After the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict — Now what?

Global Summit

This Summit is just the beginning. We must apply the lessons we have learned and move from condemnation to concrete action. We must all live up to the commitments we have made. Having come together we must move forward with a collective responsibility, showing leadership at all levels on ending sexual violence in conflict.

Chair’s Summary – Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict


The cameras have been turned off. The microphones are silent. Foreign Ministers have moved on to the next hotspot. Posters, reports and informatics have been boxed up.

And the activists have returned to what they were doing before the Summit – working for change, for peace and for justice.

Positives and yet questions

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Hague said that he wanted a summit like no other. And it looks like he got it. The Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict was held in London last week. It brought thousands of activists, government officials, journalists, experts, academics, and celebrities together and certainly raised the profile of the issue.

On the positive side, the Summit saw the launch of International Protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict, a tool outlining best practices. Leaders signed a Statement of Action. A global network of survivors of sexual violence was launched: Survivors United For Action.

The Summit was also an opportunity for activists and experts to exchange ideas, meet and learn.

However, there were also questions and more critical voices. The International Campaign released a statement expressing disappointment that the Summit ended with few tangible results. Nobel Laureate Jodie Williams lamented the exclusion of civil society organizations from the ‘official’ discussions. Our own WPSN-C blog included reflections from Carleton University professor Doris Buss on prevention, gender and limiting the focus to ‘rape as a weapon of war.’

Even though money doesn’t solve all problems, it is clear that resources are needed. On this front, there were surprisingly few announcements.

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Network Member Post: The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict is over: What you can do now

Cross-posted from WPSN-C member World Federalist Movement – Canada TakeAction for June 2014.

This week in London, from June 10 to 13,  there has been the largest gathering ever on the issue of sexual violence in conflict. The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Angelina Jolie, in her capacity as Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, aimed to build further on the current willingness to address the issue of sexual violence in conflict in a wide-ranging approach that is including Foreign Ministers, experts, multilateral organizations, NGOs, civil society and survivors.

The purpose of the Summit was to create momentum towards ending the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict through the development of practical agreements that focus the efforts of everyone (governments, NGOs, multilateral organizations and so on) towards specific actions such as better investigation and documentation when incidents of sexual violence in conflict occur, greater support for survivors, and the inclusion of women in peace processes.

But the work towards accomplishing these and related goals will not end with the conclusion of the Summit. Much work needs to be done.

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P is for Preventing Conflict Sexual Violence…. Or is it?

by Doris Buss

The UK Government is throwing the largest, global party on ending conflict sexual violence in London, and the guest list is impressive with, according to the latest publicity, “113 countries, 70 ministers, and over 950 registered experts” in attendance, not to mention Angelina Jolie and other celebs.

I’ve been thinking about parties and conflict sexual violence. It’s an admittedly odd combination; there is a celebratory feel to the event in London that seems out of step with the subject matter. But, perhaps this is exactly what it is needed; a big, loud, upbeat gathering that insists on change. It’s certainly a novel approach, and if it produces substantive initiatives to generate change to the high rates of conflict sexual violence, then what’s not to like?

But it’s those words – “substantive” and “change” – that are tricky, and this is where the issue of the guest list comes in. Its not just who has been invited (or not – and full disclosure: my name appears to have been overlooked. A simple bureaucratic oversight, no doubt), but also which concepts are in play in the conversations, and which have been omitted (by bureaucratic oversight or otherwise).

Two concepts seem to be strangely absent from the UK’s event on sexual violence: prevention and gender. The London event follows from the UK government’s “Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative”, or PSVI. The P in PSVI seems to have gone missing. From what I have seen, there is very little focus on actual prevention, compounded by the fact that there is also a rather limited approach to sexual violence, and the different forms it takes in relation to armed conflict.

