Today is International Human Rights Day, an annual event that commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December 1948. On this date in 2010, the FCO launched our new human rights content online, while in 2011 we focused on social media and human rights.
This year, the emphasis is a little different. The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence campaign takes place from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November until International Human Rights Day on 10 December. So today is day 16, and the culmination of global efforts to raise awareness of the challenges around gender-based violence. The FCO is participating in this global campaign to highlight our work on preventing sexual violence in conflict.
Sexual violence in war-time is widespread, affecting a large number of women, men and children. The impacts are substantial, not only for the survivors who suffer physical and psychological trauma but also for the communities in which they live. Rape and other forms of gender-based violence are most frequently used to destroy, humiliate and scare political opponents or entire ethnic and religious groups. As such,sexual violence can further entrench conflict and instability, contributing to a continual cycle of violence.
For the last 16 days, the FCO has been drawing attention to some of the challenges and issues on our 16 days campaign Tumblr. We’ve focused on who sexual violence in conflict affects (women, children, men, communities) and where it is a particular problem (including dedicates features on Syria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo). We’ve also looked at the health impacts and difficulties of challenging impunity and securing justice, and the need for a survivor-centred approach, and we’ve highlighted the moving stories of those affected by sexual violence such as Malika and Jolly in Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We invited a range of guests to contribute to our campaign, including Dr Helen Pankhurst, journalist Will Storr, Executive Director of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice Brigid Inder, Director of NGO Medica from Zenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina Sabiha Husić and Human Rights Officer for Swiss organisation Track Impunity Always (TRIAL) Selma Korjenic, Director of Women Under Siege Lauren Wolfe, Deputy Director at Physicians for Human Rights Susannah Sirkin and Edin Ramulic, spokesman of the Association of Women from Prijedor “Izvor”.
These contributions have built up a strong picture of the scale and complexity of the problem, and the challenges that lie ahead in trying to shatter the culture of impunity, and end the scourge of sexual violence in conflict. Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary William Hague launched the Preventing Sexual Violence in conflict Initiative, to address these challenges. The initiative has three main strands of work; a year-long diplomatic G8 campaign, UK Team of Experts for rapid deployment and targeted support to the UN. During 2013, we’ll be building on these in a sustained effort to tackle sexual violence in conflict around the world – keep posted on developments by following us @FCOHumanRights on Twitter.