Statement by H.E. Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations at the Security Council Open Debate on Conflict Related Sexual Violence: Turning Commitments into Compliance on 17 July 2020

Mr. President,

I thank you and the German Presidency for organizing this virtual High-Level Open Debate. I also express my sincere appreciation to Ms. Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Madame Nadia Carine Therese Fornel-Poutou, Executive President, Association des Femmes Juristes de Centrafrique (AFJC), and the distinguished representative of civil society, for their insightful remarks.

As evident in the most recent report of the Secretary General, sexual violence in conflicts remains a growing concern. Conflict related sexual violence continues unabated and justice & redress remain elusive; despite numerous commitments compliance remains unsatisfactory–both in terms of prevention and enforcement.  Today’s debate, on ‘turning commitments into compliance’, taking place on the 20th anniversary of WPS Agenda, could not be more relevant and timely.

Mr. President,

Bangladesh itself went through the painful experience of conflict related sexual violence during its war of liberation in 1971. Over 2,00,000 women bore its brunt. We had taken measures for their rehabilitation in 1972. The perpetrators have been brought to justice through a trial process and the contribution of victims has been recognized officially. We are having a repeat of that traumatic experience hosting over one million forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazaar. More than half of them are women who suffered from the worst forms of sexual violence in Myanmar.

To realize its commitment to CRSV in the context of the WPS agenda, Bangladesh has recently adopted a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Taking into account Bangladesh’s contribution in UN peace operations, the Action Plan has included specific activities to increase number of women peacekeepers and also to strengthen knowledge and compliance of CRSV related obligations. The Action Plan has specific activity for updating and localizing modules and training materials on CRSV mandate, we are conducting trainings for the troops and police personnel on those materials.

The women peacekeepers of Bangladesh are providing life-saving services as well as psychosocial support to the victims of CRSV in various war-ravaged zones. To meet the growing demand of women peacekeepers, the Action Plan has also included specific activities aiming at increasing recruitment of women in armed forces and police.

The National Action Plan has also addressed the need for capacity building of local humanitarian actors on gender responsive and victim centric humanitarian actions. This has been given particular focus in view of the Rohingya context. The humanitarian assistance programmes for the Rohingya people led by the Government of Bangladesh along with UN and other stakeholders take into account the specific needs of the women and girls, including the victims of sexual violence. The Rohingya women have also been made part of the response as agents against security threats, including violent extremism and human trafficking.

Mr. President,

The list attached to the 2020 report of the Secretary General on CRSV named 54 parties who are credibly suspected to committing or being responsible for matters of rape and other forms of sexual violence in armed conflict. Unfortunately many of those names belong to state machineries. It is appalling to know that over 70% of listed state and non-state parties are persistent perpetrators and have appeared in the list for more than five years.

As presented in the report of the Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar, sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls was used by Tatmadaw operations as a tactic of war in Rakhine during 2016 and 2017. Even now, the increased fighting between the Myanmar armed forces and various armed groups, continue to put the remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar at constant risk of CRSV.

Listing of Tatmadaw in the Secretary General’s report is a step in the right direction. However, unless and until perpetrators are held accountable, the risks will only exacerbate. The international community including the Council need to persuade Myanmar to cooperate with the relevant UN entities including the SRSG’s office, the IIMM, and other international judicial mechanisms including ICC and ICJ.

Mr. President,

In last 20 years, we have made significant progress in developing the norms in relation to CRSV and its intricate connection with international peace and security. Decisive actions have to be taken to put those norms into practice. To ensure implementation of Security Council resolutions in women peace and security we would like to suggest following actions –

  • The compliance framework suggested by the Council resolutions including Res 2467, need to be fully utilized, especially by regular monitoring at the field level and engagement by the Office of the Special Representative through UN country teams to adopt prevention commitments. We see merit in the recommendation of the Secretary General to strengthen targeted measures against those who do not implement existing obligations and commit, command or condone sexual violence. Coherence between CRSV and targeted measures would indeed send a clear signal underlining the gravity of these violations.
  • Additionally, there is a need for greater synergies between the mandated UN entities and the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) towards ensuring compliance of the General Recommendation 30 of CEDAW, which obliges its 189 States parties to report on the resolutions related to conflict related sexual violence.
  • We believe the issue of sexual violence cannot be addressed sustainably if the root causes of conflict are not addressed. Discrimination, persecution and subjugation weaken the vulnerable and marginalized community and reduce their ability to prevent incidents of sexual violence in the hands of the parties in conflict.
  • When sexual violence continues to remain unaccounted for, it becomes persistent and often normalized. Such an environment of impunity obstructs the peace-building and recovery efforts. Hence accountability and justice need to be prioritized in addressing the sexual violence by prioritizing strengthening of justice mechanisms in the conflict and post conflict contexts.
  • Stronger implementation mechanisms for Security Council’s WPS agenda are needed at national, regional and global levels. Only 44% or 84 member states have so far developed NAPs under Res 1325. One practical method could be to pursue universalizing the National Action Plans more vigorously. NAP could serve as an important yardstick to measure progress.
  • The CRSV commitments need to be internalized by the entire UN system, including at the ground level by the Resident Coordinators and other UN agencies in the country teams. This would address the capacity gaps at the security sector, justice system and in overall political process for increasing women’s participation at all levels of the peace process.

I thank you.