establish a framework of dialogue with survivors, facilitate access to better medical support and vocational training centers for survivors, and engage communities and individuals to eliminate stigmatization. Speakers also noted CRSV affects everyone in the community including men and boys, who should be engaged in solutions.

Participants discussed key findings from the report which highlighted challenges to peacekeeping operations protecting civilians from CRSV in in the Central African Republic (CAR), DRC, and South Sudan. Among the challenges within missions, discussants noted the difficulty of ensuring responses are integrated and reliance on gender and CRSV specialists in missions, which often means that gender expertise is not mainstreamed across a mission’s work, and results in uneven prioritization among staff, including inconsistent support from military leadership. This is due, in part, to a disconnect between information collection and analysis, and between that analysis and response. The collection of information may also be limited in scope. For example, military observers receive more training and sensitization on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers than on preventing CRSV committed by other actors. Likewise, uniformed peacekeepers involved in collecting information about CRSV are not necessarily involved in its analysis or response planning.

The need to more systematically collect information on CRSV and prioritize integrated responses, including clarifying roles within the Mission, featured as a priority issue throughout the discussion. Where they are deployed, Senior Women Protection Advisors engage military, police, and civilian mission components to increase the collection of sex-disaggregated data and information on CRSV, but this role is often viewed as a civilian and police responsibility rather than a military one. Integrating these roles entails sharing information with UN Police (UNPOL), for example, or involving regional Joint Operation Centers (JOCs) to allow individuals from field offices to share information, as Joint Mission Analysis Cells (JMACs) diversify their networks to ensure analysts speak with more women. Missions have also made efforts to improve safe data-sharing on CRSV with humanitarian actors in ways that uphold the rights of survivors.

Several areas of good practice in strengthening the monitoring, analytical and reporting of a Mission’s mandated CRSV work were raised by UN field staff and others. By improving data collection and analysis, including through the Comprehensive Planning and Performance Assessment System (CPAS) and use of the Situational Awareness and Geospatial Enterprise (SAGE) database,  missions are better able to track trends in CRSV and measure the impact of their activities on the delivery of their mandates. Embedding CRSV in early warning and rapid response mechanisms can enable prompt alerts about sexual violence when it occurs. These early warning mechanisms often include Community Alert Networks (CANs) which share alerts of risks with missions.

Community engagement was raised as an important area of this work as missions noted efforts to improve their outreach to women-led and focused civil organizations and increased use of Community Liaison Assistants. These efforts have helped missions begin to tailor their engagement with communities to be sensitive to reporting barriers, as well as to the participation of women in responses. Female Engagement Teams and increasing the deployment of women and CRSV experts were viewed as central to this work, as was fortifying a missions’ ability to deploy very quickly and flexibly to the alerts.

Strengthening justice and accountability and adopting survivor-centered approaches were shared by participants as priority areas for action. Participants noted the importance of embedding CRSV in efforts to strengthen justice for survivors, so that perpetrators are held accountable. Victim reparation was raised as vital to these accountability efforts. The Draft Murad Code on documenting CRSV was raised as an example of how international standards for recording these crimes in a more survivor-centered way can also provide a guiding framework for safe, ethical and effective investigations into sexual violence. Good practice examples were shared between missions on the importance of embedding efforts to tackle stigma, within legal, medical and psycho-social support for survivors. Adopting elements of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda guided much of this work, including the practice of involving survivors in developing their own protection strategies.