On Monday 18 January 2021, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women, Peace and Security (APPG-WPS) and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the APPG on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (APPG-PSVI) hosted an event titled “COVID-19, Conflict and Sexual Violence”, co-chaired by Baroness Fiona Hodgson, Co-chair of the APPG-WPS and Anthony Mangnall MP, Chair of the APPG-PSVI. This event provided a valuable and important dialogue to explore challenges and opportunities of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and tackling sexual violence in conflict.
The event heard from: Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Director of Women’s International Peace Centre, Professor Christine Chinkin CMG FBA, LSE Centre for Women, Peace and Security, and Baroness Arminka Helic who, while working William Hague when he was Foreign Secretary, was instrumental in setting up the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative.
Helen Kezie-Nwoha began by discussing the devastating impact which COVID-19 has had on women and girls’ rights. She spoke about the lack of existing equal rights for women and girls which is exacerbated during times of conflicts and pandemics, for example, the recent pandemic has resulted in women having to carry out increased unpaid care work. Helen also made recommendations for responding to pandemics and sexual violence, which included a call for less militarised approaches and ensuring that decision making is accessible for both men and women.
We then heard from Christine Chinkin who shared her extensive knowledge on conflicts and sexual violence. Christine noted that local contexts have to be mapped out, especially to uncover how women and young people are affected by conflicts and pandemics. She also spoke about the need to prioritise human security and universal disarmament for future conflicts and pandemics.
Our last speaker was Baroness Arminka Helic who shared her experience and reflections. Baroness Helic spoke about the impact which COVID-19 and conflicts have on women and girls, and the need to embed a gendered lens into conflict and pandemic responses. She also noted that there is a need for an increase in aid and for Governments to invest in resources to support women and girls affected by conflicts and pandemics.
In the Q&A session, speakers were asked about good approaches to prevention of conflict, to which the speakers discussed the importance of localised approaches to prevent and address conflict, pandemics and inequalities. Delivering closing remarks, Anthony Mangnall reflected on the anniversary year of 2020 and the UK’s commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda and ensured that the UK has political will to protect and promote women and girls’ rights. Anthony also noted that the international community and UK Government must and will do more to providing support for survivors of sexual violence in conflict and act on commitments.