Estonia´s statement at the UN Security Council on open VTC on conflict-related sexual violence

Delivered by Permanent Representative, H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson

We thank all briefers for their presence and presentations.

We thank the Secretary-General for his report, while noting with alarm – again -his description of the “global security environment in which sexual violence remains a cruel tactic of war, torture, terror and political repression, and a brutally effective tool of displacement and dehumanisation”.

We note with particular concern the attacks against women human rights defenders and political activists aimed to silence their voices in peace processes.

The reports and their annexes presented to the Security Council over the years have in clear and grim detail laid out the information on conflict related sexual violence. We are alarmed that 70% of the listed parties are persistent perpetrators appearing in the list for years and with impunity. We believe this information should feed into all Council discussions.

Despite the increased focus and documentation, in only a fraction of cases there is accountability for sexual violence. This means that one of our most powerful tools to prevent it is not used.

Discriminatory social norms and stigmatization prevent the survivors from reporting the cases of sexual violence and accessing information or services all over the world. This needs to be changed.

In Iraq and Syria, thousands of women and girls were abducted and forced into sexual slavery over the last years. In Iraq, there are still no indictments for sexual violence committed by ISIL. No perpetrators have been prosecuted for sexual violence in Syria.

In Myanmar, there has been no accountability despite the recommendations of the International Fact-Finding Mission, which found that sexual violence was a hallmark of the Tatmadaw’s operations in 2016 and 2017.

We strongly support the Security Council mechanisms on sexual violence in conflict, including the field-based monitoring, reporting by the Secretary-General and the Special Representative, and the work of the Informal Experts Group. We underline the importance of sufficient funding for women protection advisors.

We note with concern the challenges posed to this monitoring and reporting by COVID-19 and call on the UN peace operations to maintain its focus on sexual violence.

We welcome the inclusion of sexual violence as a designation criterion for the Council sanctions committees and support its application in practice. We look forward to increased briefings to the committees by the Special Representative.

Estonia continues to support the Team of Experts in its cooperation with national institutions to address impunity and support victims. We underline the role of international accountability mechanisms, including the ICC, which in an important step in 2019 found Bosco Ntaganda guilty for crimes against humanity, including rape and sexual slavery.

We support the elements in resolution 2467 describing a survivor-centered approach in responding to sexual violence. We believe it needs to be rights based, responsive to the survivors’ needs and differentiated accordingly. Psychosocial and sexual and reproductive health services are an integral part of it.

We cannot address sexual violence without ensuring gender equality – the disempowerment of women and girls increases their risk of violence, but also leads to negative coping measures and restricts their access to assistance and justice.

We note with dismay the difficulties the Council continues to have in recognising and addressing sexual violence in specific contexts, despite its clear condemnation of sexual violence in conflict.

Overlooking this, we fail the survivors of violence, but we also fail in our principle task of maintaining peace and security. Sexual violence is a widespread and at times systemic feature of conflicts and it can perpetuate the divisions and animosities driving conflict for years to come.