(New York) - The United Nations Security Council is failing to make good on its promises to stop rape in war, Human Rights Watch said today. The council should immediately create a high-level coordinator for efforts to prevent and punish sexual violence in conflict, the organization said.
On June 19, 2008, the Security Council adopted the ground-breaking resolution 1820, spelling out concrete obligations of individual countries and United Nations entities to prevent and punish sexual violence when it is used as a weapon of war. But such violence in many places is unabated or worse, and the Security Council has not made use of its powers to stop it. The resolution included explicit commitments to prosecute sexual abuse committed by UN peacekeepers and to oblige peacekeepers to prioritize the protection of women and girls, but to little effect.
"The Security Council has been all talk and no action when it comes to protecting women in war zones," said Marianne Mollmann, women's rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. "Even after the council members' May visit to Congo - which currently has the worst record on rape in war - it's back to business as usual."
The Security Council will discuss the protection of civilians on June 26, and sexual violence in conflict on July 17. Human Rights Watch and other groups have expressed hope that these debates will move the council closer to the creating a high-level post to address the human rights and needs of women in armed conflict.
The 2008 resolution on sexual violence followed a broader set of commitments on women in conflict made in 2000 in Security Council resolution 1325, including a call to include women in peace processes and negotiations. A recent study by UNIFEM, the UN fund for women, shows little if any movement on these issues as well. Many governments and representatives of private groups have said that the lack of a high-level spokesperson on women in armed conflict at the UN secretariat is a major reason for these failures.
"The UN needs a coordinator on the issue of women and armed conflict, at a level that signals accountability and commitment - a special representative or envoy to the secretary-general," Mollmann said. "Momentum has been building for an appointment of this kind, but it needs to happen now."