The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol was held in the sunny city of Durban, South Africa.

 

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Statement by Mr. Mahlatse Mminele, Charge D’Affaires of the Republic of South Africa to the United Nations on Security Council Open Debate on “Responding to Human Trafficking in Situations of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence”, in Connection with the Agenda Item “Women Peace and Security”

2 June 2016

I would like to thank you, Mr President, and the French delegation for the convening of this timely open debate on sexual violence in conflict.  South Africa aligns itself with the statement made by Islamic Republic of Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Mr President,

Sexual violence in conflict remains one of the most harrowing and serious problems facing the civilian population who have to endure the wanton targeting of vulnerable groups in times when state authority is undermined. Women are often considered the bedrock of any society, and when they are targeted, the very heart of the population is threatened. It is therefore vital that we do all we can to refine our policies, but also to support states who hold the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of its people.

In order to achieve greater sensitivity with regard to women who are affected by the breakdown of state authority which many contemporary conflicts entail, it is necessary that women be included in the political decision making mechanisms of any country.

Furthermore, women have an important role to play in both peacekeeping, and mediation of conflicts. With regard to the former, greater participation of women at all levels in UN multidimensional peacekeeping missions would assist in providing a stronger approach to the implementation of the protection of civilians mandate of the UN Mission, particularly as it relates to sexual violence against women. South Africa also welcomes the recommendation of the UN Secretary General in his report on conflict-related sexual violence to ensure that troop contributing countries abide by measures required in resolution 2106(2013).     

We are also encouraged by the leading role the African Union (AU) through their commitment to gender mainstreaming, and the development and adoption of the AU Gender Training Manual for AU Peace Support Operations. This is in line with the SG’s recommendation for training all peacekeeping personnel on gender sensitivity, and addressing conflict related sexual violence.

South Africa has been actively involved in the training of women mediators in conflict, however, we strongly support the Secretary-General’s recommendation that mediators be called upon to include gender and conflict-related sexual violence expertise as part of their mediation support teams. Furthermore, the appointment of senior level women in mediation roles is also sorely needed.

Mr President,

We recognise that the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence can be used as a tactic of war and of terrorism, and while we agree with the Secretary General that measures to address this should be in line, allowing for broader strategies to prevent violent extremism, we believe that like terrorism, sexual violence as a tactic is based on society’s broader approach to how it treats women. Particularly misogynistic tendencies inherent in patriarchal societies, which allow for women to be treated with disdain and inhumanly. Therefore, the interests of women and notions of gender equality should be mainstreamed into our governance and leadership mechanisms. Women should be involved in decision making and participate in the economy in their own societies to end the trend of sexual violence again women. Women‘s voices need to be heard, and they also need to be at the forefront of the war against impunity and the fight against poverty and finding the right solutions to ending such abuses during and outside of conflicts.

Mr President

While sexual abuses and exploitation within conflict needs to be urgently addressed, due attention to the post conflict situation and particularly the survivors of such abuses needs greater attention. We concur with the Secretary-General’s recommendation that relief and recovery programmes be put in place to begin to heal the psychosocial wounds that result from such heinous violations. A zero tolerance approach should be adopted and stricter and effective punitive mechanisms needs to be put in place, such as improving conviction rates and integrating legal support options, as well as removing obstacles to reporting of such cases.

We also support the SG’s recommendation for support for the building of capacity of civilians and military justice systems in order to safeguard against impunity. Furthermore, women’s legal status and rights must be ensured in post-conflict situations. Strengthening the legal framework to address issues of discrimination against women with respect to land ownership, access to economic opportunity and employment, education and healthcare is an essential component of gender-responsive peace-building.

Ultimately, Member States have the primary responsibility to put an end to impunity and to prosecute perpetrators responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including those relating to sexual violence against women and girls.

Mr President

South Africa remains committed to addressing the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence against women in all its manifestation, and will work tirelessly in supporting the broader global response to ending this blight, within the broader context of addressing the root causes of both conflict and sexual violence in general.

Thank you.