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Sexual Violence in Conflict

With the aim of enhancing mediation knowledge and expertise, the Gender Peace and Security and the Mediation Support Units have developed projects focusing on specific issues that arise in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. Current projects include addressing conflict-related sexual violence, designing ceasefires and mediation around natural resources.

Addressing Sexual Violence in Conflict in Ceasefire and Peace Agreements

In today’s violent conflicts, civilians have increasingly become deliberate targets of war. One of the most devastating forms of violence waged against civilians is conflict-related sexual violence. It is used as a tactic of war to terrorize communities, displace populations, deter opposition movements, affect reproduction and ethnicity, and undermine community cohesion. Highly effective, its use traumatizes, humiliates and instils fear in communities, breaking identities, causing lifelong health impacts and creating enduring ethnic, family and community divides.
Conflict-related sexual violence is as old as war itself. It has been used as a method of warfare in conflicts ranging from World War II to Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo to Colombia, Myanmar to the Syrian Arab Republic – affecting women, men and children alike. Depending on the circumstances of an offense, conflict-related sexual violence can constitute a war crime, crime against humanity, act of torture, or constituent act of genocide, under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The Security Council considers sexual violence, when used as a method or tactic of conflict, a threat to international security and an impediment to peace. If left unaddressed, such violence can be used to wage acts of war outside the purview of ceasefire and peace agreements. This can trigger cycles of vengeance and vigilantism that risk undermining the mediation process and potential agreements.

The United Nations requires its mediators to address conflict-related sexual violence. To this end, in 2012, the gender team, then part of the Mediation Support Unit, in the Policy and Mediation Division of the  Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) issued Guidance for Mediators: Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Ceasefire and Peace Agreements.

Key principles include an obligation to engage parties in discussing the issue and to work towards firm commitments to cease all acts of conflict-related sexual violence. The guidelines also require that conflict-related sexual violence be included in the definition of acts covered by a ceasefire, be monitored alongside other potential violations of ceasefires, and are excluded from amnesty provisions.

Implementing DPA's 'Guidance for Mediators on Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence'

Central African Republic: 11 January 2013 Ceasefire Agreement and Declaration of Principles

A December 2012 country-wide offensive, launched by factions of Central African armed groups under the rebel coalition "Seleka", was eventually halted through the initiation of dialogue in Libreville, Gabon, and a signed Ceasefire Agreement and Declaration of Principles.

As part of the Department of Political Affairs’ efforts in providing mediation-related support to the crisis, the 11 January 2013 Ceasefire Agreement and Declaration of Principles contain provisions that:

  • Require the immediate halt of sexual violence by the conflicting parties.

  • Make sexual violence a prohibited act in the definition of ceasefire.

  • Require that sexual violence is addressed in a programme of urgent priority agreed to by the parties for the consolidation of peace.



Experts Welcome New Guidance

Bosnia: Healing the Wounds of War



  • January, 2012 | Author: United Nations (DPA, now DPPA)

    Guidance for Mediators: Addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Ceasefire and Peace Agreements

    Prepared in response to the request of the General Assembly and in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, the Guidance aims to inform the design and management of mediation processes. It is intended as a resource for mediators, States and other actors supporting mediation efforts but is also relevant for conflict parties, civil society and other stakeholders.