With Angelina Jolie in attendance, foreign ministers of the world’s eight most advanced countries (G8) on Thursday adopted what they described as a “historic’’ declaration committing the international community to tackle sexual violence in conflict zones.
The agreement, reached on the sidelines of discussions on North Korea and Syria ahead of the summit of G8 leaders in June, was hailed by Foreign Secretary William Hague as a “turning point’’ in the campaign against “war zone rape’’.
He announced an additional funding of £5 million from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to support the campaign, while another £5 million were committed by the Department for International Development bringing the total funding by G8 nations to $36 million (roughly £24 million).
Calling for sustained efforts to “end sexual violence in conflict’’ , Mr Hague said: “Now that we have put war zone rape on the international agenda it must never slip off it again….Ending the 17th and 18th century slave trade was deemed impossible... and today we know the facts about sexual violence in conflict and we have the means to address it.’’
Ms Jolie, who serves as a special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, lamented that for too long international political will to prevent such violence had been “sorely lacking’’.
Describing the agreement as “long overdue’’, she said violence against women and children “must be confronted’’. For too long, they had been “the forgotten victims of war’’ in Africa, West Asia and elsewhere.
"Hundreds of thousands of women and children have been sexually assaulted in the wars of our generation. But wartime rape is not inevitable. This violence can be prevented, and it must be confronted. I have heard survivors of rape from Bosnia to (the Congo) say that the world simply does not care about them. But today I believe that their voices have been heard, and that we finally have some hope to offer them," she said.
"It is encouraging to see men in leadership positions speaking out against rape. Rape is not a women's issue, or a humanitarian issue, it is a global issue," the Hollywood actor added.
Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, hailed the move as representing “remarkable progress".