World leaders must take concrete action to end sexual and gender-based violence in conflict during a landmark summit this week hosted by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and UK Foreign Minister William Hague, Amnesty International said.
The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict will be attended by government ministers from around the world, civil society experts and survivors. It is the largest gathering ever on the issue.
“William Hague and Angelina Jolie have shown great leadership in bringing the world’s governments together to discuss one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time - this historic moment must not be squandered,” said Stephanie Barbour, head of Amnesty International’s Centre for International Justice.
“States must seize this opportunity to commit to action to prevent sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, to investigate and punish it effectively and to give survivors reparation, protection and support.”
Participating states are asked to sign up to and implement a comprehensive action plan for ending the human rights violation.
The summit comes amid deafening international outcry against sexual and gender-based violence, following the rape and murder of two girls in India, Elliot Rodger’s targeted shooting of women in the US and the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria.
While media attention in each of these cases has prompted a government reaction, sexual violence in conflict often goes unanswered by authorities, despite the shocking numbers it affects.
“From Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria to Syria and Sudan, countless women and girls – but also men and boys – are targeted for sexual and gender-based violence,” said Stephanie Barbour.
“This not only causes great suffering but threatens peace and security, undermines development and perpetuates inequality.”
In a series of recommendations published ahead of the summit, Amnesty International has highlighted serious failures in the enforcement of international law that allows impunity for these crimes to prevail.
The recommendations show how documentation, investigation and prosecution of these crimes can and must be improved at national and international level.
Amnesty International is urging states to meet their international legal obligations to prevent and punish these crimes, provide reparation to victims and support and protect women human rights defenders working on the issue. It also calls for improved international strategic coordination on prevention and response.
Critical to the success of the summit is the participation of hundreds of civil society representatives from around the world. Amnesty International has brought a delegation of nine women human rights defenders from Asia, Africa and Latin America to London for the summit.
Women human rights defenders are at the forefront of efforts to prevent and map crimes and obtain justice and reparation for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict. They are also often themselves the targets of attacks.
“States must make concrete commitments to enable and protect women human rights defenders, so that they can safely and securely carry out their work in support of victims of sexual and gender-based violence,” said Stephanie Barbour.
“The commitments made during the summit need to be implemented quickly and with adequate resources. The survivors deserve more than empty talk.”