Speech by Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas at the open debate in the UN Security Council on sexual violence in conflict

23.04.2019 - Speech

“There is nothing I can do to forget all this.”

Ladies and gentlemen,
The woman who said this is sitting at this table. It is Nadia Murad. All of us here know her story. All of us know what this sentence is about.

When we talk about sexual violence in conflict, it is about her story.

But it is also about thousands of other stories that have never been told to the world. Stories hauntingly similar to that of Ms Murad.

Stories many Rohingya jwomen in Myanmar could tell.

Or girls in Syria where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.

Almost 20 years after the adoption of Resolution 1325, that is the grim reality. The reality of almost all conflicts.

Resolution 1325 was a milestone.

But reality shows that implementation is lagging behind. We must do more. We can make three important steps forward I think:

Firstly, we strengthen accountability.

We are strengthening the channels through which information on non-compliance reaches the Security Council and its sanction committees.

We want to ensure that sexual violence has consequences, including through targeted sanctions.

And of course, we also need to ensure criminal prosecution happens. Also at national level.

After all, the failure to bring perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict to justice fosters a deadly “culture of impunity”.

In Germany, the Prosecutor General in 2014 began investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by IS in Iraq and Syria. Our legal system is working closely with the responsible UN Special Envoy.

Others should follow this example.

Secondly, we place the victims, the survivors of sexual violence, at the heart of our work.

That is why the Resolution calls upon all UN member states to support them:

  • By providing better access to justice,
  • medical and psychological services,
  • as well as reintegration support.

In other words: By enabling them to live a life in dignity.

Only when we help the victims achieve justice, when we hear their voices and let them testify, are we giving the survivors the chance to stop being victims.

Thirdly, we focus on those who don’t get enough attention yet: For example boys and men who have experienced sexual violence. Or mothers and their children born following wartime rape.

Those who survive sexual violence often remain victims long after the crimes have been committed. They are stigmatised and cast out.

This is horrible. And the horror does not stop there: Sexual violence does not just affect the survivors. It also destroys the society they live in. This makes the path to peace all the more difficult.

“If you destroy women, you destroy the family and at some stage the entire village.”

That is how Dr Mukwege, who is also here today, once put it.

Dr Mukwege saved the lives of tens of thousands of women in the Congo. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, like Nadia Murad. They share a bond in their inspiring fight for justice.

We have to do all we can to help them in this fight.

  • Politically through this Resolution that Germany is proposing.
  • But also financially. That is why we have earmarked 400,000 euros. We will use this money to support your work and the survivors of sexual violence in conflicts.

Ladies and gentlemen,
“There is nothing I can do to forget all this.”

Nadia Murad’s sentence sends a chill down our spine.

It gives a clear and weighty message: not to forget.

But to open our eyes. And use all the means we have to fight to ensure her story is not repeated.

Thank you very much!


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