I have the honour to address the Council on behalf of the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway.
Security threats against women are often dismissed as belonging to the private sphere or written off as cultural issues. But let us be clear: Conflict-related sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity and in the most extreme cases, an act of genocide. We must respond with the same sense of urgency as we do to other threats against peace and security. We must recognize the need for the participation of both women and men in preventing and solving conflict, and not least, in building sustainable peace.
The report in front of us is a catalogue of violence, rape, atrocities and torture. The Nordic countries welcome the comprehensive approach it takes, covering both protracted crises and emerging concerns. Its attention to sexual violence against men and boys, the practice of forced marriage, and the plight of children born as a result of wartime rape is valid and timely.
The Nordic countries commend the work of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Zainab Bangura, and particularly welcome her efforts to foster national leadership, build capacity and hold governments accountable.
During conflict, it is the national governments that have the main responsibility to protect civilians, whether from more conventional methods of warfare or from conflict-related sexual violence. Too often, they fail to do so.
One glaring example is Syria, where the government continues to demonstrate its utter failure to protect its own citizens. The use of sexual violence and rape by warring parties in Syria has been reported by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry as well as by numerous human rights organisations. As thousands of civilians flee from war-torn Syria every day, the world is watching history repeat itself.
As long as the permanent members of the Security Council remain divided, gross human rights violations are allowed to continue with impunity.
In his report, the Secretary-General has made a number of important recommendations to the Security Council on combating impunity.
The Nordic countries warmly welcome the Secretary-General’s call for emergency contraception and safe abortion to be included in the responses and services to the survivors. The agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women also call for the provision of these life-saving services. Girls and women who have been raped during war should not be forced to carry out unwanted pregnancies. For some victims of rape, undergoing a dangerous abortion is the only alternative to a life in shame, isolation and hardship, or even honour killings.
The rehabilitation of the victims will not be possible unless they have access to comprehensive services. This includes access to health, justice and reparations. As long as survivors have little or nothing to gain from reporting sexual violence and coming forward, the under-reporting will continue and impunity will prevail.
Sexual violence, including threats of sexual violence, can have far-reaching effects, not only for those affected and their families, but also for the wider communities and future prospects for peace and reconciliation.
Sustainable peace cannot be achieved without inclusive processes, where women’s agency and contributions are fully recognised. We strongly commend the tireless work of civil society organisations in continuing to advance women’s participation and in bringing the voices from the ground to the fore of international peace and security.
Promoting and supporting the broad Women, Peace and Security agenda is a priority for the Nordic governments. It is part of our joint efforts to foster gender equality and international peace and security. We are convinced that the two are closely linked.