Statement by Minna-Liina Lind, Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia at the Security Council Open Debate on “Women, Peace and Security: Responding to human trafficking in situations of conflict-related sexual violence” on 2 June 2016
Estonia welcomes the report submitted in April by the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence and commends the work of the Team of Experts on Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, as well as the efforts of the UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict.
With heavy heart we read the Secretary-General’s latest report. Sexual violence in conflict is a continuing concern and the drastic increase in the number of victims of trafficking is striking. As a European Union Member State, Estonia fully aligns itself with the statement delivered here today by the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation. Given the cross-border dynamics of human trafficking and an evolving criminal infrastructure designed to exploit refugees, it is critical to have a good regional and sub-regional cooperation. We support closer collaboration between countries and organizations on this matter.
The global context of peace and security is changing and international community is facing new challenges. Therefore, Mr President, let me briefly touch upon two aspects to effectively tackle conflict-related sexual violence and the growing trend of trafficking in persons.
First, we need to keep on promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in order to address the root causes of conflict-related sexual violence. It is important to raise awareness and stop the prevalence of stereotypical attitudes, social norms and practices that support and reproduce discrimination and violence against women. Estonia has included protection of women in national strategies on conflict prevention and last year adopted its second National Action Plan for years 2015-2019 to implement Security Council resolution 1325.
Secondly, there must be no room for impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes. Perpetrators must be held accountable. In this regard, Estonia reiterates the important role of the International Criminal Court in situations where States are unable or unwilling to bring perpetrators to justice domestically. However, for perpetrators to be held accountable it is important that those who have suffered from conflict-related sexual violence will report such violence and are not held back by fear and stigma. This once more emphasises the importance of awareness raising and changing social norms.
Furthermore, we would like to express serious concern over the significant increase in the number of allegations of sexual exploitation by UN peacekeepers and in this regard Estonia fully supports the Secretary-General´s zero tolerance policy.
Mr President, it is of utmost importance to continue to recognize and address the nexus between trafficking in persons and conflict-related sexual violence. Too many individuals, families and communities have been affected and devastated. Preventing and responding to sexual violence is vital to resolving conflicts, enabling development and building sustainable peace. The international community has to work together to respond to the urgency of this issue, and Estonia is ready to actively engage in those efforts.