UNSC HIGH-LEVEL OPEN DEBATE ON CONFLICT-RELATED SEXUAL VIOLENCE: Turning commitments into compliance
The Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations
NEW YORK, 17 July 2020
We would like to thank Germany and the Dominican Republic for
organizing today’s debate.
The Kingdom of the Netherlands fully aligns itself with the statement
made by Canada on behalf of 62 Member States of the Group of Friends
on Women, Peace and Security, and with the statement made by the
As the world is facing a global health crisis with an unprecedented impact
on all aspects of human security, and with a disproportionate effect on
women and girls in all their diversity, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
remains ever more committed to supporting the United Nations’ efforts to
prevent and address sexual violence in conflict (SViC).
On the eve of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution
1325, the present Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict provides an
excellent opportunity to reiterate and strengthen our collective
commitment to preventing and addressing SViC.
The Secretary-General provides us with a clear message in his present
report: we must not forget the profound human suffering that is at the
heart of the SViC agenda. We are here today for the victims and survivors
of SViC. We are speaking about a crime that is widely invisible and
underreported. Hence, the importance of letting disregarded voices be
heard in this Council.
In that regard, let me express my gratitude to Nadia Fornel Poutou, from
the Association de Femmes Juristes de Centrafrique and Khin Omar,
speaking on behalf of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and
Security for taking the time to share their experiences with the Council.
Your concerns must be at the centre of our common effort to move from
commitment to compliance. Let me also thank the Special Representative
of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict for briefing the
Allow me to highlight three areas of action for strengthening efforts to
prevent and respond to SViC:
1. Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)
Any response to sexual violence must prioritize the rights, needs and
wishes of survivors.
COVID-19 puts the implementation of a survivor-centred approach to
sexual violence in conflict under further pressure. It is becoming
increasingly challenging for survivors to access essential life-saving
services including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.
SRHR is a fundamental part of a survivor-centred approach to SViC and
must be put at the forefront of the response. Those organizations working
in conflict situations where SVIC occurs, must provide adequate and
comprehensive services to survivors in all their diversity, including sexual
and reproductive health care, mental health and psychosocial support,
protection, legal services, access to justice, and support for livelihoods.
Concrete and sustained actions must be taken to ensure diverse survivors
can claim their right to such services. Preventing and addressing sexual
and gender-based violence (SGBV), including SViC, is a prerequisite for
the realization of women’s rights and their ability to meaningfully
participate in peace, political and security processes. Also, the inclusion of
disrupted communities of which survivors of SViC are part in the response
must ensure collective healing as well as the reintegration of survivors.
In that journey of healing, the importance of accountability and justice
cannot be understated, which brings me to my second point.
2. Accountability for sexual violence
States have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute
violations and uphold international human rights standards. The lack of
criminal accountability for SViC in countries affected by conflict is
concerning. The international community must therefore play a role in
supporting the delivery of justice at the local level.
For justice to be truly survivor-centred, it must be holistic, comprehensive
and occur at multiple levels. Next to international accountability
mechanisms, a greater focus on survivor-centred national and local
justice mechanisms for the prosecution of SViC must be ensured. National
and local prosecution should be close and accessible to survivors, as this
is where most perpetrators and survivors and their communities remain.
We would like to emphasise the importance of the reconstruction of Rule
of Law as a central part of peace processes, with special attention to local
and national laws in which gender and the rights of women are fully
When states are unable or unwilling to prosecute, the International
Criminal Court (ICC) can play an important role in holding perpetrators to
account. The Statute of the ICC was the first international instrument
which included various forms of sexual violence as underlying acts of both
crimes against humanity and war crimes. We remind the Council of its
power to refer situations to the ICC, and call upon all states to become a
party to the Rome Statute and to adopt the most serious crimes into their
3. Dedicated sanctions for sexual violence
Beyond criminal accountability, we must make use of other tools at our
disposal to fight impunity. Targeted sanctions on perpetrators of SVIC is
one of them.
The gap assessment presented in the latest report of the Secretary-
General, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2467, makes painfully
clear the impunity, in which crimes of SViC, remain drenched. It is telling
and confronting that of the 65 parties that have been listed since 2010,
only one has been de-listed. By contrast, 42 listed parties have not
assumed any commitments, while they have been listed for over five
As a world, as an international community, we are not doing enough to
change this. A true survivor-centred approach takes root in prevention as
well as the assurance that those who have torn lives apart will not be
allowed to continue doing so. And impunity is precisely one of the main
drivers of SViC, further fuelling a cycle of violence. In 2018, when the
Netherlands was an elected member of this Council, we pushed for the
systematic inclusion of sexual violence as stand-alone designation criteria
for all existing sanctions regimes.
We would like to reiterate the opportunity we have to strengthen our joint
prevention and response by systematically and explicitly incorporating
and applying sexual violence as a stand-alone designation criterion in
sanctions regimes. Recognizing the meaningful steps that have been
taken in this regard, with specific designation criteria on sexual violence
having been included in seven out of the current fourteen sanctions
regimes, we call upon the Council to extend this practice to all remaining
relevant sanctions regimes and to ensure adequate follow-up. The Council
should not hesitate to list individuals or entities solely for sexual violence.
This sends a clear message to perpetrators that sexual violence in itself
warrants UN sanctions.
To conclude, we call upon the Council and all Member States to ensure
that Women Peace and Security, and in particular preventing and
addressing SViC, is an integral part of country-specific discussions and
mandates. We must not allow our common efforts to prevent and address
SViC to be dwindled down to an annual discussion in this Council. We
need instructive mandates on SViC in order to translate our common
priorities into action.
Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.