INTERNATIONAL: UN Issues New Guidelines to Help Mediators Address Sexual Violence in Conflict

Friday, March 9, 2012
UN News Centre
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe (right) and Special Representative Margot Wallström. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The United Nations today unveiled new guidelines to help mediators address the problem of sexual violence in conflict by placing the issue high on the agenda when brokering peace agreements and ceasefires.

“The use of sexual violence to degrade and intimidate men, women or children in war is an intolerable practice,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York. “Our mediators must be sensitized to the problem and have the know-how to push for agreements at the peace table that can help stop it and to prevent its recurrence.”

Developed by the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the guidelines – formally known as “Guidance for Mediators on addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Ceasefire and Peace Agreements” – complement efforts by other UN entities to combat the problem. Since 2008, the Security Council has considered sexual violence a threat to security and an impediment to peace.

One of the guidelines' key aspects is the inclusion of sexual violence in the definition of cease-fires and the monitoring of them. Among its key principles, the guidance obliges mediators to engage parties in discussing the issue and to work towards firm commitments to cease all acts of conflict-related sexual violence.

“Negotiations and the cease-fires or peace agreements they produce are crucial moments of opportunity to do something to combat this terrible scourge,” Mr. Pascoe said.

The guidelines will be issued to all UN mediators and mission chiefs, and incorporated in training and briefing materials for envoys and their teams. It will also be available as a public resource to others working in conflict mediation around the world, including governments, regional and non-governmental organizations.

The guidelines also promote the inclusion of sexual violence in the definition of acts covered by a ceasefire and monitored for, and suggest ways to address the problem in peace accord provisions related to security and justice.

“This guidance does something extremely important,” said the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, said at the press conference. “It critically rethinks how we conceive and implement ceasefire and peace agreements. It provides ways of framing agreements that go beyond simply silencing guns – but stopping tactics of terror, such as rape.”

The guidance represents the latest in a series of initiatives by the UN to strengthen conflict mediation efforts worldwide. These include the establishment of DPA's Mediation Support Unit, which provides advisory, financial and logistical support to peace processes and works to strengthen the mediation capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations.