Source: WHO

What Does UNSCR 1820 Say?

Establishing a link between sexual violence during situations of armed conflicts and the maintenance of international peace and security, Resolution 1820, a document containing sixteen Operative Paragraphs (OP) aims at addressing issues of sexual violence against civilians especially women and girls in conflict and post conflict countries.

First, the Resolution requests the prevention of sexual violence. It affirms that sexual violence during times of armed conflict can affect international peace and security. Thus, the first operative paragraph of Security Council Resolution 1820 stresses the possibility of sexual violence to exacerbate situations of armed conflict and therefore to impede the restoration of international peace and security. With respect to this clause, it affirms that “effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts of sexual violence can significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security, and expresses its readiness, when considering situations on the agenda of the Council, to, where necessary, adopt appropriate steps to address widespread or systematic sexual violence”.

Second, since women are especially targeted for sexual violence, the Resolution seeks the protection of women and girls from sexual violence. As stated in the resolution, all parties to armed conflicts are required to immediately put an end to acts of sexual violence against civilians and to “take appropriate measures to protect civilians including women and girls” from sexual violence. The measures include among others, “enforcing appropriate military disciplinary measures…and evacuation of women and children under imminent threat of sexual violence to safety” (OP 3). To ensure that peacekeeping troops are better prepared to protect women and girls, troop contributing countries are to consult with the Secretary-General concerning measures to be taken in heightening “awareness and responsiveness of their personnel to protect civilians…and prevent sexual violence against women and girls in conflict and post conflict situations” (OP 8). As a way to ensure this protection, the Resolution calls for higher percentage of females in peacekeeping forces sent to conflict-affected countries. For safety, the Secretary-General is also requested to provide useful mechanisms to protect refugees and internally displaced persons in and around camps run by the UN from sexual violence in particular (OP 10).

Third, UNSCR 1820 requests for the training of the agents involved in ensuring the protection of women and girls from sexual violence. To this end, troops are to be trained on the categorical prohibition of all forms of sexual violence against civilians (OP 3). The Secretary-General is requested to consult with the Security Council as well as with other bodies including relevant states to provide “appropriate training programmes for all peacekeeping and humanitarian personnel deployed by the United Nations” in order for these personnel to be in a better position to “prevent, recognize and respond to sexual violence and other forms of violence against civilians” (OP 6). Countries which contribute troops to peacekeeping missions are also to take the necessary “preventative action including pre-deployment and in-theatre awareness training” (OP 7).

Fourth, in order to have needs of women duly addressed, the resolution encourages representation of women at decision-making processes. The Secretary-General is therefore requested to “encourage dialogue to address this issue in the context of broader discussions of conflict resolution between appropriate UN officials and the parties to the conflict” (OP 3). And the dialogue must reflect views “expressed by women of affected local communities”. For this, UNSC Resolution 1820 expresses the need to have women effectively represented in discussions pertaining to prevention and resolution of conflicts, maintenance of peace and security and post conflict peace building (OP 12).

Fifth, Resolution 1820 calls for an end to impunity. Due to the fact that sexual violence was not given serious attention, perpetrators enjoyed impunity. The resolution affirms that rape and all other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity or genocide and that perpetrators should be prosecuted, to bring impunity to an end (OP 4). It also demands that women and girls be given equal access to justice and protection under the law. States in conflicts are also entreated to fulfill their obligation in meting out punishment to perpetrators of sexual violence.

Sixth, UNSCR 1820 demands the strengthening of appropriate institutions. Health and judicial institutions are important in the fight against sexual violence. Resolution 1820 also entreats all entities and bodies including states, the UN and financial institutions concerned, to support the development and strengthening of national judicial systems as well as health systems which will offer assistance to victims of sexual violence (OP 13).

Seventh, to see to the effective implementation of UNSCR 1820, the Resolution requests for reporting on issues of sexual violence. As a result, the Secretary-General is to submit a report on the patterns and prevalence of sexual violence in conflict affected countries as well as on the activities made both on the part of UN bodies and of governments regarding the implementation of this resolution (OP 15). The deadline for submission of this report (which is to be done only once) is June 30, 2009, that is a little over a year after Resolution 1820 was passed. In his report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General is expected to provide recommendations and strategies spelling out methods to effectively bring the situation of sexual violence under control.

Finally, to ensure that the operative paragraphs of Resolution 1820 are effectively carried out, the resolution encourages the development and implementation of policies aligned with its provisions. The already existent policy of zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse is to be reinforced by the Secretary-General. Also, apposite regional and sub-regional bodies are to be involved in developing and implementing policies for the benefit of women who have been victims of sexual violence in armed conflict (OP 14).

Coming from the Security Council, the highest organ of the United Nations whose resolutions are binding on Member States as charged by the UN Charter, Resolution 1820 is therefore supposed to be implemented by concerned Member States, thus under situations of armed conflicts and post-conflict reconstruction. Other stakeholders are also encouraged by the resolution to offer assistance where needed.

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