Statement by Ambassador Norihiro Okuda,
Chargé d’affaires, a.i.
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan
Open debate on resolution 1820
7 August 2009
Thank you for presiding over today’s important debate on sexual violence in armed conflict. I would like to thank the Secretary-General for personally presenting his first report on resolution 1820. We also commend the invaluable efforts of the DPKO to collect information and insights from the many stakeholders, which made the report possible.
The unanimous adoption of resolution 1820 by the Security Council last year was a milestone because through the agency of the Council, the international community recognized that sexual violence committed amidst armed conflict is a security issue. Such violence, when used as a strategy for waging war, not only does physical and psychological damage to the victims; it also sets back significantly any momentum that may have been generated towards the achievement of peace and security. In the year that has passed since the resolution was adopted, it is clear that some progress has been made in protecting civilians from sexual violence. As mentioned in the report, UN peacekeeping missions have strengthened their mandates to provide effective protection, including in response to sexual violence. The Peacebuilding Commission has also been active in addressing this issue, and civil society has enhanced its advocacy activities.
Japan is also pleased that by unanimously adopting resolution 1882, the Council has now strengthened its responses to rape and other sexual violence against children in armed conflict.
The implementation of resolution 1820 nevertheless faces many challenges. We are deeply concerned, for example, that grievous sexual violence continues to be rampant in a number of countries, including Sudan, the DRC, and Chad.
Now is the time to translate the commitment we made in this resolution into concrete action. While the report addresses a broad range of issues, I would like to focus here on three we regard as particularly important: data collection and reporting, impunity and accountability, and coordination within the UN system.
(Data Collection and Reporting)
The first important challenge we face is to clarify what our objectives are in collecting data and to enhance the systems we employ to that end and to report on sexual violence. In order for the international community, and the Security Council in particular, to be able to act against sexual violence in armed conflict, accurate data collection on the ground and timely reporting are vital. We therefore welcome the decision of the Secretary-General to take action to “ensure more coherent, comprehensive and regular reporting on sexual violence” through the senior-level mission focal point system. This system will expand the capacity of a mission to engage in monitoring and reporting and to “coordinate with the UN Country Team to review data collection methods and databases,” with a view to enabling the reporting mechanism to produce more coherent and comprehensive information.
Bearing in mind the newly adopted resolution 1882, UN agencies concerned with sexual violence need to increase their cooperation with the monitoring and reporting mechanisms led by the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF.
In collecting data on sexual violence, the first priority should be protection of the victims and their privacy, in light of the sensitivity of the issue. Establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate sexual violence in conflict countries, as recommended by the Secretary-General, is an interesting option. However, we need to give careful consideration to the feasibility of the idea, and specifically to how information would be collected and shared, and to whether the objective of data collection would be to facilitate the prosecution of perpetrators or simply to build a strong informational resource.
(Ending Impunity and Ensuring Accountability)
The second challenge is ending impunity for those responsible for sexual violence in armed conflict and ensuring accountability. Both are essential, and we therefore strongly urge the governments of countries under conflict to undertake comprehensive legal and judicial reforms. In this connection, we are encouraged to learn from the report that some progress has in fact been made in the DRC, Liberia, and Sudan towards improving legal mechanisms against sexual violence.
If we want these efforts to succeed, however, we must provide capacity-building assistance, such as training for judicial and law enforcement officials on international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as on the revision of national laws and improving the manner in which they are applied.
We expect that serious crimes such as crimes against humanity will be referred to the ICC. At the same time, bearing in mind that the ICC only prosecutes those who bear the greatest responsibility, the Security Council must consider feasible and appropriate alternative mechanisms to ensure the accountability of all perpetrators of sexual violence in any conflict situation. We anticipate that the Secretary-General will include a proposal for such mechanisms in his follow-up report.
(Coordination with in the UN system)
Third, strengthening coordination within the UN system is essential in implementing resolutions 1325 and 1820, as a number of UN agencies are engaged in combating sexual violence in armed conflict and in post-conflict situations. We support the commitment the Secretary-General made in his report to strengthening coordination in the UN system so that there would be a coherent and comprehensive multi-sector response at both Headquarters and the local level. One useful coordination mechanism is UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, which is expected to be utilized not only to promote the sharing of information and eliminate the duplication of work, but also to integrate the policies and programs of the UN system as a whole, particularly in the field.
In this context, we note that the Secretary-General is considering the appointment of a senior person to be responsible for coordinating the prevention of and response to sexual violence across the UN system.
Allow me to say just a few more words on this subject. In order to respond effectively to the needs of women and girls who are victims of sexual violence, we must apply the concept of human security. This multi-sector approach focuses on both protection and empowerment at the individual and community levels, and for this reason, at the sixth meeting of the Friends of Human Security this past June, co-hosted by Japan and Mexico, the subject of sexual violence against women in armed conflict had a prominent place on the agenda.
For the same reason, through the UN Trust Fund for Human Security, Japan has been providing support for projects that address the issue of violence against women and its root causes in a comprehensive and multi-sectoral manner in countries including Sudan, the DRC, Somalia, and Burundi.
In 2010, we shall commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. As that observance draws nearer, we must redouble our efforts to produce concrete and tangible results on this important issue. The Security Council simply must strengthen its response to sexual violence in armed conflict. To this end, we request the Secretary-General to continue to submit regular reports on the progress that is being made in the implementation of resolution 1820, as it is a matter of great concern to all of us.