AFRICA: At AU Summit, U.N. Secretary-General Calls For More Efforts To Empower Women, Stop Sexual Violence

Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Kaiser Family Foundation
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

On the final day of the two-day African Union (AU) Summit taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called for greater efforts to reduce sexual violence, particularly during armed conflicts, reports (Barea, 1/31).

"We have to raise the cost of committing atrocities to the point where they harm the perpetrators even more than the victims," Ban told a news conference on sexual violence at the AU Summit, U.N. News Centre reports. "That means that when a peace process begins, perpetrators are never permitted to get or to retain positions of military, political or economic influence. Where sexual violence has been part of the fighting, ending it must be part of making peace," Ban added.

According to the news service, Ban pointed to Africa as having "some of the world's most progressive legal instruments to address sexual violence in conflict and advance women's rights, including the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, and he hailed the AU's decision to ensure that its Peace and Security Council holds an annual session on women and children in armed conflict."

"The challenge now is to ensure these laudable commitments are felt where they matter most, in the marketplaces where women trade, at water-points, and along the roads where girls walk to school," Ban said. "The United Nations wants to work closely with the African Union and African troop contributors to better prepare our peacekeepers to respond to sexual violence as a security threat. We need Africa's leaders and leaders around the world to support this campaign."

Ban noted recent efforts to improve the reporting of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and the Sudan. Ban's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom, attended the AU Summit, and spoke of the long-term trauma experienced by victims of sexual violence (1/31).

Ban also noted the U.N.'s commitment to women's issues and highlighted the role that the recently launched U.N. Women would play in efforts to improve "African women's access to education, health and political responsibility," PANA/Afrique en ligne reports (1/31).

On Sunday, together with U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ban spoke of need to empower African women and the ways U.N. Women hopes to achieve this goal on the sidelines of the AU Summit, IEWY News reports.

"We are at the dawn of the African Women's Decade," Ban said during a ceremony to mark the unveiling of the U.N. Women logo in Africa, according to the article. "We need to empower African women who produce food, raise children and drive the economy here. When those women take their rightful place at the negotiating table, in the parliament and in leadership positions across society, we can unleash Africa's enormous potential," Ban added.