Activists, ambassadors and politicians were drawn to the Excel centre in Docklands, East London to attend a Global Summit to end Sexual Violence in Conflict last week. Guest speakers included the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who expressed his interest in creating
Activists, ambassadors and politicians were drawn to the Excel centre in Docklands, East London to attend a Global Summit to end Sexual Violence in Conflict last week.
Guest speakers included the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who expressed his interest in creating and spreading awareness through the summit. In his speech, Hague outlined three steps to help end sexual violence in conflict and thereby end the ‘culture of impunity’– that is, a culture in which perpetrators walk free and do not face trial. The UK is proposed to give £6 million to help surviving victims and rebuild their lives. Stressing that this is not an issue exclusively affecting women, Hague highlighted that the ‘hidden survivors’ also include men and boys. These ‘hidden survivors’ are victims that go unreported. It is thought that up to 50,000 women were the victims of sexual violence in the war in Bosnia, but the number of victims in Sudan, Syria and Egypt will remain unknown; the victims often choose to remain silent and anonymous, and because of this the perpetrators are not brought to justice.
Hague introduced an ‘International Protocol’, which aims to investigate incidences of sexual violence in conflict to help victims and increase prosecution rates for crimes of this sort. Proposed practical actions include training police officers and peacekeepers to respond effectively to incidences of sexual violence. Hague hoped that the summit would help move the stigma away from survivors and onto those who commit these crimes.
The first day of the summit had a focus on the youth of today, and hosted a range of different talks focusing on the root cause of sexual violence in conflict. The Model United Nations occupied a discussion room, presenting in real time some of the issues faced by diplomats today in tackling such a problem. A range of talks set to educate ran in each room. One group discussed how we may try to transform the norms of manhood and gender, another focused how ‘what you buy’ can help prevent rape in war. A gallery exhibition showed artistic photos of children explaining their ambitions and goals, which were often rooted in altruism and change. Culturally diverse dances and performances featured frequently, adding to the international feel of the day and highlighting unity between cultures in fighting the issue – this is a moral problem faced by many, on a universal scale.
Guests were encouraged to talk to their friends and family about what they had learnt, and to understand that sexual violence is not an inevitable part of conflict. The summit will hopefully mark the beginning of a change in attitude and prevent the sexual violence from being condoned in conflict. The Special Envoy ended the speech: ‘it is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict… We need to pool our expertise and close the gaps in our laws and capabilities’.