“Reparations are not just about justice. They are also about empowerment” – Executive Director
Speech by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to present the Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence during a Dialogue with Member States on the Rule of Law at the International Level, New York, 1 August 2014.
Date: 01 August 2014
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Deputy Secretary-General, Excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends,
I am so pleased to be able to present to you, with OHCHR, the recently adopted Guidance Note of the Secretary-General on Reparations for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.
This Note is the product of many hands. It is the result of extensive consultations, expert research, interviews with a range of stakeholders and key developments in the field.
Of all the measures designed to seek redress for past human rights violations, reparations are the most victim-focused.
Reparations are also the justice mechanism most consistently prioritized by women, post-conflict.
That is why this is a priority area for UN Women.
In 2011 our first flagship report – Progress of the World’s Women – was dedicated to women’s access to justice.
The implementation of gender-responsive reparations programmes is one of the Report’s 10 recommendations to make justice systems work for women.
But reparations programmes have too often failed to address women’s needs and priorities, or to adequately respond to gender-specific harm suffered during conflict.
We are continuing to see the development of the policy and law we need to deliver on meaningful redress for victims.
And we still need stronger action: the implementation of policy, and the gender-sensitive delivery of reparations programmes.
We know it is possible.
In a number of countries, UN Women works with women’s organizations and civil society to ensure that the voices of women are heard. So that women are involved in the design of justice mechanisms. So that women’s testimony is recorded by truth commissions and commissions of inquiry. And so that crimes are accounted for in courts and reparations can be made.
In Sierra Leone, UN Women works through the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women to support reparations for women who survived sexual violence during the conflict.
We are currently finalizing our support to the Libya Commission for Reparations – the first of its kind set up specifically for victims of sexual violence.
In the DRC, UN Women and OHCHR conducted consultations with survivors and their communities to inform an assistance programme that OHCHR has taken forward.
We are piloting work with UNDP and others to improve the link between reparations and development efforts, to realize the transformative impact of reparations that this Guidance Note outlines.
I would like to note Colombia’s efforts in this regard in particular, of bringing together land restitution, reform and gender-sensitive redress within a comprehensive reparations programme.
Transformative reparations mean not just looking back, but looking back in order to go forward. To redress both the single violation as well as the inequality that leaves women vulnerable to violence.
It means not just a once-off cash payment, but access to land and inheritance rights for the wives of the disappeared.
It means land restitution, coupled with land redistribution and access to credit, skills and means to transform that land into a source of livelihood.
“Transformative reparations” means providing fistula surgery to survivors of rape, as well as income-generating skills to help them build a future.
Ultimately, it means investing in gender equality. Because societies where women are treated as equal citizens are societies where there is greater and lasting peace.
In the spirit of Security Council resolution 1325 and the six resolutions that have followed, this Guidance Note emphasizes that survivors of conflict-related sexual violence must be at the centre of this change.
Victims must be meaningfully involved and consulted throughout reparations programmes.
This may mean outreach so that victims are made aware of their rights in a language they understand;
It could mean the provision of transport or childcare facilities so women can register as beneficiaries; or it could mean the implementation of confidentiality measures to create safe environments for those coming forward.
The Guidance Note also highlights the need for reparations programmes to be comprehensive. So that such programmes recognize and respond to the reality that human rights violations affect men and women differently.
My friends, I know you share our commitment to justice for survivors of these terrible crimes. And that you share our understanding that political will from Member States will be critical to achieving justice.
Recently I was in Nigeria and in the Central African Republic. I am still reminded of the horror and the fear that take over entire communities when the bodies of women and girls are targeted.
In much of the world, it is painfully evident that impunity remains rampant and that redress for survivors is still far too scarce.
Reparations are not just about justice. They are also about empowerment.
And we know that empowered women and empowered communities are the best defense against cycles of despair radicalization and violence.
We must we ensure that this Guidance Note is a tool of reference in the real world– not just another instruction manual on the desk!
Along with my OHCHR colleagues, I am proud to present this Guidance Note today.