Angelina Jolie and William Hague to fight war-zone rape and sexual violence

 

The Government will spend a further £10 million on tackling war-zone sexual violence and violence against women and girls, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced today.

Mr Hague said the commitment was necessary to "end the treatment of rape and sexual violence as a secondary issue and to put women and women's rights front and centre in conflict resolution."

Half of the money (£5 million) will come from the Foreign Office (FCO), while the other half will come from the Department for International Development (DfID).

The UK's pledge will make up part of a £23 million package pledged by the G8 nations, whose foreign ministers are meeting in London today.

Mr Hague said: "We need to shrink and eradicate safe havens for those responsible for war-zone rape and this is a step towards doing that."

The Foreign Secretary said part of the funding would go into training the military to respond to conflict sexual violence.

That training would be extended to peacekeeping groups of other nations, he said.

"This is an absolutely crucial step, since members of armed forces are often the first to come into contact with survivors and could also have an important role to play in helping to change male attitudes," Mr Hague said.

"Now that we have put war-zone rape on the international agenda, it must never slip off it again and it must be given even greater prominence.

"Ending the 17th and 18th Century slave trade was deemed impossible and it was eradicated. Achieving global action against landmines, cluster munitions, climate change, was thought impossible, yet the world acts on these issues.

"Only two weeks ago we secured an international arms trade treaty, one that many people thought could never be adopted.

"And today we know the facts about sexual violence in conflict and we have the means to address it, so we must not look away or rest until the world faces up to its responsibilities to eradicate this violence."

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "Britain will not stand on the sidelines while so many are denied the chance to reach their full potential and live safe, happy lives.

"We know that girls and women are at their most vulnerable at times of conflict or humanitarian disaster but we need to know what works best to tackle the terrible, often sexual, violencethey face."

International diplomacy must be followed through with action on the ground, according to poverty charity Care International UK.

The charity's chief executive, Geoffrey Dennis, who advises Mr Hague on preventing sexual violence, said: "The G8 has today sent a signal from the world's most powerful states that impunity for rape in war will no longer be tolerated.

"But, to really make a difference, international diplomacy must now be followed through with the long, hard work on the ground to better support survivors, reform national security and justice institutions, and tackle the root causes of the violence.

"There will be no quick fix for the lawlessness and brutality in which these horrific crimes occur but if today's commitments result in more concerted action by G8 nations, that could help stem the violence."

Yawo Douvon, the charity's director in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said: "Right now, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, frontline services for survivors are chronically underfunded.

"The justice system is on its knees and the peace process hangs in the balance.

"Will the G8 nations use everything in their power to turn this situation around? That's the test for the commitments they've made today."

Brendan Cox, of Save The Children, said: "It is great that G8 countries are putting funds behind their words on preventing sexual violence and the UK's leadership has been instrumental in making this happen.

"The majority of victims of sexual violence, especially in conflict situations, are children so we must ensure these funds reach the most vulnerable children as a matter of urgency."

Tanya Barron, chief executive of international children's charity Plan UK, said: "Tackling sexual violence during conflict and responding to the needs of survivors is crucial.

"We welcome the G8 foreign ministers' recognition that such serious abuse does not simply stop when a peace agreement is signed.

"Traditional support networks like extended family and health and social services are often shattered during fighting, meaning sexual violence can become commonplace and girls are amongst those at greatest risk.

"Today's commitments to address these human rights violations, and respond to the needs of girls, both during and after war, are vital."

PA

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