Inas Miloud, a Libyan activist as one of the Speakers at the UN Security Council Debate Sexual Violence in Conflict. Photo credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
On 23 April 2019, under the German presidency, the UN Security Council held the annual Open Debate on Sexual Violence in Conflict (SVIC), which focused on accountability for sexual violence and survivor-centred approaches.
A key outcome of the debate was the adoption of the ninth resolution on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 2467), which focuses on a survivor-centred approach and accountability. The resolution was adopted with 13 votes in favour, 0 against, and abstentions from Russia and China.
The negotiations over the Resolution were fraught. German civil society who work with front-line defenders came out with a public statement in advance of the debate arguing that if negotiations suggested a resolution that would weaken the WPS agenda, it should not be introduced in the Council. Despite this, the resolution was pushed forward.
The most difficult issues in the negotiations were language on whether to establish a mechanism (i.e. a formal working group of the UN Security Council) on sexual violence in conflict and on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of victims of sexual violence. It is understood that concerns were raised about a formal mechanism by several actors and groups. During negotiation, States, in particular, Russia, China, and the US opposed the mechanism so therefore no new working group was established. In the final stages, the US proposed compromise language to proposed language on SRHR, but the final text ended up making no direct reference to SRHR. Although this leaves language in SCR2106 OP19 as precedent language, the absence of this commitment in the context of growing attacks on women’s rights indeed still sets a bad precedent.
Following the passage of the resolution, France, Belgium, South Africa, and the United Kingdom spoke about the importance of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) for survivors. South Africa stated that “text calls for survivor centered approach, while denying survivors SRH when they need them most. Council is therefore telling survivors that consensus is more important than their needs”. Indeed, moving forward, a holistic, survivor-centred approach must include appropriate multisectoral services for all survivors of sexual violence, such as clinical treatment of rape, medical, psychosocial and legal services, including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care and rights such as access to emergency contraception, safe termination of pregnancy, and HIV prevention and treatment.
In the end, UNSCR 2467 did introduce new language on a survivor-centered approach to sexual violence, which called for prevention and response to be non-discriminatory and specific, and respect the rights and needs of survivors including vulnerable or targeted groups (Operative Paragraph 16). It also asks for a gap assessment and recommendations by the Secretary-General in his next report (2020). It is essential that survivors, women-led civil society and service providers are part of the design of this assessment. Despite problematic backtracking on SRHR, the resolution may therefore create other opportunities for women-led civil society to use some of the new text to conduct national and human rights advocacy, strategic litigation, and mobilisation that supports survivors.
For WILPF, the bottom line on evaluating new resolutions and mechanisms at the Security Council is whether or not such initiatives create change for women on the ground.
Moving forward to 2020 and the 20th Anniversary of UNSCR 1325, it will be important to remember that solutions that change local women’s lives require political will and concrete action, not further resolutions.
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