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Joint Nordic statement at the Security Council open debate on sexual violence in conflict

Statement by the Nordic Member States delivered by Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann, Permanent Representative of Denmark, on the occasion of the Security Council Open Debate on “Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict” - 17 July 2020

I deliver this statement on behalf of Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and my own country Denmark. I thank Germany and the Dominican Republic for organizing today’s open debate. Furthermore, I express sincere gratitude to SRSG Pramila Patten and her Office for their important work.

We have seen several results on the normative side: Seven out of ten UN Security Council Resolutions adopted under the Women, Peace and Security agenda specifically describe sexual violence as a major impediment to international peace and security. Other positive developments include: The policy for “United Nations Field Missions on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence”, which was adopted in January this year, and the first whole-of-mission handbook for “UN Field Missions on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence”, which was launched just over a month ago.

While much of the normative framework against sexual violence is in place, sexual violence continues to be a horrific part of conflicts around the world. We cannot turn a blind eye to this. It is high time to move from words to action. We must step up efforts at all levels – including in relation to both advocacy and funding for prevention and measures aimed at addressing conflict-related sexual violence.


Conflict-related sexual violence is a violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law. It can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, and an act of genocide.

Sexual violence destroys lives, tears apart the social fabric of communities, creates rifts between neighbors, and preys on the differences that enrich our societies. Those who are targeted are often discriminated against due to their religious, ethnic, sexual, political or other minority status.


The COVID-19 pandemic has born witness to a ‘shadow pandemic’ in the form of a sharp rise in incidents of sexual and gender-based violence, including in conflict situations.

To make matters worse, it is anticipated that COVID-19 will severely hamper the possibility of survivors to report sexual violence, further exacerbating the existing structural, institutional and sociocultural barriers to reporting such crimes.

Adding to this, sexual and gender-based violence response programmes are in many cases not considered to be essential, life-saving services and prioritized as such in the context of the overall COVID-19 response.

This needs to change. We need to ensure a prompt and comprehensive response to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence. We need to work towards the establishment of specific protocols for survivors to continue to be able to access timely services, including the full range of sexual and reproductive health care services, while mitigating the risks of COVID-19 transmission. And we need to place emphasis on the development of specific mitigation plans and measures to ensure rule of law and accountability for sexual violence as part of the overall COVID-19 response. In the end, justice and accountability are not only imperative to end impunity – they are key in ensuring prevention.

The Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a key step for addressing the ‘shadow pandemic’ of conflict-related sexual violence. It should be the starting point for promoting a transformative and feminist approach to peace and security.

We welcome the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence pointing to possible ways forward.

We must monitor and document violations of international law, and provide training and funding, where needed. Individual states have the primary responsibility to prevent and respond to sexual violence, as well as to investigate and prosecute persons implicated in such crimes. However, we need to strengthen state institutions and build capacity to combat conflict-related sexual violence. Perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence must be held to account.

We call for systematic use of gender expertise in UN operations and would like to highlight the importance of women protection advisors. We welcome the initiatives launched in the past year, and we echo the need for resolutions, mandates and sanctions to address conflict-related sexual violence and further translating words into action.

Eradicating the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons (SALW) is a key part of combating sexual and gender-based violence, and it should be included in all four pillars of Women, Peace and Security – participation, protection, prevention, and relief and recovery. We need to focus more on the gendered aspects of the spread of SALW, and to include more women in disarmament efforts.


Root causes of gender-based violence, such as gender-based power inequalities, gender stereotypes and gender-based discrimination must be addressed in policy and practice. Responsive measures, such as providing adequate services to survivors of gender-based violence, are crucial, as are measures to prevent the violence from happening in the first place.

We support the Call to Action to end sexual and gender-based violence in emergencies, and we firmly believe that we can achieve better results by working together. The Oslo conference on ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises, held in May 2019, helped to change the way we address this issue. We must maintain momentum to make sexual and gender-based violence, prevention and response a key humanitarian priority.


We highly value the contributions of survivors and witnesses, civil society and human rights defenders, which are crucial in building a relevant and effective response without causing survivors further pain.

Reparation and justice must go hand in hand. A comprehensive approach is a prerequisite to alleviate both the immediate and long-term impact of conflict-related sexual violence. We must strengthen services for survivors of sexual violence, including by ensuring comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights, such as access to emergency contraception and safe termination of pregnancies. We must fight impunity, remove stigma, alleviate suffering, rectify injustices, and ultimately help people to rebuild their lives, and communities to build a sustainable peace.

Accountability also means funding. The Nordic countries recognize that we as donors have a responsibility to promote flexible and core funding as well as build equal partnerships with civil society organizations. We appeal to other countries to step up and take on their responsibility to improve funding for CRSV interventions.


The Nordic countries will do our part, through our embassies, multilateral cooperation and a wide range of partnerships; including the Nordic Network of Women Mediators and the Nordic Centre for Gender in Military Operations equips peacekeepers.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to spread by the minute, now is the time for action.

Thank you.


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