Angelina Jolie: Wartime rape can be prevented and must be confronted

British Foreign Secretary William Hague and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie

Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees Angelina Jolie spoke at the launch of the G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in London on 11th April 2013. Below is a transcript of her speech.

Foreign Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, hundreds of thousands of women and children have been sexually assaulted, tortured, or forced into sexual slavery in the wars of our generation. Time and again the world has failed to prevent this abuse, or to hold attackers accountable.

Rape has been treated as something that simply happens in war; perpetrators have learnt that they can get away with it; and victims have been denied justice. But wartime rape is not inevitable. This violence can be prevented, and it must be confronted.

There are many individuals and NGOs who have worked tirelessly to address these crimes for years. But the international political will has been sorely lacking. I have heard survivors of rape from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo say that they feel the world simply does not care about them. And who could blame them?

For too long they have been the forgotten victims of war: responsible for none of the harm, but bearing the worst of the pain. But today, I believe, their voices have been heard, and that we finally have some hope to offer them.

I welcome the long-overdue stand that the G8 has taken, and this landmark Declaration. And I want to thank the Governments of the countries that have made funding commitments today.

I particularly endorse the Declaration’s strong words on rights and freedoms for women and children, and its promise to include women in peace processes and democratic transitions.

I welcome the recognition of male victims of sexual violence; and the practical action promised to help to lift the stigma from survivors and provide rehabilitation – particularly for children.

There is no choice between peace and justice: peace requires justice. So I welcome the pledge by the G8 to regard rape and sexual violence in armed conflict as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions; and to give no amnesty to those who commit these crimes. And I fully support the work that will now begin on an International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, and look forward to its adoption.

Foreign Ministers, millions of people have been waiting for the commitments you have just made, and they will be watching to see them implemented. You have promised to work together to raise awareness of sexual violence and to bring down the barriers to justice. And this significance cannot be understated.

It is also encouraging to see men in leadership positions speaking out against rape, and I hope many others will follow your example.

I pay tribute to Zainab Bangura for her courageous and wonderful work; and I want to thank William Hague for his leadership: Rape is not a women’s issue, or a humanitarian issue, it is a global issue and it belongs here at the top table of international decision-making where he has put it.

So I look forward to campaigning with him at the UN, and I call on other governments to make this cause their priority. If they do, this will be the start of a new global alliance against warzone rape and sexual violence; and finally an end to impunity. Thank you.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie