Praise for G8 ministers

Article Date

25 April 2013

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Earlier this month, G8 foreign ministers convened in London to debate a number of international issues that impact global security, peace and prosperity. Chief among their concerns was sexual violence in war, an issue championed by the United Kingdom, which currently holds the one-year presidency of the G8. The resulting declaration is an unprecedented commitment by the G8 to prioritize a universal approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence associated with war.

Specifically, the declaration commits G8 countries to developing a comprehensive international protocol to investigate and document rape and sexual violence in armed conflict, an effort that will move forward under the UK’s leadership. The UK also will deploy more than 70 experts around the world to record abuses occurring during and after conflict. For its part, the United States committed $10 million to support the initiative and pledged to focus on the needs of war survivors in South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Haiti. The funding also will be applied to promoting transitional justice measures and reporting on human rights abuses in Syria. Meanwhile, other G8 ministers promised to review their own national military doctrine and police and military training curricula to ensure personnel are prepared to effectively respond to sexual violence.

As the leader of a global research institute that has spent nearly four decades documenting the complex causes and consequences of gender-based violence, I’m gratified to see such international momentum and attention to this important issue. We know from World Bank data that women ages 15 to 44 are more at risk of being raped or experiencing domestic violence than from traffic accidents, cancer, malaria and war. We also know that the factors contributing to violence are numerous and complex, and are rooted in deeply entrenched social norms that undervalue women and girls. Attitudes and behaviors toward women simmer throughout society at peacetime, are ignited by war, and continue to rage on after hostilities end.

However, with the right approach and commitment, social norms and attitudes can change. First, we need long-term investments in a broad range of prevention efforts to effectively tackle sexual and gender-based violence before, during and after conflict. We also need to develop smart, integrated responses once war breaks out. Since numerous social and economic factors contribute to sexual violence, our efforts to prevent and respond to violence have to be equally comprehensive. It requires us to integrate our work across sectors, from prosecuting perpetrators and delivering justice for survivors, to immediately providing essential health, psychosocial, economic support and other services to survivors. And it is critical that we combat the stigma survivors of sexual violence continue to face, while also educating communities about the root causes of gender-based violence.

As G8 leaders undertake this ambitious and important effort, I urge them to be holistic in their approach to addressing sexual and gender-based violence as well as in tackling other social, economic and political factors that characterize women’s experience of both war and peace. Without such an all-inclusive strategy, we will find ourselves fighting the same battles a decade from now.

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