The “Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict”, promoted by the UK government in advance of the London fête (with Burma the 151st country to endorse it), clearly signals that the focus is really on one type of sexual violence: sexual violence used ‘as a weapon of war’; an intentional strategy with a designated purpose to destroy or attack a community.

What is wrong with a focus only on this form of conflict rape? Doesn’t this topic warrant increased attention, even an international party, to stimulate a much-needed global response? The problem with focusing on just ‘rape as a weapon of war’ is that it is too narrow, overlooking the full extent of gender and sexual violence connected to armed conflict and which carries the danger that partial or ill-advised ‘solutions’ will result. The research on conflict sexual violence suggests there are multiple forms of sexual violence and varied categories of perpetrators and victims, needing a range of responses. ‘Rape as a weapon of war’ refers to one particular form of sexual violence that became a concern of feminists and international policy markers largely in relation to the patterns of sexual violence found in the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia and the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

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Time To Act: Yasmin Sooka Exposes Sexual Violence in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka

Women at Kataragama Festival in Sri Lanka
Three women at the opening of the Kataragama Festival, Sri Lanka’s largest interfaith gathering. Photo Credit: Brett Davies.

On May 8, members of the WPSN-C and local civil society organizations met with Yasmin Sooka in Ottawa to discuss her latest publication “An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka (2009 to 2014)”. A lawyer based in South Africa, Yasmin Sooka is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights and was integral to the post-apartheid South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sierra Leone.

Her most recent report compiles the statements of 40 men and women who were victims of torture and sexual violence at the hands of the Sri Lankan military in the wake of the 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Based on the evidence of these testimonies, Sooka concludes that the Government of Sri Lanka is guilty of employing the systemic use of torture and rape to terrorize Tamil civilians, among them disproportionately high numbers of women and children.

Although the armed conflict ended in 2009, the Sri Lankan forces continue to wage war on the bodies of Tamil civilians, leaving them in fear of the consequences of speaking out. Witness testimony reveals the sharp increase in “abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence” following the ceasefire that was declared in 2009. Sooka’s report is a testament to the calculated and systematic nature of the crimes, exposing the ongoing corruption, impunity and lack of accountability plaguing Sri Lanka’s government.

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TAKE ACTION: Use Social Media to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

Campaign digital postcard

In less than two weeks, world leaders, activists, academics, journalists and survivors of sexual violence in conflict will gather in the UK for the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. This event marks the largest gathering on the issue to date, presenting an unprecedented opportunity for the Canadian government to take leadership in the fight to stop the use of rape and gender-based violence in conflict. The Canadian Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is counting on you to send a strong message to the Government of Canada that the #TimeToAct is now!

The Campaign, an initiative of the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada, has recently presented its key messages to the Government of Canada calling on the government to:

  • Pay sustained, robust attention—and make a long-term commitment to—supporting survivors and ending sexual violence in conflict. Leadership requires resources.
  • Create a global fund to support women’s organizations and women’s human rights defenders working generally on women’s rights and specifically on sexual violence.
  • Fund the full range of sexual and reproductive health services including regarding pregnancies resulting from rape, without discrimination (as recognized in Security Council Resolution 2122).
  • Sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
  • Ensure that the commitments made by the Government of Canada through the Canada’s National Action Plan for the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (NAP) be fully implemented, and that women’s organizations in Canada be included as allies in this process.
  • Appoint a high-level champion for ending sexual violence in conflict that can liaise between government departments and civil society, and monitor the implementation of the NAP.

As a nation with a legacy of peacekeeping and diplomacy, Canada is expected to be a world leader in the plight to bring an end to this global atrocity. Help us send a strong send a strong message to the Canadian government to turn their commitment into concrete action.


Use social media to amplify the voices of activists, women’s organizations and survivors who are looking to the Canadian government to align with their efforts.

First, download the digital postcard (if the image opens in a new window, right-click (Windows) or just click and hold (Mac) to download the image).

Then, tweet at the Honourable John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, or share with your friends on Facebook.

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