How to seize the huge opportunity created by the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict
This post originally appeared on Women Under Siege.
“What a fabulous suit. She was perfect, perfect,” said a French woman standing behind me on the escalator. We had just emerged from two hours in a giant auditorium on the outskirts of London where we heard politicians, UN officials, and Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee speaking at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, billed as the largest gathering ever to focus attention and develop effective solutions to ending rape in war. With treaties and UN resolutions firmly in place, and ministers and representatives of more than 150 countries attending, the message of this summit was #TimeToAct. The suit in question was that of the movie star and humanitarian Angelina Jolie.
It’s hard not to be cynical when dozens of cameras flash for a glamorous celebrity and follow her through exhibits of survivors speaking out, more focused on her appearance than on the words of the assembled experts.
Many of the more than 400 international advocates attending the summit were rightfully dismayed when a day scheduled for ministerial dialogues failed to allow for serious interactions between government leaders and members of civil society living and working in places like Burma, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. Many of our colleagues responded to the call to act now by wondering what they’ve been doing in the trenches all these years, if not that.
Yet despite this expected cynicism, the summit created a huge opportunity. The initiative of UK Foreign Secretary William Hague convened world leaders with a single-minded focus of engaging government representatives and civil society actors in ending sexualized violence in conflict. And Jolie’s presence helped draw the global media, at the very least raising the issue to a higher rung on the international agenda. Doctors and police officers from remote areas of eastern DRC marveled at the enormity of the attention on rape in conflict. For them, this summit broke their isolation and sense of toiling in silence, anonymity, and—all too frequently—fear...
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