Statement of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations Security Council regarding the Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, 17 July 2020

Mr President,

I would like to thank the Federal Republic of Germany for convening today’s open debate on women, peace, and security: sexual violence in conflict. The theme for the debate, ‘Turning commitments into compliance’ is important to note as our focus must continue to be on implementing the commitments we have made to address sexual violence in conflict.

South Africa wishes to express sincere gratitude to the Secretary-General for his detailed annual report on conflict-related sexual violence, which forms the basis for our deliberations today.

This open debate serves as a useful monitoring mechanism to assess the progress made in addressing the scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict situations and the challenges that continue to require the attention of the international community.

Mr President,

Armed conflict situations across the world have had a devastating effect on women and girls, in particular, due to their unequal status in society. One traumatic crime women and girls are vulnerable to, is sexual violence, committed by parties to armed conflict as a means of advancing their political, social and economic objectives.

Over the years, global awareness about the effects of armed conflict on women has increased owing primarily to the adoption in 2000 of the ground-breaking Security Council Resolution 1325, and all other subsequent resolutions and decisions on women, peace and security. Through these outcomes, the Security Council has recognised, and correctly so, that sexual violence as a tactic of war when used systematically to achieve military or political ends, constitute a threat to international peace and security.

Regrettably, sexual violence continues to occur in most conflict and post-conflict situations, and this remains a subject of grave concern for my country and must be of this Council too. Ending this scourge, addressing the resulting trauma, stigma and holding those responsible for committing these heinous acts accountable as well as to attending to the needs of the victims and survivors, should remain our priority.

Mr President,

While the situation of women and girls, particularly in conflict situations remains desperate and unacceptable, we must not view women and girls simply as passive victims but members of society with voices and competence. We must deepen our efforts to systematically change the perceptions about women and girls and acknowledge their resilience, self-empowerment and the meaningful role they can play as agents of change and transformation.

South Africa, therefore, recognises that sexual violence is inextricably linked to gender inequality. We must continue to strongly advocate for the equal participation and full involvement of women in all processes in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

The onus is on Member States to continually look at measures to strengthen the full and effective implementation of all Security Council decisions including the recommendations of the 2015 Global Study pertaining to women, peace and security in line with Security Council’s Resolution 2493 unanimously adopted last October at an open debate on women, peace and security, which emphasised the imperative of implementing all Council decisions on WPS. Our thematic discussion today on converting commitments into compliance resonates with and reaffirms this urgent call.

Mr President,

South Africa commends and reiterate its support for the efforts of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict on ending sexual violence in armed conflict situations. The work of this Office has become more important amid the myriad challenges brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic, particularly to women and children, internally displaced people, refugees and migrants. It is also due to this Office that we are able to monitor and express concern at the reported rise of sexual and gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thus reiterate the Secretary-General’s call that addressing gender-based violence must be integral to COVID-19 responses as well.

While policies have been put in place to mitigate the scourge of sexual violence, implementation unfortunately is lagging. There is still room for improvement in strengthening the rule of law institutions and capacities at national level to bring into account perpetrators of this heinous crime.

Measures taken to ensure accountability against the perpetrators of sexual violence such as the prohibition of States listed for violations from participating in UN’s peace operations and sexual violence being a designation-criteria in sanctions regimes in country situations should continue to be implemented consistently across all country situations.

Mr President,

Whilst we recognise the constraints of reporting on all situations of concern, we would appreciate receiving reports on more than merely the nineteen situations which are focused on in the report of the Secretary-General. Conflict situations such as in Palestine and Western Sahara, where human rights violations are prevalent, and women are affected by the ongoing hostilities, should not escape our scrutiny. This will ensure that there is no selectivity or bias in reporting and will maintain objective credibility of the UN processes.

On our part, we as Member States need to mitigate some of the serious negative impacts of sexual violence such as stigmatisation, discrimination, rejection, and social exclusion. Undertaking these activities require sustainable and predictable funding. Therefore, there should be consistent funding for programmes aimed at combating sexual and gender-based violence in conflict situations, including protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights, easy access to services for victims and survivors of sexual violence such as clinical treatment of rape, medical, psychosocial and legal services as well as reintegration support for victims and survivors.

Mr President,

This year is a significant year as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Resolution 1325, the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action and the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Charter of the United Nations, amongst others. It is also the review year for “silencing the guns” on the African Continent.

These commemorations will be hollow if we do not take steps to fulfil their objectives and implement the ideals and commitments that we have made by adopting these landmark outcomes.  In this regard, South Africa underscores the need for enhanced cooperation through better information sharing, coordination, and cooperation between the UN, regional and sub-regional organisations as well as with civil society and women's organisations to advance the course of women’s rights and their empowerment.

Mr President,

This meeting is convened a day before the International Mandela Day, which will mark the one hundred and second birthday of former President Nelson Mandela who once stated that Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression”. In this spirit, let us all do our part in chartering the path for justice for the women and children of today and of the future.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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