Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / Unamid

Improving the Effectiveness of Responses to Conflictrelated Sexual Violence

Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / Unamid

2015 is a significant year for global efforts to address conflict-related sexual violence. This October, a high-level review of the Security Council’s landmark resolution on Women, Peace & Security (Resolution 1325) will be conducted. Additionally, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia will soon launch its Legacy Project on Prosecuting Sexual Violence, setting out lessons learned from more than twenty years of international prosecutions.

Over the past two decades, there has been a global, normative shift concerning conflict-related sexual violence. Such violence is no longer seen as inevitable or incidental, but rather as a threat to international peace and security. This shift has been brought about, in part, by the political and legal frameworks provided by 1325 and the resolutions and initiatives it triggered, as well as the statutes and case law of international criminal courts and tribunals. The issue continues to sit high on the international agenda – it was addressed by the G8 in 2013 and the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in 2014, and is the subject of a comprehensive, dedicated policy recently unveiled by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Despite these unquestionably valuable gains, sexual violence in conflict persists. The Hague Institute therefore seeks to improve the effectiveness of national and international responses to conflict-related sexual violence by proposing how current research can better inform
policymaking. The Institute also facilitates knowledge sharing within and between international justice mechanisms and supports the transfer of knowledge and skills between international and national professionals.

In June 2014, the Transitional Justice Fellowship featured a module dedicated to fact-finding and accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. The Hague Institute and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa organized this program for mid-career professionals from twelve sub-Saharan African countries, many of whom continue to work on countering conflict-related sexual violence in their home countries.

In March 2015, an expert roundtable was held to identify concrete measures to strengthen national capacity to address international sexual and gender-based crimes. This closed-door event was followed by a well-attended public panel discussion on current and future strategies for tackling such crimes. The Hague Institute organized these events in its capacity as a founding member of the International Criminal Justice Consortium, in partnership with Sweden and Botswana – the co-focal points for complementarity of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC. In June 2015, during a plenary panel at the annual meeting of the Academic Council on the United Nations System, researcher Sash Jayawardane discussed how to harness the international peace and justice agendas for a more effective response to sexual violence in armed conflict.

The Hague Institute’s future work on conflict-related sexual violence builds on these efforts. Researchers Sash Jayawardane and Jill Coster van Voorhout will focus on strategies for preventing conflict-related sexual violence at the intersection of peace, security, and justice, and facilitate peer-to-peer expert exchanges on issues such as fact-finding, law-making, and adjudication related to sexual violence in armed conflict.

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