United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict is an international body within the United Nations system. Its stated purpose is to unite the work of 13 UN entities with the goal of ending sexual violence in conflict. It is a concerted effort by the United Nations to improve coordination and accountability, amplify programming and advocacy, and support national efforts to prevent sexual violence and respond effectively to the needs of survivors.
The United Nations established United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict in response to calls from women’s rights organizations, NGOs and rape survivors for the United Nations to do much more to address sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence within a humanitarian and human rights legal framework. It reinforces efforts by United Nations entities to better coordinate and streamline their activities, working as “one United Nations” at country and global levels.
United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict is committed to aligning the United Nation’s work more effectively behind national efforts to address sexual violence, and to deepen partnerships with the many NGOs and civil society organizations that have been actively working to end sexual violence in conflict for many years. It operates through existing United Nations coordination mechanisms including the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC). It strengthens the work of the humanitarian Protection Cluster, and supports efforts to put an end to sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations personnel. United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict aims to strengthen efforts to protect women and girls from sexual violence during and after conflict – recognizing that the problem is much more than a security or humanitarian issue. United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict supports women’s engagement in conflict prevention and enhances women’s influence over peace negotiations and post conflict recovery processes. This helps ensure that sexual violence is on the agenda of the police, security forces, justice, and government sectors after conflict. United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict seeks to strengthen services provided to survivors, including medical care, legal support and economic security required to rebuild their lives. United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict also connects with governance and reform processes that improve women’s access to decision-making and strengthen their voices in public affairs, with the long term view of tackling gender-specific power imbalances.
Areas of Focus
United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict has three main pillars:
- Country Level Action: support to United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict at country level, including efforts to build capacity and train advisers in gender based violence programming and coordination, as well as targeted support for joint UN programming in selected countries,
- Advocating for Action: action to raise public awareness and generate political will to address sexual violence as part of a broader campaign to Stop Rape Now,
- Learning by Doing: creation of a knowledge hub on sexual violence in conflict and effective responses.
United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict is led by a Secretariat that coordinates the 13 members, Additionally, it is governed by a Steering Committee comprising Principals from the 13 UN entity members. An executive sub-group of the Steering Committee, made up of focal points from the UN entity members, develops the Strategic Framework for UN Action.
United Nations Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict comprises the following 13 United Nations entities: the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Joint United Nations Program of HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO).
Wilton Park Conference
From May 27 - 29, 2008, UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict led a conference in Wilton Park, UK, entitled “Women Targeted or Affected by Armed Conflict: What Role for Military Peacekeepers?” In the 60th anniversary year of international peacekeeping, and coinciding with the commemorative day of international peacekeepers, the conference covered what more can be done by international peacekeepers to protect women from sexual violence and other abuse in armed conflict and its aftermath.
Senior military personnel, including former commanders of international peace support operations, United Nations officials, policy makers and other experts, met to discuss how to improve political and tactical responses to protect women in war.
Among those attending were:
- Lieutenant General Jasbir Singh Lidder of India, former force commander until April in the United Nations Mission in Sudan
- Nigerian General F O Okonkwo, former force commander in the African Union (AU) Mission in Sudan, and also force commander of the Mission of the Economic Community of West African States in Liberia
- Major General (rtd) Patrick Cammaert, former commander, Eastern Divisions, United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Michael Fryer of South Africa, Police Commissioner of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur
- Rakhi Sahi, Commander of the all-women Formed Police Unit in the UN Mission in Liberia
- Assistant-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet
- Ross Mountain, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of Congo
- Assistant-Secretary General Kathleen Cravero, Director, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, UN Development Programme and Chair of UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, New York
- Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York
United Nations Resolution 1820
On June 19th, 2008, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1820 (2008) on Sexual Violence against Civilians in Conflict, after a day-long ministerial-level meeting on “women, peace and security .” The Resolution condemns the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict situations, stating that rape can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.
The Resolution also calls for effective steps to prevent and respond to acts of sexual violence as a way of contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security – including urging Member States to comply with their obligations for prosecuting the perpetrators of sexual violence, ensuring that all victims of sexual violence, particularly women and girls, have equal protection under the law and equal access to justice, and ending impunity for sexual violence as part of a comprehensive approach to seeking sustainable peace, justice, truth, and national reconciliation.
- UN Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict Website
- Keynote address by the Chair of UN Action, Kathleen Cravero, on “Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in Crisis: From Advocacy to Action” to the Women’s Foreign Policy Group in Washington, D.C., 17 July 2008: 
- Summary Report of the Wilton Park conference on “Women Targeted or Affected by Armed Conflict: What Role for Military Peacekeepers?” co-organized by UNIFEM and DPKO both on behalf of UN Action, with support of the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom: