As the current president of the UN Security Council, Germany submitted a resolution on Tuesday (23 April) that would oblige UN member states to become more involved in combatting sexual violence in armed conflicts. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Thirteen out of 15 Security Council members approved the German resolution on sexual violence, with the US making some final amendments.
Although some consider that Germany’s pledges to fight sexual violence in armed conflicts are motivated by domestic reasons, the EU has been heavily involved in this fight by joining international initiatives and funding an EU-UN programme with an initial €500 million.
While China and Russia abstained, the US voted in favour of the resolution, but on condition that passages on health, including sexual and reproductive health, are deleted. These passages could be interpreted as calls for abortion, according to the US.
China, Russia and the US also refused to set up a UN working group to monitor the progress of UN member states in combatting sexual violence.
French ambassador to the UN, François Delattre, sharply criticised the US for forcing changes to the resolution. He was “shocked” by this behaviour, which goes against the “25 years of success for women’s rights in situations of armed conflict”.
According to the Guardian, previous drafts of the text also contained references to the special protection of homosexual, bi- or transsexual persons.
Russia’s UN envoy, Vasily Nebenzia, said after the vote: “Do not portray us as if we were against the end of sexual violence in conflict zones. It is a plague that needs to be stopped.”
— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) April 23, 2019
Germany has been a non-permanent Security Council member since the start of 2019 and shared the presidency in March and April with France, a permanent member. At the top of Germany’s agenda are women, peace and security.
To launch the debate on the sexual violence resolution, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, together with actress and women’s rights activist Angelina Jolie, published a guest article in the Washington Post on the day of the vote.
The article stated that despite having international efforts to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence, many perpetrators still go unpunished.
In his speech at yesterday’s UN meeting, Maas also pledged € 400,000 from the German side for projects for survivors of sexual violence in crisis regions. However, Maas’ performance did not convince everyone
In an interview with German regional public broadcaster WDR, political scientist Johannes Varwicke said Germany’s commitment against sexual violence largely serves the country’s domestic political agenda.
It is a “typically German issue, where one can participate without committing to intensive and risky contributions”. Although Germany is playing the moraliser, it is not prepared to actually take part in conflicts or commit to missions abroad, he said.
“The question is what specific instruments the Security Council has,” said Varwicke. One should focus more on what could really be achieved in the UN Council.
Security Council resolutions are binding under international law and can lead to sanctions if not met.
€500 million to fight sexual violence
The EU, represented by the ambassador for gender issues, Mara Marinaki, also delivered a statement. Marinaki referred to the UN annual report on sexual violence in conflict, which identifies blatant threats to women in crisis areas in 19 countries and paints a grim picture of high levels of sexual violence against women and men.
Marinaki agreed with the UN’s observation that, despite progress, impunity for criminals of sexual violence remains the norm in many parts of the world.
To combat sexual violence in third countries, the EU, together with 70 other actors, is involved in the international “appeal for global action to prevent and end sexual and gender-based violence in and around conflict”.
In September 2017, the EU and the UN also founded the so-called “Spotlight Initiative”, for which the EU’s initial investment amounted to €500 million. The largest programme is currently underway in Africa, where it promotes projects against sexual abuse, female genital mutilation and child weddings.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]