Leading female campaigners, UNICEF UK and the Foreign Secretary William Hague met today to discuss how to drive forward international action to end the rape and abuse of children in war zones.
The group – including UNICEF UK Deputy Executive Director Anita Tiessen and human rights barrister Amal Alamuddin – visited the Foreign Office for talks on how to deliver change for children ahead of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London in June. They were joined by Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC and Mumsnet Campaign Manager Rowan Davies.
“Sadly children are some of the most at risk of rape and abuse in war zones and the impact on their physical and social wellbeing can be catastrophic,” says Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK Anita Tiessen.
“It is admirable and vital that the UK Government has taken the lead in addressing this international crisis and has organised a crucial summit in London in June.”
“Now world leaders must seize this opportunity to take urgent action to protect children from sexual violence in conflict - and support child survivors around the world.”
The meeting was arranged after the women wrote a letter to The Times newspaper in March, along with other prominent women such as author J.K. Rowling, international fashion designer Victoria Beckham, UNICEF UK Ambassador Jemima Khan and Mumsnet Co-Founder and CEO Justine Roberts.
They highlighted that during conflict children are at huge risk of abuse and violence as networks that usually protect them – like social services and extended family – often break down.
“Under international law, the widespread or systematic rape of children in conflict zones can amount to a crime against humanity,” says barrister Amal Alamuddin.
“Those who carry out these horrific acts must be held accountable."
"UNICEF knows from its experience on the ground that sexual violence against children often goes unreported as children fear stigma and retribution or because robust processes do not exist to collect evidence," continues Amal Alamuddin.
"We need to ensure there are systems in place that will enable child survivors to come forward and access the justice they deserve.”
UNICEF works in conflict zones around the world – from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the Central African Republic – to protect children from sexual violence.
UNICEF UK welcomes the UK Government's leadership in taking action to end the culture of impunity surrounding such crimes.
Foreign Secretary William Hague launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in 2012 and is hosting the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence at London's Excel Centre from June 10 - 13.
“I have spent time with children in conflict zones in different parts of the world – most recently in the Syria region – where sexual violence is a constant threat,” says Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK.
“This summer’s Summit offers a unique opportunity for governments from around the world to put concrete measures in place to protect children. Together we can help end the rape and abuse of children in war.”
“The horrific mass abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls is a stark reminder of how vulnerable children can be in countries affected by conflict. With every day that passes these girls are at increased danger of sexual violence,” says Justine Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO of Mumsnet.
“The #Bringbackourgirls campaign has shown the incredible power of social media in mobilising millions of people to join together and demand action. Hopefully this global attention will help ensure the Summit supports work at a community level to end sexual violence.”
“Sexual violence is destroying childhoods across the world. Unless there are coordinated efforts to protect children and help them seek justice, children will continue to endure vicious cycles of violence and poverty,” says Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC.
“The culture of impunity surrounding sexual crimes against children must be tackled – both in international law and at community level. Furthermore, children who have suffered acts of abuse must be supported to report the crimes and hold their abusers to account.”
Notes to editors:
A high resolution photo of the meeting is available.
For further information, please contact:
Claire Blackburn – UNICEF UK Media Office/ firstname.lastname@example.org / + 44 (0)20 7375 6261
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit unicef.org.uk