SpeechesOffice of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
2nd international conference on “Action with Women and Peace”
24 November 2020
TPs for HC video message (congratulatory remarks)
24 November 2020
I am honoured to address you today at this important event. Allow me to congratulate Madame Kyung-wha Kang for gathering all of us together at this critical time to discuss the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on efforts to tackle conflict-related sexual violence, as well as strategies to support survivors.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. Both had ground-breaking ambitions for gender equality.
However, with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the limited gains made in the past decades are at risk of being rolled back – with the rights and prospects of women and girls side-lined in the urgency of finding immediate solutions.
In conflict situations, COVID-19 and its associated response measures have not deterred parties to the conflict from using sexual violence as part of their tactics. In this regard, together with other heads of UN entities, I have called on all parties to conflicts to commit to ceasing such acts, as part of the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts have reported that the compounded effects of COVID-19 in these conflict settings will increase the rates of other forms of gender-based violence, such as child marriage and sexual exploitation, while survivors of gender-based violence have seen an increase in their hurdles to access services and justice and accountability.
In South Sudan, for example, movement restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the pandemic along with fears of infection, have prevented survivors of sexual violence in accessing sexual and reproductive health and services.
And yet another impediment to progress in this area is the acute funding shortfalls for sexual and gender-based violence assistance in conflict and humanitarian settings worldwide.
I believe that survivors must be the drivers of our strategies to support them during and after COVID-19. Their meaningful participation in the design and implementation of our response, be it to provide services or to promote judicial accountability, is critical.
I am convinced that to effectively support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, we need sustained, coordinated and comprehensive measures to address their physical, psychological, socio-economic and legal assistance needs, as well as to mitigate the risk of further violence.
We are living in a historic junction, one of opportunity to reshape the world into a more just, equal and sustainable one. A time to push for transforming the deeply entrenched gendered social norms that have posed obstacles to women 's rights and gender equality.
Let the crisis be an opportunity to heed the lessons learned from the past and prompt action to continue advancing gender equality and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.