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We will be posting the responses of GAPS partners to the new United Nations Security Council Resolution 2106 on preventing sexual violence in conflict. Here is the response from Saferworld:

The UN’s new resolution on sexual violence in conflict must do more than just add to existing rhetoric, says Saferworld’s Hannah Wright. UN Member States must now follow through with rapid and comprehensive implementation of all Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague used the opportunity of this month’s UK Security Council presidency to garner the political will, commitment and resources of the international community to help end sexual violence in conflict, a key part of the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. The result was United Nations Security Council Resolution 2106 (UNSCR 2106) on Women, Peace and Security, which was passed by unanimous vote at the UN headquarters in New York on 24 June 2013.

The UK Government’s efforts to bring attention to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in conflict-affected and fragile states – and the accompanying recognition that SGBV undermines the pursuit of long-term and sustainable peace and security – is commendable. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary’s assertion that “we have seen the world over that unresolved grievances fuel further cycles of violence and conflict”, and that “where there is no justice or dignity the seeds of future violence are sown”, demonstrates an important understanding of the relationships between SGBV, survivors’ access to security and justice, and states’ susceptibility to conflict and instability.

And while UNSCR 2106 largely reaffirms commitments made in previous resolutions on women, peace and security – with few new proposals for concrete actions to prevent SGBV in conflict – it does also build on the previous resolutions in three key ways.

First, it recognises that men and boys, as well as women and girls, are subjected to SGBV in conflict. It is absolutely necessary to maintain – and even increase – attention to tackling violence against women and girls. But recognition that SGBV also affects men and boys is vital, particularly if male survivors are to receive adequate support, which is so often lacking. This is also the first ever reference to men and boys within any of the resolutions on women, peace and security, highlighting how often discussions on gender and conflict still tend to assume that ‘gender’ means ‘women’.

Second, while previous resolutions have emphasised the importance of addressing SGBV in security sector reform processes, UNSCR 2106 provides more detail on what this should involve, including the recruitment of more women into the security sector and vetting all new recruits to exclude those who have perpetrated or been responsible for acts of sexual violence in the past. We have argued before that ensuring security sector reform processes are gender-sensitive is crucial to tackling gender-based violence, and through our country programmes we have developed approaches to encourage the recruitment of more women into the security sector.

Third, while UN Security Council Resolutions tends to focus on the role of national armies and peacekeepers in maintaining security, UNSCR 2106 acknowledges the role that “civil society organisations, including women’s organisations, and networks can play in enhancing community-level protection against sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations”. Through Saferworld’s country programmes we have long demonstrated the importance of supporting communities themselves to address their own security needs, including SGBV. We fully endorse the resolution’s recognition that civil society has a key role to play not just in responding to the aftermath of violence, but also in preventing it.

However, while renewed attention to this issue by the Security Council is welcome and a significant indicator of commitment, implementation of the five previous resolutions on the subject (UNSCR 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889 and 1960) has been frustratingly slow. Progressive policy must now become progressive practice if the new resolution is not to quickly lose its political value, and if we are to see real change for the hundreds and thousands of women, men, boys and girls who have been affected by or are at risk of SGBV in conflict.

The UN Security Council must also take their commitment to “remain actively seized of the matter” seriously by ensuring that gender perspectives are mainstreamed throughout all of the Security Council’s work on conflict-affected and fragile states. The recent UNSCR 2093 on Somalia provides a good example; it reaffirms the role of women in conflict resolution and prevention and their contribution to peacebuilding, and commits to promoting the increased representation of Somali women at all levels of decision making. Unfortunately this example is the exception, with much of the Security Council’s work failing to mainstream a gender perspective.

UNSCR 2106 says the right things – UN member states now need to put them into practice.

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