Statement on Women, Peace, and Security: SEA

Statement by Lise Gregoire-van Haaren,
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 16 April 2018

I like to start by thanking the Deputy Secretary General Mrs. Amina Mohammed, SRSG Pramila patten and Mrs. Razia Sultana for their pertinent briefings.

I also wish to express our sincere gratitude to Peru for organizing this open debate. 

The Kingdom of the Netherlands aligns itself fully with the statement to be made by the European Union, and by the Group of Friends of Women, Peace and Security.

Mr President,

The Secretary-General’s report and today’s testimonies by our briefers describe in no uncertain terms the gruesome and widespread prevalence of sexual violence in both conflict-affected and post-conflict settings.

The mere fact that the report covers one tenth of the UN membership is disturbing in itself.  

Please allow me to focus on three important aspects:

  1. The plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar;
  2. The fight against sexual exploitation and abuse; and
  3. The course of action to stop impunity.

1. Rohingya / Myanmar

The Kingdom of the Netherlands adds its voice to that of today’s civil society briefer Ms Razia Sultana in condemning in the strongest terms the cruelty that Rohingya women and girls have faced both before and after fleeing their homes in Rakhine State.

We cannot remain silent on the injustice done and the trauma inflicted on these women and girls and their community at large. It is upsetting that now – after Syria and the DRC – a state actor has once again been listed as being credibly suspected or responsible for sexual violence in a situation of armed conflict.

This demands a concerted response from the international community, to bring justice and rehabilitation to the victims of this violence.

2. sexual exploitation and abuse

There is a mosaic on the third floor of this building that reads: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

That brings me to my second point.

While the report looks primarily at sexual violence inflicted by armed groups and state actors, we cannot ignore cases of sexual exploitation and abuse or sexual harassment committed by those working for, or associated with the United Nations.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands reaffirms its total commitment to the UN’s zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and on sexual harassment. It is rightfully gaining the attention and visibility it deserves.

Masculine dominated cultures often create obstacles to upholding zero tolerance policies. But – like the Secretary-General – we are determined to remove those obstacles, and work towards true gender equality. Also by including women and gender perspectives in prevention, peacekeeping and conflict resolution, we can diminish sexual violence in conflict, as well as sexual exploitation and abuse.

3. Accountability / sanctions

My third point is on the course of action to stop impunity.

I would like to echo the words of SRSG Pramila Patten: Sexual violence is avoidable.

The very first recommendation that the Secretary-General makes to the Security Council in his report is to include sexual violence as part of the designation criteria for sanctions.

Sanctions are a tool that could be more effectively used to deter sexual violence and to coerce and constrain the individuals involved.

They have the potential to protect the safety and lives of millions of women and girls, as well as boys and men, living in conflict areas.

The recent inclusion of this criterion in the sanctions regime for the Central African Republic is a welcome development, and this needs to be taken up more consistently.

We call on this Council to systematically and explicitly incorporate and apply sexual violence as a designation criterion in sanctions regimes, particularly in those regimes targeting the actors listed in the report.

For those conflict-affected countries for which no specific UN sanctions regime exist yet, we urge the Council to consider the adoption of targeted sanctions regimes that would allow for the inclusion of a specific designation criterion on sexual violence.

Ultimately, sanctions cannot be an alternative to prosecution of crimes that are punishable under international law.

It is first and foremost up to Member States to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators and to facilitate reparations under international humanitarian law.

Furthermore, it is up to Member States to guarantee survivors’ access to all legal, psychosocial as well as medical services, including safe abortion, emergency contraception and HIV treatment. 

Strengthening the capacity of national institutions is critical to ensure accountability for past crimes, as well as prevention and deterrence for the future.

In this context, we recognize the work of the Team of Experts in building national capacities to enhance accountability for conflict-related sexual violence.

If, however, national governments prove to be unable or unwilling, this Council should revert to other means and channels  such as the International Criminal Court to make sure both state and non-stated parties comply with their obligations under international law.

Mr President,

Let me end by reiterating our strong support for the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Pramila Patten and the vision she has articulated since assuming office last year.

I thank you.

Belongs to