LONDON — Special Envoy for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR,) Angelina Jolie, will co-chair a summit on ending sexual violence in conjunction with Foreign Secretary William Hague.
During the three-day event, over 100 countries will meet alongside over 900 international organizations. NGOs, survivors and experts from all parts of the world will convene to demonstrate their support for this issue. The scope and number of participants make this event the largest in history to address sexual violence during conflict.
The event is the result of a two-year campaign to raise awareness. Since launching the campaign, a Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, the movement has received committed support from 141 countries. The purpose of the summit is to move from the declaration to the implementation of practical methods to end the sexual violence problem.
Three notable countries participating in the summit are Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia. In these nations, sexual assault and violence have been, and continue to be, a weapon of war. In Bosnia, it is estimated that 50,000 women were made victims and still have not received justice. Sexual violence has occurred on an alarmingly large scale, which makes the presence of these three countries very important.
In opening up to the global community, the summit aims to achieve practical goals in an effort to bring an end to sexual violence during conflict.
Angelina Jolie and UNHCR hope to establish a new International Protocol for strengthening the documentation and prosecution of rape instances in conflict zones. It seeks to reduce its occurrence by training soldiers and peacekeepers to recognize the seriousness of sexual violence and to protect people against it. To help the victims, the summit hopes to increase support for survivors. Finally, it aims to change the cultural attitude that holds sexual violence as an inevitable or acceptable part of conflict.
The three days will include meetings and sessions during which NGOs and other organizations present can participate in the discussions. Along with these formal meetings, the event will be free and open to the public. For the public, the summit will present a number of topics related to sexual violence, including conflict prevention, women’s rights, victims of conflict, international justice and the broader problem of violence against women.
The summit intends to engage the public on these issues with films, performances, exhibitions and discussions. The event will also offer a chance to share the success stories of programs and policies from around the world that have succeeded in lessening the instances of sexual violence.
A meeting to specifically address Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group in Nigeria responsible for kidnapping more than 200 school girls in April and over 20 women last week, will be held on Thursday. Representatives from Nigeria and surrounding nations are scheduled to attend.
By allowing the event to be open not only to global representatives, but also to the public and the media, the summit seeks to educate and demonstrate the need for a united global initiative to end sexual violence during conflict.
– Kathleen Egan