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Speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Virtual Launch Event for the Handbook for United Nations Field Missions on Preventing and Responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

05 June 2020


Remarks by ASG Ilze Brands Kehris
5 June, 09:00-10:00

Your Excellency Eriksen Søreide, Ambassador Juul, distinguished guests and colleagues,

I wish to thank the Government of Norway for its support in the development of the Handbook and for co-hosting today’s event.

The UN Policy on conflict-related sexual violence and its Handbook exemplify the strong collaboration between OHCHR, DPO, DPPA and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence. The Handbook is premised on core human rights principles: Do no harm, a victim-centred approach and gender-sensitivity. It complements and reinforces the implementation of the protection mandates of peace operations.

Conflict-related sexual violence violates the rights to physical and psychological integrity, dignity, sexual autonomy and gender equality, and can amount to an international crime. It has devastating long-term consequences for survivors, their families and communities. Addressing impunity for sexual violence and supporting victims has always been a priority for OHCHR, both through policy and work in the field, and as a co-lead entity of the UN Team of Experts.

Documentation of sexual violence, which is respectful of the needs and informed choices of survivors, is a critical first step towards accountability. Monitoring and investigations conducted by human rights components, in particular by Women Protection Advisors, is essential. Their work enables field presences to promote more coherent and rights-based mission approaches to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence, including through dialogues with non-state actors or early warning mechanisms. Importantly, their reports are often the only document recalling survivors’ experiences, and thus contribute to build a sense of recognition of the physical and psychological harm they have suffered.

To conclude, I wish to acknowledge the participation today of three Senior Women Protection Advisors, whose dedication and commitment has significantly contributed to the implementation of the conflict-related sexual violence mandate in South Sudan, Iraq and Central African Republic.

Thank you.