Today a panel discussion was held to discuss the Secretary General’s guidance note on reparations for conflict-related sexual violence. Beginning the discussion, Mr. Tolbert from the International Center for Transitional Justice stated that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s guidance report is a truly important policy document that can help design and implement these reparations. Victims of sexual violence have the right to prompt, adequate reparations, and reparations are one of several transitional justice measures states can use in post conflict scenarios to provide some repair to the victims. However, lack of political will and resources often hamper the implementation of reparations.
Following, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stated that the drafting of the guidance note was led by UN Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the document outlines principals and guidelines for an international response to conflict related sexual violence in the form of reparations. Sexual violence leaves profound lasting wounds, and the international community has a duty to help restore the dignity of survivors. Furthermore, rule of law and access to justice are necessary to combat impunity and help victims.
Next, Ms. Bangura, the Special Representative of the SG on Sexual Violence, said that failure to provide reparations perpetuates the cycle of violence. Furthermore, shame and stigmatization still surround rape, and reparations provide an opportunity to combat this. Reparations can include skills training and microcredit, and have the potential to help eliminate the unemployment, homelessness, and rejection faced by victims. She concluded her statement by saying that reparations need to translate from policy to practice.
Next, Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, gave a statement on UN Women’s work with women’s organizations and civil society to ensure that the voice of women are heard in building justice mechanisms. She stated that transformative reparations are needed, meaning not just one cash payment, but access to land rights, skills, and fistula surgeries for victims. Reparations are not only about justice; they are also about empowerment.
The Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Mr. Simonovic, stated that the Secretary General’s guidance note includes a comprehensive overview of principles to be applied in reparations programs including that the programs must be accessible and inclusive, designed with the participation of victims in mind, and reparations should have the potential to transform the conditions within society that allowed the violence to occur in the first place. However, despite these efforts, many victims’ rights to reparations have not been fulfilled. For example, no victim of sexual violence in the DRC has received any reparations. In Conclusion, H.E. Ms. Mejia Velez and Ms. Betancur shared the experiences of Colombia in combating sexual violence, and providing reparations.
Meeting Title: Dialogue with Member States on the rule of law at the international level “Presentation of the Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” (organized by the Rule of Law Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General)
Speakers: Mr. David Tolbert, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice; H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General; Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, Under-Secretary General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women; Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; H.E. Ms. Maria Emma Mejia Velez, Permanent Representative of Colombia; Ms. Paula Gaviria Betancur; Head of the Unit for Attention and Reparation Victims of Colombia
Date: 1 August 2014
Location: NLB 6, United Nations HQ, New York
Written By WIT Representative: Marli Kasdan