Angelina Jolie and William Hague reunite at the G8 in London to fight rape in war zones #TIMETOACT

Foreign Ministers Gather In London For G8 Meeting

Angelina Jolie and William Hague at the G8 in London today

The G8 today pledged £23million towards tackling sexual violence in conflict zones around the world. The Foreign Secretary William Hague said that part of the funding would go into training the military to respond to conflict sexual violence and that the training would be extended to peacekeeping groups of other nations. Members of armed forces are often the first to come into contact with survivors and it is hoped that they could have an important role to play in helping to change male attitudes.

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In his speech at Lancaster House in London today, Hague said:

“We know that tens of thousands of women were raped in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, hundreds of thousands in Rwanda’s genocide, and up to a quarter of a million in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last decade. We know that a huge number of the victims of sexual violence are children: often very young children and sometimes babies.

“We know that this violence inflicts unimaginable suffering, destroys families and communities, and fuels conflict.Yet the overwhelming majority of survivors never see any justice for what they have endured. And there has never been any concerted international effort, supported by leading nations of the world, to eradicate sexual violence in conflict in the first place. This has to change. To my mind, this cause is the slave trade of our generation.”

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Angelina Jolie added:

“Time and again the world has failed to prevent this abuse, or to hold attackers accountable.

“Rape has been treated as something that simply happens in war; perpetrators have learnt that they can get away with it; and victims have been denied justice. But wartime rape is not inevitable. This violence can be prevented, and it must be confronted.

“There are many individuals and NGOs who have worked tirelessly to address these crimes for years. But the international political will has been sorely lacking. I have heard survivors of rape from Bosnia to the Democratic Republic of Congo say that they feel the world simply does not care about them. And who could blame them?

“For too long they have been the forgotten victims of war: responsible for none of the harm, but bearing the worst of the pain. But today, I believe, their voices have been heard, and that we finally have some hope to offer them.”

I took some time to read other articles covering this story today and was appalled by some of the negative comments made online about William Hague and Angelina Jolie.

Many were criticising Jolie due to her star status, asking what it has to do with her, probably due to a lack of awareness about the work she has been doing for the UN for over ten years. She has worked as an ambassador and now Special Envoy for the UNHCR, bringing attention to the plight of millions of refugees around the world (not to mention the millions of dollars she has donated to other good causes and countless hours of her time).

Miss Jolie and Mr Hague have been working on their sexual violence initiative for almost a year now and have already put in place a 70-strong specialist team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts to help survivors and witnesses. They have met three times in London and visited survivors of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda last month.

Angelina Jolie and William Hague in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Angelina Jolie and William Hague in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month

I saw a lot of criticism of William Hague for putting up £10million of the £23million fund – but I would guess this is down to the fact that the UK put forward the initiative and are also president of the G8 for 2013.

To me the amount of money is irrelevant and probably equates to pennies out of the tax payers pocket – we are all human beings, where we are born is down to luck. If you had been born in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the threat of rape and violence on a daily basis would you not hope that someone somewhere would take notice and try to help you?

Unless we put ourselves in other people’s shoes we can never fully understand how terrifying life could be. Thanks to an accident of birth most of us will never have to go through what these women, children and babies go through and I’m so pleased to see Angelina Jolie and William Hague standing up for those who might otherwise not have a voice.

For Further Information:

Read the G8 Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict

Find out more about the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Read more about the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative

View the FCO’s Storify covering the G8 foreign Ministers’ Meeting

More information on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative at our tumblr

Find out more about the UK’s work to support women and girls around the world

Follow on twitter @FCOhumanrights or follow the hashtags #timetoact, #sexualviolence, #conflict and #G8UK

#TIMETOACT

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Angelina Jolie and William Hague visit survivors of sexual violence in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo

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Angelina Jolie and William Hague in the Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday ©AFP

Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to meet survivors of sexual violence as part of their campaign to tackle rape in war zones.

The number of women, girls, men and boys who have been subjected to rape in conflict zones numbers in the hundreds of thousands. 50,000 were raped in Bosnia, 64,000 in Sierra Leone, 200,000 in Congo and 400,000 in Rwanda. The UN has estimated that only 30 convictions have resulted from the Bosnian War.

Jolie and Hague spent time at the Nzolo Internally Displaced Persons camp, north of Goma and the Lac Vert camp on the edge of Goma. Their next stop is Rwanda.

