[Dateline: New York | Author: DPKO]
On 10 October 2008, Lieutenant General Chikadibia Isaac Obiakor, Military Adviser, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, participated in a joint European Union/UNIFEM Conference in Brussels on Implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325) and 1820 (S/RES/1820) in EU Missions: Improving Immediate and Long Term Security for Women.
The conference, organized jointly by the European Union and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), is one of many steps being undertaken by the international community and the UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict as part of the combined effort towards developing a comprehensive policy framework to combat violence against women in response to the General Assembly resolution 62/134, (A/RES/62/134) Security Council resolution 1325 and 1820.
The Conference, held at EU Headquarters in Brussels, focused its discussions on producing recommendations necessary to prevent sexual violence against women and girls. More than 300 participants from Member States, civil society, NGOs and various entities of the EU and the UN attended the conference.
Addressing the conference, General Obiakor stated that sexual violence against women and girls remained a serious security challenge, which hinders sustainable peace and stability necessary for quick recovery in post conflict communities. It is therefore necessary to develop a holistic and comprehensive approach that will bring together the UN, EU and others in partnerships to articulate strategies and generate resources to stop the continued prevalence of this scourge in the post conflict areas of the world.
Stressing that the impunity must be stopped, the military adviser stated there is a real need to maximize DPKO Office of Military Affairs' (OMA) interface with the EU and other partners, embracing a strategically coherent approach in order to harmonize and optimize existing capabilities for preventing sexual violence.
He briefed the group on the initiatives undertaken by DPKO to prevent sexual violence, drew linkages between the work of UN peacekeeping and the EU, and highlighted key areas for better cooperation to ensure security for women in conflict and post conflict situations.
The General reminded the gathering of the four important entry points identified by DPKO to guide the work of peacekeepers in protecting women and girls from sexual violence: guidance, resources, training and political leadership.
He stressed the importance of clear mandates and concepts of operation in directing the military commanders of multinational UN peacekeeping forces to protect women and girls from sexual violence. This is without prejudice to the guidance on the protection of civilians. He further emphasized the need for DPKO/DFS (Department of Field Support) to consistently address implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820 in the early mission planning processes including the monitoring and evaluation phases.
The Military Adviser emphasized that DPKO, and particularly his own Office of Military Affairs continues to encourage Member States to deploy female military personnel, including personnel with expertise in dealing with sexual violence. The Department has initiated sharing of good practices of effective strategies for recruitment and deployment of women for peacekeeping; and has encouraged Member States to review options for establishing incentives to enable women with families to serve in peacekeeping.
Peacekeeping standardized materials for pre-deployment and in-mission training will include key messages and guidance for preventing and responding to sexual violence. DPKO will continue to encourage Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) / Police Contributing Countries (PCCs) to ensure that their peacekeepers are adequately trained and equipped to carry out the mandated tasks - TCCs retain the responsibility for pre-deployment training of their troops - and will continue to advocate with Member States to ensure that pre-deployment training becomes a mandatory requirement for service in peacekeeping.
On this point, the General emphasized the role of the Security Council, the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General (SRSGs), and the Force Commanders who are responsible for setting the tone to ensure that priority attention is given to the protection of women and children from sexual violence. He added that the host countries could equally help by identifying the gaps and assisting the UN and other partners in better protecting women and girls, especially in the immediate post-conflict environment.
On DPKO’s partnership with the European Union (EU)
Citing the example of successful cooperation with EUFOR-DRC, deployed by the EU to support the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, General Obiakor commended the EU for its efforts in stabilizing DRC during the crucial 2006 Presidential elections. He also commended the EU for its field work in the important areas of Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform.
He emphasized the need for a holistic and comprehensive planning to make sure that functionality is achieved in protecting women and children from sexual violence, by strengthening weak security institutions which could in turn avert impunity by bringing perpetrators to justice.
General Obiakor concluded that the success and sustainability of our efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict situations requires collective engagement of all partners to ensure that the goals of promoting women’s rights and empowering have to take a central role in the building and consolidating peace in post-conflict countries. The UN cannot shoulder this task alone.