Remarks on the Partnership Between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Violence in Conflict

Remarks
Sarah Sewall
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
United Nations Plaza
New York City
September 23, 2016


These remarks were delivered at the official signing of a joint communique between the Government of Iraq and the United Nations to partner on preventing and responding to sexual violence in conflict.

Thank you Foreign Minister Jaafari and Special Representative Bangura for inviting me to share a few words on behalf of the United States, whose commitment both to Special Representative Bangura’s office, but also to the people and government of Iraq, is strong and secure.

Everyone knows the appalling stories of Da’esh’s sexual violence against the people of Iraq, largely women and girls, but sometimes men and boys as well. Many of us have met the survivors, and we are haunted by memories of their eyes watering and their voices cracking as they recount the horrors they have suffered, and in almost every case, continue to endure.

Today’s agreement underscores the Iraqi Government’s commitment to address this issue head on, and I want to echo the statements of my colleagues, that this is leadership of the strongest and most important kind: for a government not to look away, not to sweep a difficult issue under the rug as some states would prefer to do, but to bring it out into the open and begin the process of healing, reconciliation, and justice.

The United States applauds the Iraqi government’s leadership and we will be with you as you honor and support survivors of sexual violence, and we will stand with you to marshal the same determination to secure justice for Da’esh’s atrocities as we do to secure victory on the battlefield.

Looking ahead to the end of Da’esh, we can see that justice is not just a moral imperative; it is a strategic one as well. Because where justice is absent, or when it only favors some, that is where ideologies of hatred and violence reemerge, producing monsters like Da'esh and setting off tremors of terror and instability. We have seen around the world the importance of justice and the rule of law to making societies resilient to violent ideologies that falsely promise a better future.

So today’s agreement is historic. It’s historic for the Government of Iraq, and it’s a testament to true leadership. It’s also historic for the victims of sexual violence in the country, and it’s also historic for the Special Representative’s tireless efforts to put an end to sexual violence in conflict. We congratulate all parties for taking it. Know that, as you take more steps forward to realize the full promise of this agreement, the United States will walk with you.

Thank you.