Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Adoption of a UNSC Resolution to Combat Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State 
New York, NY

Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release                                                                                                     September 30, 2009



Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
on the Adoption of a UNSC Resolution to Combat Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict

September 30, 2009
United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York

SECRETARY CLINTON: The 6,195th meeting of the Security Council is called to order. The provisional agenda for this meeting is before the Council in document S/Agenda 6,195, which reads, and I quote: “Women and Peace and Security,” end of quote. Unless I hear any objection, I shall consider the agenda adopted. The agenda is adopted.

I should like to inform the Council that I have received letters from the representatives of 55 countries in which they request to be invited to participate in the consideration of the item on the Council’s agenda. In accordance with the usual practice, I propose, with the consent of the Council, to invite those representatives to participate in the consideration without the right to vote, in accordance with the relevant provision of the Charter and Rule 37 of the Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure. There being no objection, it is so decided.


I invite the aforementioned 55 representatives to take the seats reserved for them at the side of the Council chamber. And on behalf of the Council, I wish to acknowledge the presence in the chamber of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of Burkina Faso, His Excellency Minister Yoda, and the Minister of State for Cooperation and Francophone of France, His Excellency, Mr. Joyandet.

The Security Council will now begin its consideration of item two of the agenda. The Security Council is meeting in accordance with the understanding reached in its prior consultations. Members of the Council have before them document S/2009/489, which contains the text of a draft resolution submitted by Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United Republic of Tanzania and the United States of America.

I wish to draw the attention of members to document S/2009/362 containing the report of the Secretary General, pursuant to Resolution 1820. It is my understanding that the Council is ready to proceed to the vote on the draft resolution before it. Unless I hear any objection, I shall put the draft resolution to the vote now. There being no objection, it is so decided.

Will those in favor of the draft resolution contained in document S/2009/489 please raise their hand?

(Show of hands.)

The result of the voting is as follows: The draft resolution received 15 votes in favor. The draft resolution has been adopted unanimously as Resolution 1888 of 2009. Those against? Abstentions? None. (Laughter.)

I shall now have the privilege of making a statement in my capacity as the Secretary of State for the United States, and I am very grateful to speak before the Security Council on this important issue. I want to thank everyone who has worked very hard to reach this point on this resolution, and of course, to have it adopted unanimously, because we’re here to address an issue that has received too little attention, not only in these chambers over the last six decades, but I would suggest in all of our halls of government across the world. It is an important issue that goes to the core of our commitment to ensure the safety of the United Nations member-states and their citizens.

Under the UN Charter, the 15 members of this Council bear primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Now, satisfying that responsibility includes us to protect the lives and physical security of all people, including the women who comprise half the planet’s population. This responsibility is particularly acute in circumstances where peace and stability are challenged. Even though women and children are rarely responsible for initiating armed conflict, they are often war’s most vulnerable and violated victims.

The resolution we passed today represents a step forward in our global efforts to end violence perpetrated against women and children in conflict zones, and it builds on two prior Security Council resolutions: Resolution 1325, which called on all parties in conflicts to respect women’s rights and increase their participation in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction efforts; and Resolution 1820, adopted last year, which affirms the ambitions set out in 1325, and establishes a clear link between maintaining international peace and security, and preventing and responding to sexual violence used as a tactic of war to target civilians. Yet despite these actions by the United Nations Security Council, violence against women and girls in conflict-related situations has not diminished; in fact, in some cases, it has escalated.

Now, reading the headlines, one might think that the use of rape as a tactic of war only happens occasionally, or in a few places, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Sudan. That would be bad enough, but the reality is much worse. We’ve seen rape used as a tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere. In too many countries and in too many cases, the perpetrators of this violence are not punished, and so this impunity encourages further attacks.

Last month, I traveled to Goma in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where over 1,100 rapes are reported every month. I met with survivors of sexual violence. And the physical and emotional damage to individual women and their families from these attacks cannot be quantified, nor can the toll on their societies.

The dehumanizing nature of sexual violence doesn’t just harm a single individual or a single family or even a single village or a single group. It shreds the fabric that weaves us together as human beings, it endangers families and communities, erodes social and political stability, and undermines economic progress. We need to understand that it holds all of us back. Also, our failure as an international body to respond concretely to this global problem erodes our collective effectiveness. So we must act now to end this crisis not only to protect vulnerable people and promote human security, but to uphold the legitimacy of this body.

