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Nordic statement at the 7th observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

17 Jun 2021

Joint Nordic Statement delivered by Ambassador Anna Karin Eneström on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden at the 7th observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict: “Building back better: Supporting survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in the context of pandemic recovery”, New York, 17 June 2021

I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and my own country, Sweden.

Let me begin by thanking the briefers for their crucial work and powerful statements. Today’s event comes at a critical time.

Around the world, particularly in conflict and crisis-affected contexts, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) continues to be perpetrated in a widespread and often systematic way. It is also used as a tactic of war and a silencing tool. This violence is a crime, and a flagrant violation of international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Sexual violence in conflict may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide. Yet impunity remains widespread. The gap between obligations and commitments on the one hand, and reality on the other, has only widened during the pandemic. Alongside Covid-19, we have seen the deepening of an SGBV shadow pandemic globally.

The pandemic has also shown that major responses can happen quickly. We should use that same sense of urgency to address SGBV in a transformative way.

First, a survivor-centred approach has to guide all efforts. Survivors themselves must have safe platforms to speak up, inform policy, and set the parameters of success. As a key first step for promoting survivors’ safety, we call for the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Global Ceasefire. Moreover, for responses to be effective, particular attention must be paid to the many intersecting identities of survivors, and the key role of civil society and context-specificity. The Nordics prioritize the utilization of sex and age-disaggregated data, close partnerships with civil society, and assessment of the unique factors in each country context.

Second, accountability. To deliver on promises, we must ensure clearly defined responsibilities and a coherence between responses at different levels. At an individual level, perpetrators of SGBV must be brought to justice. It also requires a holistic approach to rule of law, as well as matching commitments with political will, financial resources, and expertise. The Nordics support capacity-building of national judicial systems, the rule of law, and provide specialized SGBV police teams to peacekeeping missions. Political will remains key – without it, transformative change will not take place. The Nordic countries call on the Security Council to include and apply SGBV as a designation criterion in UN sanction regimes in contexts where such crimes are continuously committed as this can act like an effective deterrent.

Third, we stress that SGBV cannot be discussed in isolation. A comprehensive approach to gender equality and the full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda – in both conflict and non-conflict settings – is required to dismantle the unequal structures underpinning SGBV. Similarly, broad work on children’s rights and the Children and Armed Conflict Agenda must be intensified. Member States have the responsibility to ensure rights are upheld and essential services provided. The Nordic countries particularly stress the need for ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as access to emergency contraception and the safe termination of pregnancies, under all circumstances, including conflicts. We sincerely welcome the Generation Equality Forum with its holistic focus, and we look forward to providing continued strong support.

Looking ahead, a return to the previous status quo is not an option. Building back better requires a paradigm shift where the voices of survivors and victims are heard and defended, where building an environment that prevents SGBV becomes an integral part of all peace and security discussions, and – to borrow SRSG Patten’s words – where “policies of zero tolerance do not carry zero consequences.” 

Last updated 17 Jun 2021, 3.15 PM