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Security Council – Open Debate on “Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflicts”

Statement delivered by Ambassador Stefano Stefanile, Deputy Permanent Representative and Charge’ d’Affaires of Italy to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on “Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflicts” —

Mr. President,

We align ourselves with the statement to be delivered by the EU and we also join the statement made earlier by Canada on behalf of a large group of Countries.

We welcome today’s Open Debate, and thank the briefers for their interventions. We are pleased to see the continuous engagement of the Security Council in addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict and the wider WPS agenda, ten years after the establishment of the mandate of the Special Representative on SVC. We also commend the initiative and efforts by the German Presidency which lead today to the approval of a new resolution of the Security Council.

It represents indeed a further step in countering the scourge of Sexual Violence in Conflict, although, like other Member States, we regret that it was not possible to agree on a more comprehensive and ambitious text.

The issue under discussion today represents a top priority for Italy: in 2017 it was at the core of our mandate on the Security Council and of our Presidency of the G7, and we are committed to devote our greatest attention to it as we plan further initiatives in view of the twentieth anniversary of UNSCR 1325.

The picture emerging from the 2019 Secretary General’s Report is, unfortunately, still gloomy: sexual-related crimes continue to be used as part of a global war strategy by State and non-State actors, and States continue to face setbacks when exercising their responsibility to protect their own nationals. Notwithstanding some progress in some countries, much remains to be done in ensuring accountability as well as compliance with Security Council resolutions on a wider scale. In light of this background, Italy is ready to support the horizontal recommendations set forth by the Secretary General.
In particular, we support the inclusion of sexual violence as an automatic and independent designation criterion in all relevant sanction regimes.

We also consider that the work of the Security Council should benefit from a more systematic involvement of the International Criminal Court, with the Office of the ICC Prosecutor receiving the necessary resources to conduct swift investigations. When national or international courts are unable to act, the Security Council should create international fact-finding mechanisms in order to conduct gender-sensitive investigations, and ensure the collection and preservation of evidence.

As part of its commitment to preventing and responding to gender-based violence against women in emergencies and situations of conflicts, Italy joined the “Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies”, launched in 2013. We also continue to promote the widest possible implementation of the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe against all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence.

Tackling the root causes of violence is indeed key, as the prevention of systematic sexual violence begins in times of peace, when national laws should be made sufficiently robust to prevent permissive attitudes in wartime. We need a paradigm shift: the dismantlement of those rules, including the patriarchal ones, that are at the base of violence, and the affirmation of a full culture of gender equality, which can ensure complete and effective participation of women and girls in the decision-making process. Our action should be guided by a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, with the aim to ban any form of gender violence, including harmful practices.

Training remains an essential component of our efforts, and should encompass a wide range of actors: youth, leaders, military and police units and civilian personnel.

Establishing a stronger women presence in UN missions should also be a priority, in order to facilitate the dialogue with local populations and encourage victims to speak out and to enhance the mandate’s delivery, particularly with regard to the protection of civilians.

At the same time, it is fundamental to assist Countries in situations of conflict in reforming their judicial systems and strengthening the rule of law and their accountability mechanisms. Let me recall in this respect that Italy will host in Rome, at the end of May, the preparatory Conference for the review of SDG 16.

We also concur on the need to provide appropriate reintegration support for the victims of SEA. Our commitment in this respect is well-documented, as Italy is the largest contributor to the UN Trust Fund on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and supports other initiatives in this sector.

Last but not least, the involvement of civil society actors is also key to achieve sustainable results and we had a clear reflection of this in the interventions of today’s briefers.

Let me conclude by reaffirming Italy’s strong commitment to the WPS agenda and, in this context, to the prevention and tackling of sexual violence in conflicts. We will continue to support the work of the Secretary-General and that of his Special Representative in order to pursue better and increasingly tangible results in this field.

I thank you.