32ND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF
THE RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT
8-10 December, Geneva
Joint action on the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence
Intervention by Leda Koursoumba, Commissioner for Children’s Rights and Vice President of CRCS
Thank you for giving me the floor. I have listened with great interest to the interventions from both National Societies and Governments and I am very pleased to note the level of commitment and, dare I say, the passion many speakers have demonstrated.
For we must be passionate about preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence, a phenomenon affecting larger numbers, year after year.
I would like to emphasise one specific dimension of the problem: that of children. In all fast-moving situations where there is pressure on social relations, children's vulnerability is dramatically increased. The same is true regarding to vulnerability to predatory behaviour on the part of adults -whether known to the child or not.
Any form of violence against a child is unacceptable; if it is sexualised, is abhorrent. In cases when it occurs, the damage is deeper, more lasting, and even more difficult to repair.
The Fundamental Principle of Humanity calls on us
"...to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being..."
It is hard to imagine a cause that fits better with this requirement than that of preventing and responding to sexual and gender based violence against children.
Apart from the Fundamental Principles, children also enjoy legal protection against these crimes through human rights, safeguarded by international treaties, the main one being the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which call on governments to do what is needed to prevent all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.
At the international level, we may have the standards we aspire to apply in our respective countries; in most countries, there is domestic legislation that seeks to turn these standards into practical action; and it is this legislation, that shapes response in times of natural disasters – in this field as in others.
What is needed, in our view, is for likely actors in natural disasters to get together, at the national and local levels, to analyse the tools at their disposal and agree on, as necessary, which tools need to be acquired. In our case, we look forward to initiating a dialogue with our government, on the basis of the Global Study on Gender Violence in Disasters as well as the resolution that will, eventually be adopted by this International Conference.