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

Open Debate on The SG report on “Conflict-related Sexual Violence”: Responding to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence

Statement by H.E. Mr Paul Menkveld, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, New York, 2 June 2016


Mr. President, Excellencies, distinguished participants,

·         First I would like to express my gratitude to the Secretary-General, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children and Mrs Fatima Ahmed, Founder and President of Zenab for Women in Development in Sudan for their important statements on this urgent matter.

·         My delegation welcomes the report on conflict-related sexual violence that was submitted in April 2016 by the Secretary-General.

·         We also welcome this debate on “Responding to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence”, which is taking place few days before the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. This is an important day that reminds us all of the horrible experiences which survivors of human trafficking face daily.

Disturbing trends: migration crisis and violent extremist groups

·         Responding to human trafficking in situations of armed conflict is key; we look forward to the SG-report on the implementation of mechanisms countering trafficking in persons and express support for the work of the Team of Experts on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

·         Current conflicts, like the ones in Syria or South-Sudan, are one of the root causes of the increase in human trafficking. As a consequence of armed conflict refugees and migrants attempt to find safety and security outside their countries. Criminals have established an infrastructure to extort these people in their search for a safe place. Reports show people-smugglers demand sex as “payment of passage”. The sexual exploitation of a growing group of vulnerable women and girls in a cross-border context, makes it essential to combat trafficking in persons nationally, regionally and globally.

·         Also the motivations for extremist groups to commit human trafficking are disturbing. Vulnerable groups of women and girls are trafficked and used to compensate fighters or to finance operations. As extremist groups often perceive civilian populations as a resource for commodities, women and girls are seen for the commodities they can deliver which is their sexuality and fertility.

·         As a result, women and girls become a commodity in the supply and demand of the political economy of war.

·         Women and children often become victims of human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence. In addition to the physical scars, the stigmatization and marginalization might leave even deeper scars on these vulnerable groups.

The Netherlands vision

·         Women and women’s organizations have great potential to contribute to end human trafficking, as the UNSC has acknowledged in its resolutions on women, peace and security. We believe that commitment to keep implementing these resolutions is important in responding to and the protection of vulnerable groups against human trafficking.

·         To make protection sustainable we should also focus on prevention. We cannot protect women if we don’t empower them and include them in decision-making processes. This is not a symbolic gesture; but a reality that we have to acknowledge within the Security Council. Women should be enabled to protect themselves and their rights should be acknowledged and promoted. It is time that the international community acknowledges the intertwined relation between women’s protection and women’s participation in issues of peace and security.

The Netherlands would like to present four ways forward in which we, as the international community, can better prevent and respond to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence.

Four ways forward

·         First of all we need to systematically cooperate with civil society and local communities in the prevention and responses to human trafficking.

o    Local communities and civil society are important stakeholders and advocates. They know how to reach the survivors and the perpetrators. 

o    We have to continue preventing and responding to human trafficking, but we also have to decrease the negative consequences of human trafficking on local communities. We need to support women and girls to overcome the stigmatization, discrimination and prejudices that will affect their access to services and eventually human rights. In order to reintegrate the victims, governments and the international community have to work together with local communities.

·         Secondly, UN peacekeeping missions are often confronted with human trafficking. It is time that we mandate these peacekeeping missions to help address the problem.

·         Thirdly, the perpetrators of human trafficking and other conflict-related sexual violence should be brought to justice.

o    To strengthen local justice systems, the Netherlands support for instance Iraqi women’s organizations which train local courts and other criminal justice authorities on how to deal with cases of sexual violence related to armed conflict.

o    The Netherlands attaches great value to legitimate and professional justice systems and supports Rule of Law programming in several countries.

·         Fourthly, we feel that countering human trafficking and sexual violence against women during their journeys should be prominently addressed in the context of the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Migrants and Refugees on 19 September this year. 

Mr President,

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has been your partner for peace, justice and development. And we continue to be so.

Thank you.