Guest post: enough is enough!
Jun 12, 2014 6:20pm by guest writer
By José Antonio Meade Kuribreña
It is mind-blowing that in the 21st century, sexual violence is still used as a tactic of war. Every year, thousands of people become victims of this heinous practice. Ninety-eight per cent of them are women and girls who are sexually abused in a spree of revenge or terror against civilian populations embedded in an armed conflict. Added to the profound pain and trauma caused to the victims, the worst part of this reality is that most cases go unpunished. This is unacceptable and we cannot continue to bear new atrocities.
Sexual violence in armed conflicts exacerbates violence, precludes the reconstruction of any population’s social fabric and, when used consistently, a war crime is committed and a threat to international peace and security has certainly emerged.
According to the UN, between 2011 and 2013 more than 37,000 cases of sexual violence in armed conflicts were recorded, and reports highlight that the practice is still used in more than 20 conflict situations around the world.
To tackle head-on this ignominious social, political and moral challenge, Mexico has embraced the UK’s initiative to end sexual violence in conflict. It is this cause that has brought me to London to participate in a Global Summit aimed at getting all global co-stakeholders –from states affected by this phenomenon and others willing to lend a hand, to international organizations and civil society— to devise actions to be implemented by the UN to eradicate sexual violence in conflict.
These actions will prevent more people from becoming victims and help those who have experienced its terrible consequences to regain their dignity and be reintegrated into their communities. This is a global imperative that demands our urgent attention and full commitment.
Mexico has taken substantive steps to prevent this crime. In September 2013, Mexico joined the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, adopted by the UN General Assembly. Consistent with this, Mexico enthusiastically accepted the invitation of William Hague, UK foreign minister, to be the regional champion of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) in Latin American and the Caribbean.
Rallying in favour of the PSVI has been a challenging but also a truly rewarding endeavour. A few weeks ago, we convened a seminar in Mexico City entitled Time to Act: Voices from Latin America on the eradication of sexual violence, including in conflict situations, which brought together international experts and officials from various countries of our region, to make headway on this common agenda. The seminar is just one example of how the Initiative is percolating throughout the region and how we, as champions, are creating a positive impact by engaging all actors to continue raising awareness to end this loathsome form of violence.
Thanks to the global effort smartly crafted by Minister Hague’s vision and leadership together with the champions’ activism, the PSVI has quickly succeeded in putting this issue in the spotlight.
Mexico has made important contributions to prevent these acts that violate human rights and international humanitarian law. And we will not stop.
As a member of the UN Security Council in 2009-2010, Mexico promoted the strengthening of the Organization’s capacity to monitor and engage with cases of sexual violence against children in armed conflict and supported the establishment of a Special Representative of the Secretary General to address Sexual Violence in Conflict. Following a Mexican initiative, the Security Council adopted in 2009 resolution 1888, which includes specific measures to prevent sexual violence abuses in UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding mandates, thus having a real impact on the ground.
Similarly, in 2010, in the UN Human Rights Council, Mexico led an initiative to create a working group on discrimination against women in law and in practice. We did so convinced that discrimination against women is one of the underlying causes of sexual violence. Lastly, in April, Mexico hosted a seminar on international mechanisms for the prevention of mass atrocities. Mexico’s leading voice was highly recognized by the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.
Additionally, Mexico is strongly advocating to ensure that concrete measures to end sexual violence are included as pillars of every peace agreement negotiated to overcome conflict situations. Following this reasoning, during my participation at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, my country will chair a Dialogue on the impact of substantive equality between men and women in the prevention of sexual violence, which will factor in the effective participation of women and their empowerment in tackling these heinous acts head-on. Women are the core of these efforts; they are the beating heart allowing the social fabric to be neatly woven while facilitating cohesion, peace and thus, development.
The foundations of Mexico’s global efforts in this matter are deeply rooted in our national agenda. We are currently engaged in developing a National Action Plan to implement the UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security (1325), in order to include the gender perspective as a cross-cutting issue in international peace and security.
Despite these global actions and the fact that an international legal framework to address this issue exists, the reality is that impunity continues to prevail. It is our belief that the PSVI must be embraced as an additional tool to complement the work the UN is doing to cope with its root causes and consequences, but also to effectively sanction those responsible for these acts. To help reach this goal, Mexico appointed an independent specialist who provided his experience in drafting an International Protocol on the investigation and documentation of these cases, which will be introduced at the PSVI Summit.
Ending sexual violence in conflict is a global responsibility that all co-stakeholders must share. Mexico, along with our partners, will continue showing that “enough is enough” and that we are already working shoulder to shoulder and hands-on to effectively eradicate sexual violence. Our daughters and grand-daughters not only deserve it but are expecting us to act swiftly.
José Antonio Meade Kuribreña is Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.