Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN, United States

Open debate Women and peace and security, Sexual Violence in conflict

NEW YORK, 25 April 2014

Statement by Karel J.G. van Oosterom Permanent Representative of the Netherlands Mission to the United Nations. Open debate on 'Women and peace and security: sexual violence in conflict, report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2014/181)

Mr. President, excellencies, distinguished participants, 

My delegation welcomes this debate and the report of the UNSG on Conflict-related sexual violence. It is always timely to discuss these issues of grave concern. The fact that the report covers incidents of conflict-related sexual violence in over 20 countries confirms the urgency.

We appreciate the opportunity to make a few remarks in addition to the EU statement, to which we can fully align ourselves. 

From Resolution to Action

Conflict-related sexual violence is not a stand-alone problem that can be solved in isolation. A fully integrated approach is needed. An approach that addresses deeply rooted gender inequalities and works to empower women. That is exactly the approach the Netherlands is taking.

We agree with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Bangura, and with our EU colleagues that now is the time to focus on progressing from principles and goals to concrete action, operational measures and tools. The principles and goals we have reconfirmed most recently in SC resolutions 2106 and 2122.

It is in that context that we welcome also the efforts of the UK in organising the upcoming Summit ‘End Sexual Violence in Conflict’, which will continue to create international momentum around this important topic and make important strides to translate our commitments into practical action. 

We also applaud UN Action and the Team of Experts for their concerted efforts worldwide, both as advocates as well as through their expert support.

Netherlands’ approach: Peace, justice and development

The Netherlands uses various tools of foreign policy to confront the problem of sexual violence in conflict. This includes our policies on promotion of peace, justice and development:

[Peace and security]

In our civilian and military contributions to multilateral missions gender and attention for the issue of gender inequalities and sexual violence in conflict is integral part of our national preparation. Both our police and military officers who are now in MINUSMA in Mali have received pre-deployment training on gender, human rights and international humanitarian law.

We also offer regular trainings on gender in operations to professionals from the military, diplomacy, police, as well as to civilian experts and activists. We do this together with our valued partner Spain. This integrated approach to gender and security is at the heart of the fight against conflict-related sexual violence.

And we make civilian expertise available on gender and combating sexual violence to UN missions, for example MONUSCO in the DRC.

[Justice and accountability]

We welcome the focus Special Representative Bangura and UN Action put on issues of impunity and accountability around conflict-related sexual violence. We know that many crimes are not being held to account. National legal systems in conflict affected countries can be weakened in the course of the conflict and in the reconstruction phase. 

The Netherlands attaches great value to legitimate and professional justice systems and supports rule of law programming in several countries. One example is our support to strengthen the capacities of the judiciary in DRC’s Maniema province, in order to help establish better accountability for crimes of sexual violence.

There is also a clear role for the International Criminal Court and other tribunals. The Netherlands very much supports the broad jurisdiction of the ICC on the issue of conflict related sexual violence. The ICC sets important precedents: it explicitly defines many forms of sexual violence as atrocities, and it carefully takes into account the special needs of survivors of sexual violence.

The report shows that we need to do even more to optimize the protection of women and girls, who are the majority of victims of sexual violence. Despite our collective efforts in this regards, women and girls will face the long-term consequences of these violent acts. They deserve and have the right to sexual and reproductive health, including safe abortion services. As our French colleague Gerard Araud said this morning: 'witholding these services to victims of sexual violence is adding insult to injury.'

[Women as leaders]

Women and girls are never only victims, though. We know about the resilience of many survivors. We also know that empowered women who can participate in decision making and take up leadership roles - particularly in issues of conflict prevention, resolution, and peacebuilding and reconstruction - can make the difference. 

We believe in the power of women as agents for peace and as representatives of communities living in conflict. As women are empowered, sexual violence, causes of gender inequality and accountability will more likely be addressed as integral part of peace- and reconstruction processes.

We are working with UN Women to support the Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace and Democracy to make their voices heard. Around the second round of the Geneva negotiations their message came through loud and clear. They called on the parties to immediately take measures to stop gender-based violence. The women of Syria inspired many and offered a new window of hope for a political solution to the horrific conflict in Syria.

We encourage the Security Council to remain committed to the full agenda of resolution 1325.


Let me finish by mentioning some examples of Netherlands support for initiatives combating conflict related sexual violence. The recurring focus throughout our efforts is on the empowerment of women and their agency. 

Through our program FLOW ‘Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women’, we support women’s rights organisations around the globe. Our National Action Plan 1325 promotes civil society programming in support of women’s political participation and leadership. And we contribute to several UN trustfunds, such as UN Women’s Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women.

Mr. President,

We need to collectively continue forward to combat the crime of sexual violence in conflict through concrete and joint action. Rest assured that the Netherlands, partner of the UN and member states for peace, justice and development, will be at your side in this endeavour.

Thank you.