The agenda is adopted. I should like to inform the Council that I have received letters from the representatives of Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Liberia, Lichtenstein, Mexico, Myanmar, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Venezuela, in which they request to be invited to participate in the consideration of the item on the Council’s agenda.
In accordance with the usual practice, I propose, with the consent of the Council, to invite those representatives to participate in the consideration without the right to vote, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter and Rule 37 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure. Hearing no objection, it is so decided.
I invite the aforementioned representatives to take the seats reserved for them at the side of the Council chamber. In accordance with the understanding reached in the Council’s prior consultations, I shall take it that the Security Council agrees to extend invitations under Rule 39 of its provisional rules of procedure to His Excellency Mr. Srgjan Kerim, the President of the General Assembly, Major General Patrick Cammaert, former Division Commander of the United Missions – United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, His Excellency Yukio Takasu, the Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Japan.
It is so decided.
I should like to inform the Council that I have received a letter dated 18 June 2008 from the Permanent Representative of South Africa in which he requests that the Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, His Excellency Ramtane Lamamra, be invited to participate in the consideration of the item in accordance with Rule 39 of the Council’s provisional rules of procedure.
If I hear no objection, I shall take it that the Council agrees to extend an invitation under Rule 39 of its provisional rules of procedure to His Excellency Mr. Lamamra.
There being no objection, it is so decided. I invite His Excellency Mr. Lamamra to take his seat reserved for him at the side of the Council chamber.
The Council will now begin its consideration of Item 2 of the agenda. Members of the Council have before them Document S/2008/403, which contains the text of a draft resolution submitted by Armenia, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.
I should like to draw the attention of the Council members to document S/2008/364 containing a letter dated 4 June 2008 from the Permanent Representative of the United States transmitting a concept paper on the item under consideration.
I should also like to draw attention to future document S/2008/402 containing a letter dated 16 June 2008 from the Chargé d'affaires of the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom, transmitting the report of the Wilton Park conference on “Women targeted or affected by armed conflict: What role for military peacekeepers.”
With the forbearance of my colleagues, I would like to make the introduction – to make the introductory remarks of my country in my national capacity.
Hearing no objection, I will proceed and I promise to be short.
Thank you all for joining us. And I would especially like to thank Secretary General Ban for his leadership. I want to commend you, Mr. Secretary General, for your commitment to increasing the number of women candidates for UN Special Representative and for Special Envoy positions.
When I, along with the members of the women leaders working group, first began looking at this issue, we realized that in the 60 years of UN peacekeeping, only seven women had held the post of Special Representative to the Secretary General. You immediately took the lead in helping to address that, Mr. Secretary General. And today, Margrethe Loi of Denmark is now the Special Representative in Liberia. We applaud you for your commitment and we look forward to working with you on this critical issue.
I also want to commend all of you here today, my fellow Council members, and I want to thank a number who have traveled from very far to show their dedication to this important issue of ending the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence as instruments of warfare. Rape is a crime that can never be condoned, yet women and girls in conflict situations around the world have been subjected to widespread and deliberate acts of sexual violence. As many of you know, for years, there’s been a debate about whether or not sexual violence against women is a security issue for this forum to address.
I am proud that today, we respond to that lingering question with a resounding yes. This world body now acknowledges that sexual violence in conflict zones is indeed a security concern. We affirm that sexual violence profoundly affects not only the health and safety of women, but the economic and social stability of their nations.
Today’s resolution establishes a mechanism for bringing these atrocities to light. Specifically, the resolution requests that the Secretary General prepare an action plan for collecting information on the use of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict and then reporting that information periodically to the Council.
We already know of the unimaginable brutality against women that exists in some parts of the world. In Burma, for instance, social – soldiers have regularly raped women and girls even as young as eight years old. And I must note that what is tragic also in that country is that instead of being allowed to take the office as the elected leader of Burma’s government, Aung San Suu Kyi is marking her birthday this very day under house arrest. We cannot forget, as we examine this issue, other women activists who struggle for freedom and environment -- in violent environments.
We’re concerned about the issue of women and violence across the world in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sudan and to many other places. And as an international community, we have a special responsibility to punish perpetrators of sexual violence who are representatives of international organizations. Last year, there were reports of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers in several UN missions and by staff at the UN Mission in Liberia.
The encouraging news is that steps have been taken to address this. One of the perpetrators is serving a sentence in his country and several other cases remain under investigation. This situation should serve as a model for all countries contributing troops to UN operations. While the individual perpetrator is ultimately responsible for the abuse, member states are responsible for disciplining and holding their troops accountable.
Finally, we must work together to provide the necessary protection and assistance for victims of sexual violence. In recent years, the United States has provided more than $40 million to protect women and girls in Darfur and to provide for sexual violence prevention and responses to projects – response projects worldwide. We have also addressed the issue of sexual violence by devoting $528 million over the last seven fiscal years to fighting human trafficking, another grave abuse of human dignity that is all too frequently committed against women and girls, especially in conflict situations.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the most important ways that we must measure the value of our international community is by how effective we are in protecting and providing justice for the most vulnerable of our members. When women and girls are preyed upon and raped, the international community cannot be silent or inactive. It is our responsibility to be their advocates and their defenders. We are taking an important step today that will enable us better to meet that goal. And I want to thank you all for being here to show your strong support.
I would now like to resume my function as President of the Council with your forbearance. In accordance with the understanding reached among Council members, I wish to remind all speakers that they should limit their statements to no more than five minutes in order to enable the Council to carry out its work expeditiously. Delegations with lengthy statements are kindly requested to circulate the text in writing and to deliver a condensed version when speaking in the chamber.
I welcome the participation, particularly today, of the Secretary General His Excellency Ban Ki-moon and I invite him to take the floor. Mr. Secretary General.