Next week in London representatives from state and government agencies, NGOs, the United Nations, stakeholders, and journalists will convene at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict to unite efforts to effectively combat this issue. The meeting is being convened by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UNHCR ambassador, and actress, Angelina Jolie.
Over 5oo delegates are expected to attend the summit and participate in hundreds of events including panels and discussions, exhibitions, lobbying efforts, film screenings, and more.
I was honored to be invited to attend the summit and to speak at an official session on the International Protocol on Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict along with key panelists from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Human Rights Watch and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
I am excited to talk about best practices for documenting sexual violence in conflict, an issue that WITNESS has been working on for years.
Recently we developed a guide for ethically, safely and effectively interviewing survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. The guide’s core principles reflect what is in the international protocol to be adopted at the summit.
The issue of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict is personally very important to me. In my home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo I used video documentation to record stories of sexual violence against girls soldiers who I came across as part of a disarmament and demobilization mission I was carrying out in militia camps across the province of South Kivu.
Now, at WITNESS I lead our campaign to support women’s rights activists to better use video documentation of sexual violence for the purpose of holding perpetrators to account. Interviews with survivors is a common and widely used method. In my trainings and conversations with women’s rights activists, the need for better resources and support is an overwhelming priority. Our new guide is paving the way for the international protocol as it aims to strengthening the skills of activists on the front lines.
The stories I collected nearly a decade ago in the eastern DRC were those of atrocities but also of hope. I join the many activists attending the summit and those who will be following the summit from all parts of the world, in pushing for concrete steps to be taken at this convening. The international protocol is one tool, that if implemented, could boost documentation and investigations on sexual violence thereby increasing opportunities for gender justice and hope for all survivors.