At a time when women are speaking out more than ever about the oppression and abuse with which they are targeted worldwide, the United Nations Peacekeeping Summit in Vancouver Wednesday was all about women’s issues and the violence they so often endure in war-torn countries. Most notably, Angelina Jolie and Justin Trudeau spoke at the summit about the need for U.N. peacekeeping missions to involve more women. Giving the keynote address, Jolie spoke about peace being in short supply worldwide and talked specifically about sexual violence against women and children in war zones. She pointed out that despite the Geneva Convention stating that civilians are not to be the target of any attack, they very often are.
‘Women and children make up the vast majority of casualties in armed conflict today,’ she said, ‘Despite being prohibited by law, sexual violence continues to be employed as a tactic of war in 19 countries. It includes mass rape, gang rape, sexual slavery and rape as a form of torture, ethnic cleansing and terrorism.’
Jolie called on the United Nations to do better on their promise to combat these heinous acts, sometimes even committed by their own peacekeepers.
— Canada Mission UN (@CanadaUN) November 16, 2017
‘It has been 21 years since the U.N. first promised to address sexual abuse by U.N. peacekeepers and increase the number of women deployed in operations,’ she said, ‘Yet the exploitation of defenseless civilians still takes place and still less than four per cent of peacekeepers are women.’
Jolie went on to acknowledge that preventing the atrocities she described is difficult under the conditions of war, but it is not impossible. She pointed out that it’s not the resources or technology to identify perpetrators that allows them to get away with their actions, it’s lack of political will. She finished her speech on a hopeful note though, highlighting the work nations have committed to do to address their current shortcomings.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 16, 2017
‘Canada, the U.K. and Bangladesh have announced today the Senior Military Chiefs Network, promising to work with other senior military officers to increase the number of women in their militaries, to change training to include gender and women peace and security, to deploy more women in operational roles and to appoint full-time gender advisers.’ She finished, ‘You will play your part in showing that no perpetrator is above the law and no survivor is beneath it.’
Earlier in the summit, Trudeau had committed to the efforts that Jolie described in her address. He pledged 200 Canadian troops to peacekeeping initiatives overseas (though the federal government has not announced where they will be deployed) and $21 million to bolster the number of female Canadian peacekeepers.
‘Women bring a unique and powerful perspective to conflict resolution,’ Trudeau said in his address, ‘They look beyond the interests of warring parties and they bring a wider community to the table and they focus on root causes. Including women and girls in peace operations is a smart, practical pathway to lasting peace.
‘It is also a necessary step in addressing a truly global problem,’ he continued, ‘Approximately one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. Even worse, gender-based violence increases significantly in conflict settings. We also know both women and men are more likely to report incidents of violence to women officers.’
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 15, 2017
Hopefully we can see these pledges working practically to eliminate the high number of sexual violence cases in war zones, especially those committed by peacekeepers. Jolie made incredibly poignant points and Trudeau made some steep promises. Hopefully they are the start of real change.