Now, the international community has made progress. Many peacekeeping mandates now include Security Council requests for strengthened measures to prevent and respond to sexual violence. In Chad and Sudan, UN peacekeepers have clear instructions underscoring their responsibility to protect local populations against sexual and gender-based violence.

And I recently met with the UN troops in Liberia, who provide an excellent example of the steps a UN mission can take, Mr. Secretary General, both through its own actions and in cooperation with the host government to prevent violence against women and girls. It is also very important that in Liberia, the United Nations mission includes an all-women police unit from India. That all-women police unit has helped to motivate more Liberian women to become police officers, and the mission has launched a joint UN-Liberian campaign against rape.

Now, these steps are essential, but alone they’re not sufficient. So this resolution identifies specific steps that the United Nations and member-states can and should take to improve the UN response to sexual violence committed during situations of armed conflict. It calls on the Secretary General to appoint a special representative to lead, coordinate, and advocate for efforts to end sexual violence. We expect that person to engage at high levels with civilian and military leaders to spearhead the UN’s activities on this front.

It also calls on the Secretary General to rapidly deploy a team of experts to work with governments to strengthen the rule of law, address impunity, and enhance accountability while drawing attention to the full range of legal venues that can be brought into play, including domestic, international, and mixed courts that bring local and international judges and prosecutors together to strengthen local justice systems.

We must also recognize that ending conflicts outright is the most certain path to ending sexual violence in conflict. So pursuing peace and successful post-conflict transitions should be our highest priority. In states where conflict is taking place and those that are moving beyond it, local police must receive better training, the rule of law must be strengthened, and survivors must be ensured full access to justice and protection throughout the judicial process. We envision that this team of experts called for in this resolution will help us strengthen initiatives like those.

Now, beyond the measures outlined in the resolution, the Security Council should take additional steps. Protecting women and children should be a critical priority for all troops who wear the blue helmet. To reflect this, new and renewed peacekeeping mandates should include language condemning sexual violence and giving further guidance to peacekeeping missions to work with local authorities to end it.

We must seek to ensure that our respective military and police forces, especially those who will participate in peacekeeping missions, develop the expertise to prevent and respond to violence against women and children. And this will be helped by increasing the number of women who serve in UN peacekeeping missions. When I visited the mission in Goma, I was very impressed at how integrated it was in every way, from every country, every kind of person represented, and many women in the leadership as well as in the ranks.

And let us not forget that it is often women who lead the call for peace in communities shattered by violence. We have seen women in this role from Liberia to Rwanda to Northern Ireland to Guatemala. Even when they suffer terrible losses in conflicts they had no part in starting, women have the will to reach across divisions, find common ground, and foster understanding. As they seek peace, so must we by making sure they are part of all efforts. So I urge UN member-states to make sure their foreign assistance programs include measures to prevent and respond to violence against women and children, and to ensure that women are included in designing and implementing those programs.

In his speech at the General Assembly last week, President Obama challenged nations of the world to assume responsibility for the challenges confronting us. Certainly, the challenge of sexual violence in conflict cannot and should not be separated from the broader security issues confronting this Council. It is time for all of us to assume our responsibility to go beyond condemning this behavior, to taking concrete steps to end it, to make it socially unacceptable, to recognize it is not cultural; it is criminal. And the more we say that over and over and over again, the more we will change attitudes, create peer pressure, and the conditions for the elimination of this violation.

When I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I was told of an old proverb that says “No matter how long the night, the day is sure to come.” Well, I hope our work today and every day going forward will hasten the time when thousands of women around the world will be able to feel comfortable in walking the streets of their cities and villages freely again – to work outside their homes, collect firewood and water without fear, play with their children, spend time with their husbands, enjoy all the blessings of life in freedom, peace, and security. That is our dream for a better future for them and for us, and I thank this body for the strong commitment that this resolution represents. (Applause.)

Thank you so much. I resume now my function as president of the Council. I kind of like being a president, so I – (laughter) – this may go on a little longer than anticipated. (Applause.) And I shall now invite the distinguished Secretary General, His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon to take the floor.

# # #

PRN: 2009/191