The aim of the trip is to force the Group of Eight world powers to address the issue more seriously and the Foreign Secretary has said he will make the issue his priority when he hosts the annual meeting of G8 foreign ministers next month in London.

Hague has already put in place a 70-strong specialist team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts to help survivors and witnesses and has also contributed £1 million this financial year to support the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Angelina Joile and William Hague in the DRC ©Telegraph

Angelina Joile and William Hague in the DRC ©Telegraph

“More often than not the international community looks away, the perpetrators of these brutal crimes walk free and the cycle of injustice and conflict is repeated. We have to shatter this culture of impunity,” Hague said. “It is time for real, meaningful action by the governments of the world to say that the use of rape as a weapon of war is unacceptable, to bring perpetrators to justice and to lift the stigma from survivors. This is my personal priority for the meeting of G8 foreign ministers.”

Jolie said on the trip: “This visit is about hearing first hand from people who have endured rape and sexual violence during the conflict in the eastern DRC. We want to learn the lessons that their experience holds for how the world can protect thousands of women, men and children at risk of rape in many other conflict zones. And we want to persuade governments around the world to give this issue the attention it deserves. Unless the world acts, we will always be reacting to atrocities, treating survivors rather than preventing rape in the first place.”

“It’s often that we speak about the drama and the pain and the horrors of the Congo but it’s also a wonderful place with extraordinary people. The big message is that this initiative started by the Foreign Secretary is extraordinary, but what we’re here to do is to try to scale it up and make this a worldwide focus. It’s been going on in every war, every crisis and it’s often an afterthought – and it’s due time to end this, and put an end to impunity, and they deserve it.”

William Hague and Angelina Jolie team up for campaign against rape in warzones

Foreign Secretary William Hague with Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Angelina Jolie, at the a Wilton Park Conference on ‘Preventing sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations’ ©fco

Back in May, Angelina Jolie was in London to lend her voice the British Government’s global campaign aimed at tackling sexual violence in conflict zones around the world. Today, she was back in the UK to listen to the Foreign Secretary give his keynote address at the “Preventing sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations” meeting at Wilton Park, Sussex. Hague joked ‘She assures me she is here to meet you and to listen to our discussion, but I also think she may be checking up on whether we have lived up to our promises’.

Following his announcement in May, that Britain would create a team of experts to be deployed to conflict areas around the world to support UN missions and gather evidence about sexual violence, Hague announced yesterday that a 70-strong specialist team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts is ready to head overseas to help survivors and witnesses. He said that each deployment will be tailored to meet local needs and circumstances and that the deployments will be based on ‘in-depth assessments of national and international responses in that country to date and how the British team could reinforce or complement existing efforts, as well as consultations with the authorities in each country’.

The Foreign Secretary also pledged additional funding of more than £¼ million over a three-year period to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support to develop policies, guidance and training for use by UN peacekeepers as first responders to incidents of sexual violence.

Angelina Jolie with Syrian refugees in Lebanon ©UNHCR

Yesterday Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) added:

“I am delighted to be working with Foreign Secretary Hague again on the United Kingdom’s initiative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. In many conflicts, sexual violence is used as a tactic of war, intended to hurt not only a single individual, but their family, their community, their ethnic group”.

Jolie has been drawing attention to some of the worlds worst humanitarian disasters for over 10  years and has worked tirelessly to highlight the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in over 30 countries including Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, Haiti, Somalia and Thailand.

She further said that sexual violence has almost “become a rule rather than an exception, and we all must work together to combat the impunity and ensure justice for the victims.”

Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, at the a Wilton Park Conference on ‘Preventing sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations ©fco

Speaking about the conference, the Foreign Secretary said:

“I believe that a critical mass of public opinion has now begun to build up against the use of rape as a weapon of war in many countries.

“My experience as a politician leads me to believe that this is the moment to mobilise global public opinion and to rally the efforts of nations, in the same way that we have mustered the will to ban the use of landmines and cluster munitions, and are on the verge of securing an international Arms Trade Treaty.

“Shattering the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war is the next great global challenge of our generation. It is a cause whose time has come.”

The 70-strong team of police, lawyers, psychologists, doctors and forensic experts will be deployed overseas by the end of the year.

William Hague’s speech can be found here.

Further information about the UNHCR can be found here.