Monthly Archives: June 2014

Does Size Matter? Reflections on the Ending Sexual Violence Summit

WP_20140610_11_12_11_Proby Chen Reis

The recent Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict summit in London was billed as the largest gathering of its kind with 1,700 participants. 129 countries of the over 150  that signed the UN Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict were represented, and almost 80 of these by a government ministers. This indeed is a laudable achievement but does this represent success? Significant high level engagement is critical but only a start.  As a participant in the summit and invited “expert day” speaker, here are 5 areas where I believe the summit was less successful:

1.  Insufficient acknowledgement of root causes

During the official summit sessions, there was very little acknowledgment or focus on the need to work on root causes for prevention of sexual violence in conflict including prevention of conflict and ending militarization. This perhaps not surprising.  Though there was some mention of it, the focus was not on addressing the gender inequality that is the basis for much of sexual violence before, during, and after conflict.

  1. Lack of attention to the most prevalent form of violence against women

While sexual violence committed as a tactic of conflict is indeed horrific and requires concerted global action including by global security and legal institutions, most of the violence against women even in conflict settings is committed by intimate partners. Such violence happens in the home and is beyond the reach or care of the International Criminal Court or Security Council. It is essential to address it before, during, and after conflict and not create false hierarchies of sexual violence.

  1. Missing Voices

Three groups whose voices were notably absent from the mainstream discussions in the summit were grass roots activists working in conflict settings, including Nobel Prize winners, survivors of sexual violence in conflict, and invited youth delegates from around the world.  While there was a whole day dedicated to the youth, most of their public interactions and those of survivors and grass roots activists were either limited to “fringe” events which were held in a cavernous hall one level below the official meetings, or to heavily edited and scripted presentations or videos at the summit’s close.   A new network of sexual violence survivors launched on the margins of the summit aims to end such sidelining of survivor’s voices.

Social scientists were also notably absent from the official summit sessions though some attended and provided their views through blogs and open letters.

  1. Where is the (new) money?

Increased support for survivors was one of the stated aims of the summit. Various governments –very few compared to the numbers in attendance- announced new money for sexual violence in conflict prevention and response including a doubling of funds from the USA, about $5 million from Australia, 6 million GBP from the UK, 2 million Euro from Finland and 1 million Euro from Germany.  The amounts pledged are minuscule when compared to the scope of issue and the needs of the survivors and those who work to support them. 5 million dollars or 6 million GBP seems a lot of money, but rebuilding the health, legal and other systems in war affected countries takes much more money and decades of investment. The costs of caring for the needs of survivors through stop-gap humanitarian action are also significant.

  1. Elephants in the summit

In addition to conflict countries, Governments of donor countries that are documented violators of human rights including countries with legacies of using sexual violence in conflict and mistreating those escaping such abuses participated in the Summit. They were praised for their financial and political commitments to end sexual violence in conflict without any acknowledgement by the governments or the Summit hosts of the hypocrisy.

As Foreign Secretary William Hague noted in his closing remarks, the summit may in future be seen as the tipping point for ending sexual violence in conflict. That won’t happen without concrete commitments with targets and timelines. It also won’t happen unless those most affected by sexual violence in conflict – the survivors-  are recognized as a key part of the response to sexual violence in conflict and more generally as contributors to ending conflict. This has already been articulated in UN Security Council Resolutions relating to Women Peace & Security starting with UNSCR 1325 in 2000 as well as in the new CEDAW General Recommendation 30 on women, peace and security. Vague conclusions such as those included in the official summit summary or the summit’s Statement of Action will not lead to change. Follow-up by the UK Government and by those of us who care about the issue is essential.

The official Summit hashtag was #TimeToAct. For most countries in attendance that time has apparently not yet come.  We must hold our countries and those that participated in this historic summit or signed the Declaration of Commitment accountable and tell them words are not enough,

16 Days 2014 campaign theme announced

The Rutgers based Center for Women’s Global Leadership has announced the 2014  theme for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.

The theme continues last years theme and is  “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!” including 1) Violence Perpetrated by State Actors; 2) Proliferation of Small Arms in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence; and 3) Sexual Violence During and After Conflict.

For more information visit the campaign site

ESVC: Day 4 in pictures

final day  of the summit. closing plenary

This photo (taken on the tube after the summit) expresses how we feel about what happened (or didn’t happen today)

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The day started with much anticipation and the room filled up with participants eager to hear concrete results after days of talk

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our MC introduced a video greeting from the UN SG

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Then Bill and Ang spoke briefly (Hague promised a more in depth speech later)

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we watched an award winning brief film and then Panzi hospital’s Dr Mukwege spoke

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At this point we are all wondering when the commitments for action start to be revealed?

enter Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO Chief of the Australian Army who has a track record of speaking out against abuses and about the need for diversity and inclusion in the Australian Army. Check Twitter and the literature for discussions of whether including more women in armed forces is the answer, but you have to give him credit for taking the issue seriously and being concrete (that’s how low the bar is at the moment)

