Speech by Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas at the UN Security Councilon sexual violence in conflicts

17.07.2020 - Speech

Today, we are talking about a pandemic.

A global virus much older than COVID-19 – but equally devastating.

Sexual and gender-based violence in conflicts has been destroying lives and communities for years – with no vaccine in sight. 

Twenty years after Resolution 1325 and more than a year after the adoption of Resolution 2467, progress remains painfully slow. Rape, forced prostitution and sexual slavery continue to be used as weapons in conflicts around the globe. I can only commend the courage and strength of our briefers in speaking up and sharing their experiences with us. Thank you very much for that!

We all heard how COVID-19 is making survivors’ situations even worse:

Lockdowns are restricting survivors’ access to medical and legal services.

The underreporting of sexual violence has become even more alarming.

And while we are able to uphold safe distances between us, many women, girls and boys cannot escape the brutal proximity of their tormentors.

Today’s debate is therefore overdue. And I want to thank the Dominican Republic for co-organising it with us.

As co-chairs of the Informal Expert Group of this Council, our message is clear: implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda, including Resolution 2467, is a duty for all of us and for this Council – even more so in times of COVID-19.

Four points will be key:

First, we need to ensure that survivors get the medical and the judicial assistance they deserve. As an example, Germany is working closely with the Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Together, we are defending survivors’ sexual and reproductive health and rights – including access to medical services and reparations.

Second, women must play a central role in peacebuilding. Without gender equality and human rights, lasting peace and reconciliation remain impossible. Germany thus supports NGOs, such as “Together We Build It” in Libya, which promotes the political participation of women in the peace process.

Third, sanctions can and must play a bigger role in ending sexual violence. The two UN listings that have been brought forward since 2019 can only be a first step.

Fourth, impunity must end. Perpetrators must be brought to justice. We support creative solutions such as the mobile courts in South Sudan that try rapists around the country. And I am glad to report that in Koblenz, Germany, a court recently opened the world’s first trial against two former officials of the Syrian regime – on charges of torture and sexual assault.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These examples show: we may not have a vaccine against the pandemic of sexual violence. But we are certainly not powerless.

What we need to do is act upon the commitments we made in Resolution 2467: to protect and empower survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and to place them at the heart of our actions.

Thank you!


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