Statement delivered by Italy at the Security Council Open Debate on “Conflict related sexual violence: turning commitments into compliance”. —
Italy aligns itself with the statement submitted by the European Union, and would like to add the following remarks in its national capacity.
We thank Germany and the Dominican Republic for organizing this open debate, which keeps the topic of Sexual Violence in Conflict high on the agenda of the Council, eleven years after the establishment of the mandate of the Special Representative on SVC.
One year ago, upon the initiative of the German Presidency, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2467, putting a strong focus on the victims and the survivors of sexual violence, and calling upon the Member States to address their needs as a priority of action.
This is all the more urgent, as the Secretary-General’s latest report once again depicts a gloomy situation, with sexual-related crimes still being used as part of a global war strategy by State and non-State actors, showing the importance of our collective engagement.
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 it continues to be high on our agenda as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the twentyfifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action, and we recommit to those principles.
The COVID-19 outbreak,as well as the measures taken to combat the pandemic,areexacerbating the already existing situations of vulnerabilityandare leading to a rise in sexual violence and gender-based violence. The restrictions imposed due to the pandemic are also limitingaccess to education and legal protection services as well as health services, including sexual and reproductive ones. These negative effects are particularly felt by women and girls living in conflict-affected areas, which face multiple risks and barriers.
This is why the protection and promotion of women’s and girls’ rights must be placed at the heart of all our efforts to combat the virus and of the recovery measures.
In this spirit, Italy supported, together with 145 Members of the UN, the SG’s appeal to end gender violence during the pandemic.
Tackling the root causes of violence is key, as the prevention of systematic sexual violence begins in times of peace, when national laws should be so robust as to prevent abusiveattitudes in wartime. We need a paradigm shift, through the dismantlement of those patriarchal rules that are at the basis of violence and the affirmation of a culture of full gender equality and women empowerment, ensuring the complete and effective participation of women and girls in the decision-making process.
Our action should aim at banning any form of gender-based violence, including harmful practices, which tend to be more widespread in times of war, in particular child, early and forced marriages. 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’s presence in the UN missions should also be a priority, in order to facilitate the dialogue with local populations and encourage victims to speak out, thus enhancing 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. Sexual violence in conflict constitutes indeed a grave breach of international humanitarian lawand a human rights violation: fighting against impunity and holding the perpetrators accountable should be a matter of primary concern in order to have a deterrent effect for further violations and to allow survivors’access to justice. A survivors-centered approach means also to provide the victims with the services they need to cope with the consequences of conflict-related sexual violence, including medical services, legal assistance and psychological support.
To this end, Italy financially supports the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, which is committed to fight impunity for sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict contexts. The ToE’s role in providing technical assistance to governments, by strengthening their capacity to address accountability for sexual violence, has proved to be critical with regard to criminal investigations and prosecutions. It has also led to strengthening legal frameworks in affected countries, carrying out notable work especially in the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea-Conakry, South Sudan, as recognized by the SG in his report. We therefore call upon all Member States to use this important tool and support it.
In order to increase the commitment of State actors towards ending the hateful practice of conflict-related sexual violence, we deem it important to include it 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, and we 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.
The UN should lead by example in the fight against sexual violence, and set a standard of good behaviour in this regard. For this reason, Italy welcomed the invitation to be part of the Circle of Leadership launched by the SG in 2017, and is the main contributor to the UN Trust Fund on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
We are also a proud partner of the Call to Action on prevention from gender-based violence in emergencies, which aims at including gender-based violence prevention services from the earliest stages of intervention in humanitarian emergencies.
Finally, we commend the role of the civil society, especially Women Human Rights Defenders, in raising awareness on Sexual Violence in Conflict, often putting their lives at risk to fight injustice: their work and advocacy are essential.
We are aware that the problem is far from being solved, and that more efforts are required of all of us in order to move from commitments to compliance, through a whole-of- Government/whole-of-society approach, and to advance in the agenda.
Italy is ready to engage -including by supporting the work of the Secretary-General and that of his Special Representative -with a view to achieve better and more tangible results in this field.