Arria Formula Meeting on Moving from a Culture of Impunity to a Culture of Deterrence: The Use of Sanctions in Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict, October 2018

Monday, October 22, 2018
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Security Council Agenda Thematic Topic: 
Women, Peace and Security

Prepared by Colleen Bromberger

On 22 October 2018, the missions of Côte d’Ivoire, France, the Netherlands and Peru held an Arria Formula meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the use of sanctions in addressing sexual violence in conflict. Held during the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) week at the United Nations Headquarters, the meeting was framed as an opportunity to bring Member States together to discuss accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence. Briefers to the UNSC included Ms. Rita Lopidia, Executive Director and Founder of EVE Organization and head of South Sudan Women’s Coalition; H.E. Ms Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the SG on Sexual Violence in Conflict; Dr. Rebecca Brubaker, Senior Policy Advisor at the Centre for Policy Research at UN University; Mr. Ruben de Koning, Coordinator of the Panel of Experts on Mali and former Coordinator of the Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic; and Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, Senior Director Counter Terrorism Project, former Coordinator ISIL (Da'esh), Al-Qaida and Taliban Monitoring Team. In addition to the Permanent and Non-Permanent Members of the UNSC, Member States that were represented included Belgium, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, European Union, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Mali and South Sudan.


Sexual and gender-based violence

All representatives of Member States, regardless of their position on the use of sanctions, condemned the use of sexual violence in conflict settings. In particular, civil society speaker Rita Lopidia highlighted the atrocities that women, especially human rights defenders, experienced in South Sudan, and that peace agreements have no effect on providing protection services to women. The representatives of Peru and Poland noted the importance of addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through accountability and ending impunity for perpetrators. Furthermore, Member States welcomed the continued briefings Ms. Pramila Patten in her capacity of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict to the UNSC.



The majority of the briefers and representatives of Member States supported the use of sanctions as a tool to preventing sexual violence during conflict. Dr. Brubaker noted that effective sanctions must include the three aspects of coercion, constraint and signalling, and that the UNSC must possess clarity and timeliness to ensure efficacy. The representatives of Germany, Kazakhstan, Sweden and the United Kingdom agreed that the use sanctions must be coupled with accountability measures. The dissent of the use of sanctions came from the representatives of the Member States of Mali and South Sudan, both of which stressed the negative of effects of sanctions on their countries, particularly in that sanctions often miss the individuals that were the perpetrators of violence.


Women, Peace and Security Agenda

The WPS Agenda was highlighted as an important framework in guiding Member States in combating sexual violence in conflict. For example, the representatives of the Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, France and Kuwait referenced the importance of utilising UNSC resolution 1820 (2008), one of the eight UNSC Resolutions of the Agenda, as a crucial tool in moving forward. Furthermore, the representative Germany, who spoke in the capacity as one of the future UNSC members, noted that Germany would make the WPS Agenda a priority in the UNSC, as well as take up the Swedish work in implementing the recommendations of the Informal Expert Group (IEG) in Women, Peace and Security.


Good Practices

The use of sanctions in Central African Republic was highlighted as an example of good practice for incorporating SGBV into the mechanism. In particular, the representatives of the European Union, Germany and Sweden commended the work of the UNSC in incorporated the first sanctions regime to possess SGBV-specific criteria to the situation in the Central African Republic in 2017. Moving forward, the representatives agreed that this example was an important step in the right direction to incorporating further sanction regimes, and encouraged the establishment of a hybrid court with the African Union to address perpetrators of SGBV more effectively at the regional level.



This Arria discussion brought attention to the need to orient accountability mechanisms around the voices of survivors, in order effectively address the violation within the context of power, norms, and stereotypes surrounding sexual violence. While UNSCR 1325 addresses the need to consider the impact of sanctions on civilians including women and girls to address humanitarian exemptions (OP 14), later WPS resolutions have called for targeted individual sanctions to include perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence to ensure that rape is not a “cost-free” act.

The following items were recommended by civil society speakers and representatives of Member States during the meeting:

  • Ensure through the partnership with the African Union the establishment of a hybrid court;

  • Incorporate SGBV systematically as a criterion across sanctions regimes;

  • Ensure that the Informal Expert Group (IEG) on Women, Peace and Security have access to appropriate expertise and funding;

  • Standardize the language sanctions regime is an ideal tool to prevent other terrorist groups; and

  • Invest in women as key leaders since it leads to sustainable peace.

The representative of the Netherlands committed to making a summary paper and with Sweden on the Arria Formula meeting, and, moving forward, would explore the possibility of formalising suggestions in the UNSC.


Document PDF: 

Concept Note for the Arria Formula Meeting on Moving from a Culture of Impunity to a Culture of Deterrence: The Use of Sanctions in Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict, October 2018