A statement by The Countess of Wessex at the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict virtual UN event

Published 19 June 2020

A statement by The Countess of Wessex at a virtual UN event to mark the international day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

“I believe Civil Society is central to enabling real and meaningful global action. Local communities are able to share local knowledge and understanding. Let local realities guide global responses.

The Countess of Wessex

Thank you Tonderai.

And my thanks also to Special Representatives Patten and Gamba and the Charge d'Affaire from Argentina for their leadership at this time as well as the commitment of all of you online today.

Despite the world having shrunk through the power of digital platforms like this one, we know that there are an extraordinary number of people who are more and more disconnected and vulnerable and that COVID-19 has compounded the issue.

Since the pandemic began the number of cases of sexual violence across conflict settings and in domestic settings are very likely to have risen substantially. Women and girls once again are being affected disproportionately, with increased difficulties in accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, higher numbers of maternal deaths and teenage pregnancies, closures of domestic violence shelters, closure of schools, reduction in aid work and funds for charities, delays in relief packages. COVID19 has amplified suffering with the restrictions imposed on Survivors.

Time is against the victims and therefore it is imperative that National Action Plans are implemented or where possible even accelerated. But importantly in the course of our action we must ensure all responses are best geared to them.

My message therefore today is simple, and I hope I may speak for all Survivors of Conflict Related Sexual Violence when I say: we must listen to the needs and wishes of all Survivors and we must act accordingly.

Humanitarian Programmes and funding structures must be able to nimbly adapt in line with the thoughts and needs of all survivors amid this pandemic.

I believe Civil Society is central to enabling real and meaningful global action. Local communities are able to share local knowledge and understanding. Let local realities guide global responses.

So while we mark today as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict and acknowledge the consequences of COVID-19, let us all respond by listening to the needs of Survivors and with the urgency that they deserve.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you all today.