On June 24, 2013, the United Nations Security Council held an Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Chaired by United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague, the debate resulted in a new Security Council Resolution drafted by the United States. The debate focused primarily on efforts to fight impunity for crimes of sexual violence in conflict and methods to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon opened the debate by noting “sexual violence, whenever and wherever it occurs, is a vile crime. It must be exposed and met with the anger and action that it deserves.” Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, emphasized the need to redirect the stigma of sexual violence from the survivor to the perpetrator.
Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie addressed the Council next. Jolie told the Council,
That young Syrian rape victim is here, because you represent her. That five-year-old child in the Congo must count, because you represent her. And in her eyes, if her attacker gets away with his crimes, it is because you have allowed it.
She also pressed the Council to build political will to act, stating, “The rights and wrongs of this issue are straightforward, and the actions that need to be taken have been identified. What is needed is political will.”
Following the opening remarks, Security Council member states gave statements. The United Kingdom began by drawing attention to the need to address the culture of impunity, as well as the necessity of focusing on long term care for survivors and women’s empowerment. France drew links between the protection of women and their inclusion in peace processes, noting “we shouldn’t forget that the best way to protect… women is to make them active participants and no longer just a topic.” The United States noted that, “Sexual violence is not cultural; it is criminal.”
Members of the General Assembly then joined the debate. Argentina recognized sexual violence in conflict as part of a continuum of violence against women. Sweden, representing a coalition of Nordic countries, and Brazil drew attention to the need for service provision, particularly sexual and reproductive health services, for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. Canada condemned the problem of early and forced marriage and called for greater inclusion of women in decision-making and political processes.