After many years of advocacy from civil society and later on some UN entities and member states, the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 on conflict-related sexual violence was adopted on June 19, 2008. The fact that the resolution was adopted by the Security Council was in itself important, since the Council is responsible for international peace and security and sexual violence thereby became recognized as a matter belonging to that area.
Resolution 1820 was the first to address sexual violence as a tactic of war and it also calls attention to the link between sexual violence and the want of women’s participation.
The main points of Resolution 1820 are:
- Strengthening the protection of women from sexual violence. This includes evacuating women under imminent threat and training troops on prohibition of sexual violence. It also mentions state-specific sanctions against parties to armed conflict who are perpetrators, and making sure that individuals who have participated in sexual violence are excluded from institutions that handle security issues when going into post-conflict.
- Strengthening advocacy aimed at ending conflict-related sexual violence. Focuses on training of UN peace operations personnel and on ”exposing myths” that fuel sexual violence at country level.
- Supporting victims of sexual violence. All countries should develop and strengthen their basic health services, maternal care and psychosocial counselling.
- Countering impunity and strengthening accountability. This includes developing systems to account for and prosecute crimes of sexual violence, and never letting sexual violence be part of amnesty provisions in peace processes. National institutions should also be strengthened so they have the capacity to collect necessary data and evidence to prosecute these crimes.
- Strengthening women’s participation locally. It mentions the importance of empowering civil society actors who advocate against sexual violence and support victims. Calls for increased dialogue between the UN and regional, state and civil society actors on women and women’s organizations in peace processes and governance. Special envoys should be encouraged to include women in discussions on conflict resolution and peace.
- Increasing women’s representation and integrating gender perspectives in peace operations. More women should be deployed as peacekeeping personnel, in all professions and at all levels. Extensive training of peacekeeping personnel both regarding codes of conduct and how to keep civilians protected from sexual violence. Zero-tolerance policies on sexual exploitation and abuse in UN peacekeeping operations.
As in many agreements where political compromises have been involved, the language in Resolution 1820 is more a ”should” than an ”obliged to”. For instance the resolution notes that sexual violence and rape can constitute an international crime (war crime, crime against humanity, or genocide) instead of, like the International Criminal Court, clearly state that rape, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy and forced sterilisation are crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Nevertheless Resolution 1820 is an important document for getting women included in all parts of conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
A year after Resolution 1820, the UN Security Council in September 2009 adopted Resolution 1888. The aim of 1888 is to reinforce 1820 by repeating its demands and addressing some of its practical implementation matters. It calls for more systematic reporting to the Security Council on incidents and trends of sexual violence as well as measures to protect civilians within peacekeeping operations, and for the identification of parties of armed conflict credibly suspected of rape and other types of sexual violence.
Resolution 1888 also includes the appointment of a UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflicts, an office currently held by Margot Wallström.
Noting that sexual violence during armed conflict remained systematic and widespread, the Security Council in 2010 adopted Resolution 1960. It provides a system for accountability for the implementation of Resolution 1820 and 1888, with institutional tools to combat impunity and specific steps needed for both the prevention of and protection from sexual violence in conflict. Resolution 1960 also takes the identification of suspected parties a step further, with a mandate for the Secretary General to list them in upcoming annual reports, i e “naming and shaming”. The Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict’s third annual report was the first document presenting such a list. It was released in February 2012.