Australian Dialogue on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict

Outcomes Statement

On 2 June 2014, the Australian Dialogue on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict harnessed the combined expertise of diplomatic, aid, military, policing, civil society and academia to develop recommendations and shape Australia’s work to eliminate sexual violence in situations of armed violence. A concept note (Attachment A) was produced to guide the discussion. The Dialogue was held in advance of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London (10-13 June 2014).

Ways Forward

All actors - military, police, diplomatic, aid, civil society and academic - play an important role in contributing towards Australia’s efforts to prevent sexual violence in situations of armed violence. We are individually and collectively more effective if we build relationships and work together in our response.

Participants at the Dialogue identified four main areas for future effort: being prepared; supporting women and investing in women’s organisations; providing sophisticated responses to complex situations; and improving gender equality to prevent sexual violence. 

1. Being prepared

Successfully addressing and preventing sexual violence in situations of armed violence hinges on protecting the most vulnerable as well as strengthening accountability and access to justice to end the culture of impunity. Gender sensitive responses require planning, beginning well before armed violence breaks out. This means ensuring normative frameworks, national and international legal processes and other accountability mechanisms are in place to respond to the needs of women and girls. It requires defence agencies to have procedures and military doctrine in place. Deployees need to be sufficiently trained so that responses are implicitly gender sensitive. To address this, participants recommended that:

  • All training for deployees, criminal investigators, police, prosecutors and judicial officers fully integrate gender perspectives and the principles of Women, Peace and Security;
  • Operating instructions for all actors (including Standard Operating Procedures, military doctrines, and peacekeeping mandates) integrate Women, Peace and Security principles;
  • Gender analysis and inclusion of gender expertise become normalised as essential elements of all work in conflict and post conflict settings;
  • Australian civilian, police and military actors in Australia and overseas increase coordination, dialogue and partnerships amongst themselves and establish relationships with national women’s organisations; and
  • Australia continue to encourage ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, support NGOs working to promote accountability for serious international crimes and provide legal expertise for the design of gender sensitive criminal codes in our region.

2. Supporting women and women’s organisations

Women and women’s organisations are often the first responders to sexual violence in situations of armed violence. They can provide vital understanding of local context and can be supported to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the longer term. Supporting and working in partnership with women’s organisations is an important part of Australia’s response to sexual violence in situations of armed violence. International women’s organisations can provide valuable expertise and support the capacity development of local organisations. Diaspora and refugee women in Australia can be important sources of understanding. Safe spaces for women, both in the immediate aftermath of armed violence, and in the longer term in the form of women led and focused service delivery, can be an important part of recovery for female victims of violence. Ensuring women are represented at all levels in international deployments and in local and international governance and justice systems post conflict can be important for ensuring that women’s perspectives are heard and taken into account.  In keeping with this, and while recognising that men and boys are often overlooked victims of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, participants recommended that Australia:

  • Support the work of international and local women’s organisations at all stages of the response continuum, from pre-conflict to first response through to post conflict settings; and
  • Ensure women are adequately represented in all work to address sexual violence in situations of armed violence, from local peace negotiations, to peacekeeping operations and decision making fora and throughout local, national and international accountability mechanisms.

3. Providing sophisticated responses to complex situations

Situations of armed violence are complex and constantly changing. Sexual violence can be used by combatants, can be perpetrated by peacekeepers, often occurs on an opportunistic basis as societal fabric tears as a result of armed violence and can be an exacerbation of patterns of sexual violence that existed before armed violence erupted. Such violence is connected to and emerges from the broader spectrum of violence against women globally. Changing the culture of impunity to one of accountability is fundamental to the prevention of sexual violence crimes. Developing and implementing the international, national and local legal and normative frameworks is vital. But we also need to recognise that justice does not always happen in the court room.  In each of these processes, we need to be sensitive to both the short and long term needs of survivors of sexual violence in conflict. To address this, participants recommended that Australia’s efforts focus on:

  • Using gender sensitive and innovative investigation and evidence gathering procedures, including providing one stop shops which integrate services and justice support;
  • Seeing that efforts are inclusive and consider the needs of women with a disability, displaced women, children as perpetrators and survivors and women with HIV;
  • Supporting measures complementary to formal criminal justice processes that build a culture of accountability at the local level by harnessing community justice measures such as informal pluralist justice systems and local forms of reconciliation and reparation;
  • Ensuring services are provided in the right place at the right time so women survivors can access holistic and integrated responses; and
  • Retaining efforts over the longer term including in peace building and post conflict contexts.

4. Improving gender equality to prevent sexual violence

Sexual violence needs to be understood in the broader context of gender inequality, not only in conflict zones. Its prevention is dependent on promoting more equal gender relations. The road to prevention of sexual violence in conflict is therefore grounded in understanding how sexual violence occurs and the inequalities that enable it. Women in conflict situations are often without a voice. Conflict resolution and peace processes tend to be dialogues between political elites who are usually men. Women are also often without economic self-sufficiency, adding to vulnerability and hindering recovery. To address this, the Dialogue recommended:

  • Increasing support to women as decision-makers at all stages of conflict resolution, peace negotiations and peace building;
  • Working with traditional institutions and cultural groups, including religious groups to promote gender equality;
  • Joining up women’s economic empowerment with women’s protection efforts to support women to build livelihoods, including through micro loans and businesses; and
  • Robustly evaluating efforts undertaken so far to understand the practical implications for response in contexts within the Asia Pacific region.

Concluding Remarks

Ending sexual violence in situations of armed violence will not be easily remedied. We need to invest our efforts for the long term. Australia must think globally but invest locally – mostly in the Asia Pacific region. Ultimately we also need to redistribute shame, so that the survivors of sexual violence do not bear the burden, but that perpetrators do.

