I thank the Foreign Secretary Hague and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict for their determined leadership in mobilising global attention and action to respond to, prevent, indeed eliminate the horrific scourge of conflict-related sexual violence.
Sexual violence is a deeply pervasive, often invisible and utterly devastating tool of war that terrorises women, men, boys and girls, and destroys families and communities. It is a grave human rights violation.
Deterring would-be perpetrators is at the very heart of prevention efforts. We must counter the culture of impunity.
While we have recognised that States have an obligation to investigate and prosecute sexual violence crimes, we have seen only a tiny number of perpetrators brought to justice.
This sends a dangerous message that sexual violence is still tolerated; which tragically so often is the case.
As an international community, we must act.
This is why Australia so strongly supports the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, and the Declaration of commitment. I am pleased to note 111 States have committed to supporting it. And it is why I am so personally honoured to be a Champion of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative.
To my mind, the Initiative is an essential step in raising awareness and developing responsive capacity to address sexual violence.
Coordinated action is critical to ensuring international and regional initiatives are complementary and have a multiplying effect.
National capacity must be strengthened to translate substantive laws into successful investigations and prosecutions. This needs strong political will and national leadership.
In this context, Australia acknowledges the work being done by the UN, civil society and others to develop rapid deployment expertise.
Australia is working to complement these efforts through the development of our own sexual violence experts within our Australian Civilian Corps, which assists the delivery of our aid.
Preventing sexual violence also requires us to recognise and address the nexus between sexual violence and weak rule of law, illicit extraction of natural resources, forcible displacement of civilians, security sector reform, and the often all too easy availability of small arms, and the illicit trade in them.
And we must ensure in all our efforts that we do not lose sight of the survivors of sexual violence. We must ensure they receive the care and support they need.
We must work together to share experience and expertise to prevent sexual violence crimes, and to challenge the culture of impunity by holding perpetrators to account.
We must be resolute in our determination that these crimes will not be allowed to continue unabated.
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