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William Hague and Special Envoy open Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

(By Dr Shahid Qureshi – London) :- 

Opening words from the Foreign Secretary and Special Envoy Angelina Jolie at the start of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Remarks from Foreign Secretary William Hague

Good morning everybody.

Angelina Jolie and I are delighted to welcome you to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

We began campaigning, as you probably know, two years ago because we believe the time has come to end the use of rape in war once and for all, and we believe it can be done.

We are convinced this is an issue of international peace and security, that is central to conflict prevention, that it is fundamental to the advancement of women’s rights everywhere, and above all that it is a moral issue for our generation.

For centuries the rape of women, girls, men and boys has been a feature of conflict and warfare.

These crimes have been taking place on a vast scale without many people even being aware of it.

And today the facts are beginning to emerge for all to see, thanks to courageous survivors, NGOs, journalists, doctors and activists, many of whom are already here today.

We know how few of these crimes have ever been punished, but because of the impunity, they continue today in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, to name just a few examples.

What would it say about Britain or any other nation if, knowing all this, we chose not to act, we chose to do nothing?

As was said of slavery in the 18th century:

Now we know the facts, we cannot turn aside.

And so this week, we are bringing together here governments, experts, civil society, survivors and members of the public here at the Excel centre, in an unprecedented concentration of effort and attention on this issue:

Today, we are hosting young people from across the world to discuss all the issues and to make recommendations to the Ministers, before the Ministers get here.

Tomorrow, over 1,000 experts and activists will take part in a multitude of events to address issues from collecting evidence, to protecting children, to tackling sexual exploitation.

And on Thursday, more than 117 countries, 70 Ministers, several heads of state, many faith leaders from across the world will gather here.

We want this Summit to shatter the culture of impunity for sexual violence, to increase support for survivors and to start changing the situation on the ground in the most affected countries. There are a whole range of practical actions that we want to achieve:

We will launch an international protocol that sets out how to document and investigate sexual violence, so that those on the ground have the best tools to collect information and evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.

We will ask countries to strengthen their laws so that there are no safe havens for those responsible for warzone sexual violence, we will also urge all countries to train soldiers and peace-keepers to prevent and respond to sexual violence more effectively.

We want countries to commit new funds for tackling sexual violence in conflict-affected countries like Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to do more to protect women and girls in humanitarian emergencies, and to increase their support for human rights defenders who campaign for justice and help for survivors.

And I am pleased to announce this morning that the UK will pledge a further £6 million to support survivors of sexual violence in conflict – a further £6 million to help them rebuild their lives and rebuild communities.

But governments alone cannot end sexual violence in conflict, so this is much more than just a meeting of Ministers.

We also want to help achieve a change in attitudes all over the world to these crimes – and you are part of changing those attitudes.

We want to shift the stigma from survivors onto the perpetrators of these crimes, so that they – not the innocent victims – bear the stigma.

We want to encourage men to speak out, we want to encourage men to speak out – to agree with us that it is only a weak or inadequate man who abuses women. It is not, it’s not a sign of strength, it is the ultimate weakness and shame.

We want to draw attention to the hidden survivors of sexual violence, all those who have felt unable to speak out and who have suffered in silence including men and boys.

We want people around the world to understand the scale of the problem and the urgent need for action, to recognise the damage it does to international peace and security and to be mobilised and inspired to work within their societies and with us to bear down on this terrible injustice.

So each hour for the next 84 hours a British diplomatic post somewhere in the world will be holding an event to mirror what we are doing here in London. This event is round the clock all round the world. And I hope you will help us ensure that over the next three and a half days that this Summit reaches the whole world.

We encourage anyone who cares about this issue to visit and to take part with us here: to see the multitude of exhibitions, performances and films that are on show, and to join in the discussions here physically and on social media.

I believe that foreign policy is no longer the sole preserve of governments, that we all need to work together in new ways to tackle global problems and this Summit is an example of our determination as the United Kingdom to champion that.

Angelina and I want to thank all the organisations, performers, activists and individuals here today for your inspiring work and your contributions to this effort, and we will urge all the Ministers to visit and see the exhibitions.

There are some people who say that these problems are so vast that our efforts will be in vain, but they fail to understand what governments, international organisations, civil society and public opinion can achieve when we all pull in the same direction.

From the abolition of slavery to the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty, we have shown that the international community can tackle vast global problems in a way that was once considered to be impossible.

There is power in numbers and if we unite behind this cause we can create an unstoppable momentum and consign this vile abuse to history.

With every injustice in the world, with every injustice in the world, a moment comes when the tide turns, when the pressure of public opinion and political will reaches a tipping point.

We have a remarkable opportunity over these next few days to build the momentum needed to tip the world past that point of no return, so that through hard work and commitment over the coming years we can remove warzone rape from the world’s arsenal of cruelty.

We can’t do this overnight, we can’t do it overnight. For the British government, and for Angelina and for me personally, this Summit is not the end of the road for our work, it is in many ways just the beginning.

Over the next few years we must go on to show that what we agree here in London can make a big practical difference.

So in opening the Fringe and the exhibitions this morning, we hope you will all work with us and be part of this historic endeavour.

I am grateful to you all for being here.

Thank you very much indeed.

Remarks from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy Angelina Jolie

It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict.

There is nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war, aimed at civilians.

It has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power.

It is done to torture and humiliate innocent people, often very young children.

I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia.

They are just like us. With one crucial difference:

We live in safe countries, with doctors we can go to when we’re hurt, police we can turn to when we’re wronged, and institutions that protect us.

They live in refugee camps, or bombed-out streets, in areas where there is no law, no protection and not even the hope of justice.

They struggle to keep their children safe, and if they admit to being raped they are likely to face more violence, and social rejection.

Other survivors live in countries where the war is over, but the peace has brought no justice.

And as an international community we are responsible for that.

We need to shatter that culture of impunity and make justice the norm, not the exception, for these crimes.

We need political will, replicated across the world, and we need to treat this subject as a priority.

We need to see real commitment to go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people, and to step in and help the worst-affected countries.

We need all armies, peacekeeping troops and police forces to have prevention of sexual violence in conflict as part of their training.

More than 100 countries will be represented at this Summit, and we are asking them all to take these measures.

But we need your help. We really do need your help.

This whole subject has been taboo for far too long.

Warzone rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial.

The stigma harms survivors, it causes feelings of shame and worthlessness.

It feeds ignorance, such as the notion that rape has anything to do with normal sexual impulses.

But most of all, it allows rapists to get away with it.

They feel above the law, because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities.

This evil will continue, ruing the lives of millions of people, unless we make this Summit a turning point.

We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is with the aggressor.

We must work together in new and unprecedented ways – across borders, religions, bringing governments and people together, and tackling the problem in every possible.

By doing these things, we can end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war once and for all. We can do it.

Thank you so much for joining us today, for joining us in this fight and I wish us all a productive Summit.

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