We have a film interlude (trailer for the film The Prosecutors)

Then we see a short series of film clips with commitments from country representatives and others. Very little is pledged (Australia 5 million to be used in 4 specific countries, Germany 1 million Euro , Finland 2 mil)  ICC commits to prosecutions, Sweden to standalone gender equality goal in the post 2015 development agenda. Others do not say much of anything including Bosnia & Herzegovina and Uruguay.

and then appropriately it is time for Chief Persecutor of the ICC Fatou Bensouda to speak. She raises commitments by her office to do more to prosecute sexual violence and integrate gender considerations in all their work. As part of that staff will now be trained on appropriate interaction with survivors. Ok, but worrying that this hasn’t already been put in place.

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We watch a book trailer for the international protocol launched by the UK at the summit and then it is time for the main event- US Sec of State John Kerry who had apparently just gotten off the plane

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He referenced new funds for NGOs providing services to survivors and vaguely referred to it as a doubling of funding for the Safe from the Start initiative (10 million?). He also spoke about the need to strengthen national justice processes and  his Feb 2014 instruction to US missions to deny visas for the US to perpetrators ” of widespread or systematic violence, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other serious violations of human rights”  It is not clear how this is actually to be implemented.

Then the carefully chosen (by their peers) youth reps presented the views and recommendations of the youth delegation. Too bad they were not more integrated into the summit itself

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Zainab Bangura spoke and then introduced a video message from former POTUS Jimmy Carter

A performance

and time for the BIG FINAL ANNOUNCEMENT from William Hague … but all he said was thank you, we are great and goodbye (much more eloquently but that is the gist)

Final tally based on announcements at the summit. (drumroll please)

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At most 30 million USD. A mere fraction of what it is estimated the US spent PER DAY fighting the war in Iraq and a drop in the bucket when compared to the needs.

Far outside the venue these people were protesting – we should have been doing more inside. WP_20140613_13_12_03_Pro

 

ESVC: Day 3 in pictures

Ministerial summit day started with a star filled opening plenary (Brad Pitt was in the audience)

but first …

police cars and media vans in the parking lot early in the morning

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we had to get through airport style security

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before we could enter the huge hall for the laser light show plenary

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full house

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some films

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Bill and Ang

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and then LOTS of speakers

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and the best of the first panel Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee

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Sarah Sewall Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the U.S. State Department was the first speaker at any plenary to acknowledge service providers and the provision of services for survivors. She deserves special mention.

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and then more speakers

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Not much to say about ministerial “dialogues” in the afternoon

no new commitments by governments at the session about services but UNHCR’s António Guterres IRC’s Heidi Lehmann, and UNFPA’s Kate Gilmore provided data and made clear recommendations about what was needed to ensure access to services for survivors.

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Tomorrow is the big closing ceremony… word has it some “big” announcements will be made before the circus leaves town.  We hope these include real money (6 or is it 5 million GBP for services is a nice start but doesn’t go far ) and investments in helping survivors and the organizations that work for them and not only the entities and processes focused on the perps.

Words Matter

It is hard to find words sufficient to express just how terrible sexual violence is (in conflict and otherwise). The words we use, however inadequate, should still be chosen carefully. One word that is often used (in the media and now at ESVC) is especially problematic .

Scourge.

 

The origin of scourge is a whip that was used as an instrument of punishment. To imply, even inadvertently, that sexual violence is a punishment is highly inappropriate and verges on victim blaming. As people working on sexual violence, we should be more careful and aware of how we speak about sexual violence. We’ve chosen to use the word Survivor to promote healing. Let’s not undo this healing with our words raising awareness.

ESVC: Day 2 in pictures

Opening Plenary

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recorded message from HC

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Data panel!

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Lunch in a cavernous high school lunch room /lounge hall

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more panels

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……………..and no day at ESVC would be complete without an AJ sighting

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closing out the day with some time in the disco yurt discussing apps

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Best typo so far

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Let’s play ESVC Summit Bingo!

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A fun game to play when at at a conference is “Buzzword Bingo.”We’ve all been there – thinking- how many times can the speaker say “synergy” or “accountability” “resilience” or “sustainable”?

And now sexual violence in conflict has hit the big time – we’ve now got hashtags (#timetoact), Angelina Jolie and Stella McCartney making us feel less frumpy and minor UK celebs like Bianca Jagger and Jemima Khan taking time away from defending accused rapist, Julian Assange, to tweet on our behalf.

At Cassandra Complexity, we take gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies very seriously, but sometimes, you have to sit back and laugh.

So as you dodge the paparazzi tracking Angelina, plow through “fringe” events at the disco yurt, attend “delegates meetings”, dance to “musicians without borders” and shop at the “marketplace”, treat yourself to a game of ESVC Summit bingo!

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