Australia renews its commitment under the National Action Plan to the actions it will take to help end sexual violence in conflict. Attachment B outlines our next commitments to action. Our first step is to endorse the International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict as a resource to be used across all work in this area.

Being prepared
Location or target Type of action Action Department responsible
Whole-of-Govt. & Civil Society Consultative Facilitate regular consultation with Australian Civil Society Organisations to monitor and implement Australia's National Action Plan in order to foster shared learning drawing on experiences from the field and model best practice of government and civil society partnership. All
Whole-of-Govt. Coordination Co-convene with the Department of Defence quarterly Women, Peace and Security Gender Adviser coordination meetings across Government. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade & Department of Defence
Security Council Advocacy Continue to strongly advocate in the Security Council for consideration of the Women, Peace and Security agenda across the breadth of its work. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Global Advocacy Encourage States to ensure that rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation and other forms of sexual violence of comparable gravity are criminalised along with other serious international crimes as part of our campaign to achieve the universalisation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Global Advocacy Advocate for ending impunity for crimes of sexual violence in debates in all relevant fora, including the UN, and in particular the Security Council, and the International Criminal Court's Assembly of States Parties, in order to help build the necessary political will. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Global Advocacy Advocacy for the International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict where appropriate. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Global Support Contribution of $700,000 to a range of criminal justice projects aimed at enhancing accountability for serious international crimes, including crimes of sexual violence. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Departmental Policy Accelerate the incorporation of Women, Peace and Security gender mainstreaming provisions into military doctrine, operational planning directives and corporate guidance. Department of Defence
Joint exercises Planning & Conduct Ensure that a Women, Peace and Security perspective is integrated in the planning and conduct of all joint exercises. Department of Defence
Departmental Operations Doctrine & Guidelines Develop the doctrine and guidelines on the protection of civilians for ADF and AFP operations. Department of Defence
NATO Operations Training Develop and implement a joint and single-service pre-deployment training package on Women, Peace and Security for personnel deploying to NATO operations. Department of Defence
Departmental Training Roll out training on Women, Peace and Security across the Defence / ADF training continuum - ab initio, staff courses and leadership development courses. Department of Defence
UN Missions Training Ensure training for personnel deploying to UN missions includes Women, Peace and Security. Department of Defence
Departmental Advocacy Raise awareness of Defence's commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda in fora such as the Chief of Defence Force Gender Conference, and other Government and non-government events. Department of Defence
International missions Strategic Implement the International Deployment Group (IDG) Gender Strategy, providing explicit targets for the mainstreaming of gender within IDG activities including police development mission design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Australian Federal Police
Departmental Operations Guidelines Develop and implement guidelines in response to AFP's commitment to the protection of civilians. Australian Federal Police
Whole-of-Govt. & Civil Society Consultative Reinforce CSO engagement, including through more regular updates of the Office for Women's webpages that relate to Women, Peace and Security. Office for Women, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
Supporting women & women's organisations
Afghanistan Aid As part of Australia's $17.7 million program to help end violence against women in Afghanistan, provide $3.3 million over three years to support the Afghan Women's Network and member organisations to strengthen their advocacy and leadership efforts on issues that impact Afghan women most, pilot a Young Women's Leadership Program to help build a new generation of women leaders in Afghanistan, and expand and strengthen women's networks across the country so Afghan women in rural and urban areas have a voice in their future. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Overseas operations Policing Improve women's participation in the law and justice sectors of post conflict and developing states, through police development and civil society engagement activities and expanded support for family, sexual and gender-based violence investigations. Australian Federal Police
Overseas operations Policing Expand support for local and regional Women's Advisory Networks in the post-conflict and developing states' police services with which we work, including Timor Leste and Solomon Islands. Australian Federal Police
Complex situations need sophisticated responses
Global Program Aid Provide $1 million in partnership with UN Women to support women's engagement in decision-making on peace-building and gender-responsive security sector reform including in Timor Leste, Liberia and Uganda. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Global Program Aid Provide a total of $1.65 million in assistance to humanitarian and emergency initiatives through ProCap and Gencap, the Women's Refugee Commission and UNICEF/UNFPA for work of the GBV Area of Responsibility. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Pacific Legal & Aid Continue to provide law reform assistance and training to Pacific law and justice agencies to build their capabilities to address sexual and gender based violence, including with introducing and implementing (in collaboration with other relevant Pacific development partners): (i) new police powers to protect victims of gender-based violence; (ii) new provisions to enhance opportunities for women in policing, such as requirements for merit based recruitment; and (iii) provisions to support new domestic violence offences. Attorney General's Department
Prevention of sexual violence needs greater gender equality
Bougainville Aid Provide $2.5million to support the Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville program to provide village level economic infrastructure and social support for women, men, girls and boys. Decisions over the activities to be funded are made by all women committees. The program aims to help rebuild communities to reduce poverty and alleviate conditions that lead to conflict and associated violence against women. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
PNG Highlands Aid In the Papua New Guinea Highlands, support Women's Human Rights Defenders' Network and Repatriation research focussing on prevention work that challenges traditional community attitudes to sorcery, investments in organisational development for partners, and men and boys behavioural change activities. Research on informal and formal repatriation will explore whether repatriation for women is a viable pathway out of violence. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Pacific Legal & Aid Continue to represent Australia on the Pacific Islands Law Officers' Network Sexual and Gender based Violence Working Group, currently focussed on regional implementation of law reforms to address sexual and gender-based violence. Attorney General's Department








Last Updated: 16 September 2014