The United Arab Emirates thanks Viet Nam for organizing this open debate, as well as Special Representative Pramila Patten, and other briefers for their powerful insights.
It has now been more than twenty years since the Security Council formally called on parties in conflict to protect women and girls from wartime sexual violence for the first time. Yet the number of these crimes continues to rise, and perpetrators still largely manage to escape accountability for their heinous actions.
With the COVID-19 pandemic at its second year, the harrowing stories and frequency of these crimes have only increased. In this critical moment, the prevention of conflict-related sexual violence should be at the heart of the work the United Nations and its Member States. In war-torn countries, where social distancing is considered a luxury, and where lockdown measures have intensified, women and girls have heavily paid the price.
In northern Syria, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry noted reports of at least 30 rapes in February 2020 alone – it can only be assumed that the number of unidentified and unreported cases is considerably higher. In the DRC, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) documented 1,053 cases of conflict-related sexual violence last year. In Yemen, sexual violence-related crimes – including sexual violence against men and boys – perpetrated by the Houthis or in Houthi-operated facilities have been well documented. In Libya, United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented two incidents of kidnapping and rape, including gang rape, of asylum seekers in May 2020. In the CAR, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) documented 240 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, which included 221 rapes or attempted rapes and 12 cases of sexual slavery.
Regrettably, conflict-related sexual violence seems to have become the norm in today’s world. If the new normal means that women are brutally raped in their homes, and girls are sexually assaulted on their way to school, then it has to be our primary duty to change the status quo.
Thirteen years have passed since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1820 (2008), which recognized that sexual violence is used as a tactic of war. Since then, Member States have been working tirelessly to ensure that women and girls no longer have to fear for their safety. The UAE would like to share some of its efforts in that regard.
At the outset, we are pleased to announce that the UAE has formally launched its first National Action Plan for the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in March this year. Aligning with the pillars of the WPS agenda, the Plan focuses on women’s meaningful and effective participation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding, as well as the protection of women from sexual and gender-based violence.
The UAE is also committed to progress globally. We are proud to serve on the Board of Generation Equality’s Women, Peace & Security and Humanitarian Action Compact. We were also honored to co-host both EndSGBV conferences in 2019 and 2020, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars for programming, often in fragile and conflict settings. As part of the UAE’s $10 million package on SGBV, we pledged 2 million dollars in 2020 through UNFPA to address sexual and gender-based violence experienced by the Rohingya Muslim minority, as well as enhance the access to sexual and reproductive health services for victims of sexual violence. Earlier this year, the UAE also expanded its contribution to Nadia’s Initiative to support the reconstruction of Sinjar, and the voluntary return of survivors of sexual violence in safety and dignity to their homeland. We very much support its vision to empower the brave Yazidi women of Iraq.
The UAE takes note of the Secretary-General’s report on conflict-related sexual violence, and would like to highlight the following recommendations:
First, we call on Member States to tackle the root causes of conflict-related sexual violence, including structural gender inequality and harmful social norms that lead to victim-blaming and the stigmatization of survivors. Fighting sexual violence in the long run goes beyond mere response – it requires prevention.
Second, we must all work together to guarantee the full, equal and meaningful participation of women, including girls and sexual violence survivors, in decision-making processes. The UAE is pleased to announce that we will be concluding an agreement with the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs to undertake projects focusing on increasing women’s meaningful participation and leadership in political processes.
Third, with the assistance of the United Nations, we must work together to guarantee that law enforcement agencies have the capacity and are empowered by law and equipped to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate cases of conflict-related sexual violence. The UAE calls for increased attention of the Security Council to sexual and gender-based violence, including by inviting the SRSG on SVC to brief the Council more regularly, as well as providing for the effective deployment of gender advisers and women’s protection advisers to UN peace operations.
In conclusion, fighting sexual and gender-based violence will remain a key priority for the UAE during its term on the Security Council in 2022-2023.