Under Secretary Maria Otero for Democracy and Global Affairs today said women represent a powerful voice for peace and an instrument of development when given the opportunity.
Ms. Otero reiterated President Obama’s National Security Strategy recognizes that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.”
She noted that the mass rape of well over 100 women just days ago in South Kivu is a disheartening reminder that despite international efforts, the world still have a very long way to go before it can claim any success.
“Sexual violence used as a tactic of war is threat to international peace and security. The international community recognized this when it adopted the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, beginning with Resolution 1325, in the year 2000.” -Ms. Otero
Ms. Otero reiterated that Secretary Clinton has noted that where women are oppressed and marginalized, societies are more dangerous and extremism is more likely to take hold. The suffering and denial of women’s rights and instability of nations go hand in hand.
“No where do we see that more starkly than in the DRC. In her 2009 visit to the region Secretary Clinton highlighted the devastating role of sexual violence as a strategic weapon in armed conflict. We have since increased efforts to respond and prevent SGBV in the DRC and around the world.” -Ms. Otero
She pointed out that the United States introduced Security Council Resolution 1888, which created a UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. It will ensure that a team of experts would be deployed to conflict situations where sexual violence is likely to occur, in order to help governments strengthen the rule of law, improve accountability, and end impunity.
“In support of Women, Peace and Security, the United States has also developed a comprehensive strategy to address SGBV in the DRC. In partnership with the Congolese government and civil society, the USG’s four key objectives in this strategy are to: 1) reduce impunity for perpetrators of SGBV; 2) increase prevention of and protection against SGBV for vulnerable populations; 3) improve the capacity of the security sector to address SGBV; and 4) increase access to quality services for SGBV survivors.” -Ms. Otero
She highlighted that the U.S. government are working with international and local NGOs, multilateral organizations and other donors to achieve these objectives. She added the USG has obligated nearly $150 million towards combating SGBV in the DRC since 2002.
She stressed that USAID-funded programs have provided care and treatment services for over 100,000 SGBV survivors, including access to medical care, counseling and family mediation, social and economic reintegration support, and legal aid.
Ms. Otero underscored that the United States remains committed to working with the DRC government, the United Nations, and other international and local partners to strengthen the DRC government’s capacity to prevent SGBV, address the threat from illegal armed entities (including through their link to conflict minerals), and break the cycle of impunity for war crimes affecting innocent men, women, and children.
“In addition, we are committed to supporting the full inclusion of women in the country’s economic and political development. That is why it is critical that we promote women’s access to small grants and skills training, which is essential to civil society’s ability to effectively impact the DRC’s growth and stability.” -Ms.Otero
She further underlined that President Obama and Secretary Clinton are fully committed to advancing the agenda of women as agents of peace and security. She added that no country can get ahead if it leaves half its people behind.