Fiji has been represented at the UN Security Council open debate on, “Women, Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflicts”. The meeting held earlier this week in New York was chaired by Germany’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Heiko Mass.

Foreign Minister Hon. Heiko Mass pointed out that “the UN needs to place survivors of sexual violence in conflict areas at the heart of its work. The victims achieve justice, when we hear their voices and let them testify. We are giving the survivors the chance to stop being the victims”.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, while opening the Debate at the Council, highlighted the vast improvements in international law and the increasing focus of peacekeeping on conflict prevention and justice.

He stated that “in spite of a strong normative framework, the facts on the ground have not changed much, and the Council needs to do a lot more and far more urgently.” The Secretary-General’s report on Conflict Related Sexual Violence of 29th March 2019, to the UN Security council highlighted, how widespread sexual violence in conflicts have become. In the report, there are 140 recommendations, to assist the international community on ways to respond to the growing trend of systematic sexual violence as a war strategy.

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Satyendra Prasad congratulated the Council in adopting Resolution 2467 (2019), reiterating its demand for “the complete cessation with immediate effect by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence and calls for these parties to make and implement specific time-bound commitments to combat sexual violence.”

He reiterated Fiji’s support to UN Peacekeeping and peace operations, as being one of the key instruments available to the international community through which systematic violations can be addressed.

It was highlighted that all peacekeeping countries need to invest more resources to better prepare peacekeepers to identify early signs of systematic sexual violence in conflict areas and that getting more women into the peacekeeping force is an important starting point.

Ambassador Prasad stated that it is important to equip the peacekeepers with skills and competencies to capture and record evidence of systematic sexual violence and to be able to identify how the UN system can provide better support, safe passage and protection to women and girls in conflict areas.

It was highlighted that Fiji has acquired important lessons from its various peacekeeping deployments in the past to Iraq, South Sudan, Timor Leste and elsewhere. And that these experiences are helping it to shape its new peacekeeping preparations, whereby Fiji is working with its development partners like New Zealand and Australia to strengthen its peacekeeping preparation.

Fiji will also be working closely with other peacekeeping nations such as Ireland to build new competencies and skills.

Dr Prasad spoke on the importance of having peacekeeping missions to be sufficiently equipped, resourced and to have the soft skills to recognize signs of sexual violence early, record evidence, and to be able to work across the UN system to support victims. He said that the focus must always be on supporting the victims.