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Canada’s National Statement, Security Council Open VTC on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence

17 July 2020

Mister President,

This statement is on behalf of Canada.

Canada is proud to have a feminist foreign policy, which places gender equality at the core of our global engagement and decision-making. There is incontrovertible evidence that gender equality is essential to achieve lasting peace and security, sustainable development, and inclusive economic growth. We all have a right to equal participation, non-discrimination and protection from violence.

While many achievements have been made in these past two decades since the adoption of resolution 1325, this anniversary year calls upon all of our countries to reflect on where improvements must be made, and how further action must be taken to deliver results in implementation. Stopping the continued and widespread occurrence of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict is one such area. We all have a collective obligation to turn our commitments into actions.

Women and girls, members of the LGBTQI community, and others belonging to marginalised groups continue to be targeted with sexual and gender-based violence in fragile and conflict-affected situations, the effects of which have only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 epidemic. We are appalled by the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders that finds that sexual and gender-based violence, including in conflict-affected contexts, is often linked to the rise of misogynistic, sexist and homophobic speech by political leaders.

Understanding the root causes of sexual and gender-based violence, and taking concrete action to address them, is crucial to achieving a survivor-centred response that provides short- and long-term support for individuals and communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of recognising the gendered aspects of public health crises, such as increases in domestic violence and scapegoating of LGBTQI and other minority groups. The importance of considering gender-based violence services as essential and lifesaving, and the responsibility of all actors involved in COVID-19 response efforts has been brought to the forefront. The pandemic has also highlighted the continued need for gender-responsive policies, and for initiatives that support victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, specifically women-led grassroots organisations, which need adequate funding. Canada has committed an additional $3 million to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund in order to ensure gender-perspectives are at the forefront of peacebuilding and pandemic responses and an additional $2 million to the UN Trust Fund on Violence Against Women’s COVID-19 response.

Health systems are straining to respond adequately to the pandemic, while the need to protect comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to safe abortion and contraception, must remain a priority. Canada will continue to support the important work of our partners who are ensuring that quality sexual and reproductive health services continue to be available and accessible and will work to protect advocacy efforts that promote rights for all, especially the most marginalised. Canada has announced $8.9 million in new international aid to ensure women and girls around the world have access to safe abortions and reproductive health services, with an additional $1.2 million to provide technical support and capacity-building in the humanitarian sector to support sexual and reproductive health in fragile and conflict settings.

At home in Canada, we are also working to prevent and respond to the levels of violence and discrimination faced by Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people during the pandemic. This is a stark reminder of the intersecting ways in which sexual and gender-based violence can occur, including in our own society. Canada remains committed to promoting the rights and safety of Indigenous peoples in Canada and has announced new funding to meet the needs of Indigenous women and children experiencing and fleeing domestic violence, with additional funds to meet the increased demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada is also expanding its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security to address this type of violence.

We must ensure that the diverse voices of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict are fully reflected in our efforts to stop its all-too widespread occurrence. This requires context-sensitive and tailored responses that also address the root causes of violence and conflict.  Canada recognises the significant normative progress that has been made to address sexual violence in conflict. However, we must take the necessary measures to address gaps in implementation and ensure this progress is reflected by universal compliance, supported by the necessary enforcement mechanisms, including UNSC sanctions regimes. Canada welcomes the development of the Murad Code, which will enable the international community to increase accountability for conflict-related sexual violence and support the needs, safety, and rights of victims and survivors through a survivor-centred approach.

COVID-19 has taught us to adapt our efforts to new challenges. Canada remains committed to preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence, and advancing gender equality. In this 20th anniversary year of resolution 1325, we cannot accept any setbacks.

Thank you.

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