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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Discussion on Ending and Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Situations


Remarks
John Kerry
   Secretary of State
Catherine M. Russell
   Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues 
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
February 25, 2014

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SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you very, very much for joining us here. We’re really honored to have all of you.

But also, I’m privileged to have Foreign Secretary William Hague here today. He has really been the leader on this issue, not just a leader, but the leader. And I was privileged to be with him in London – as a matter of fact, today is the anniversary of my leaving on my first trip as Secretary of State, and my first stop was in London, where I received a magnificent naval sword given to me by the Secretary, which I keep down in my office to manage the staff with. (Laughter.) And the – now some 350,000 miles later, the secretary’s coming back to visit us here, and we’re very honored to have him here. And I’m delighted to take part with him in this initiative and in these initiatives that we’re engaged in to deal with the problem of sexual violence in conflict.

Let me just say at the outset – and I think William wants to join me in saying a word in a few moments when I introduce him – we are all watching – and not just watching, but deeply engaged in trying to help this extraordinary transition that is taking place in Ukraine. And both of us are committed to doing our part to support the efforts of people in Ukraine who have spoken out on their own with passion for their ability to have pluralistic, democratic future.

This is not a zero-sum game. It is not a West versus East. It should not be. It is not a Russia or the United States or other choices. This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future. And we want to work with Russia, with other countries, with everybody available to make sure this is peaceful from this day forward, because obviously the terrible violence that took place in the Maidan was a shock to everybody in the world. So we’re committed to that effort and we hope everybody else will be as committed as we are.

Before I say any further words about this, I might just to ask William if he wants to say a couple words about Ukraine also, and then we’ll come back.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, thank you very much, indeed, John. And thank you all for joining us here today. And it is a great pleasure to be here, as always, with Secretary Kerry. It is, indeed – I had forgotten it was a year today since you came to London on your first visit, and I gave you a sword with which you manage your staff. You gave me some cowboy boots – (laughter) – with which I manage my staff. (Laughter.) So this was a very good reciprocal gift.

And we’ve had some very good talks today, and we will come in a moment to this subject, which I feel very passionately about and on which we are solidly committed to work together over the coming years between the United Kingdom and the United States.

But as Secretary Kerry has just said, we are both not only witnessing but actively speaking to those who’ve taken part in the – this extraordinary transition, as he has said, in Ukraine. I think we’re clear from our talks today that we see this in exactly the same way. This is about the rights of a free people, a free, democratic Ukraine to make their own decisions.

And we don’t see it in a zero-sum way in international affairs. Our national interests are in the people of Ukraine being able to make their own decisions about their future. And so we encourage them to form an inclusive government that enables a new political consensus to take shape in their country, to change a political culture, where corruption has been pervasive, to hold free elections, as they have decided in May, that are fair to everyone in their country.

It is urgent to prepare financial support, but urgent also that they are – they prepare themselves to meet the necessary conditions for that financial support. And we’ve discussed some of the potential details of that today. I will have meetings with the International Monetary Fund here in Washington tomorrow. And we’ve both had discussions with the foreign minister of Russia, Foreign Minister Lavrov, over recent days about this, seeking to work with Russia on this subject. So I welcome the opportunity to have discussions about this and many other issues with Secretary Kerry today.

But of course, we want to go on to the subject of today’s meeting, and I look forward to our discussion about that. Thank you, John.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, William, very, very much.

Turning to the subject of today’s meeting, there’s really no way to adequately describe the depths of depravity and the extraordinary violence of rape as a tool of war, as violence against women as a tool of intimidation, coercion, submission, and power. And I think that those of us who have known about this for a long time are disturbed by the levels at which this is used as exactly that kind of tool in too many parts of the world.

I know William, who I said is the leader, he has traveled extensively, he’s been to Darfur, he’s been to Goma, he’s seen hospitals in which women are laid out on gurneys telling stories of having been raped like animals, and he feels this issue passionately. I attended a conference with him in London that he organized with the G-8 when we were there, and we were joined by a terrific advocate on this, Angelina Jolie, who eloquently spoke of what is happening in so many places.

This is an issue that I really became aware of, actually, here in our country – not in that form, obviously, but I was a prosecutor, and I started the first rape counseling/victim witness assistance program in our county back in the late-1970s, and nobody had heard of it. Nobody knew what it was – what victim witness meant or how you deal with this. And subsequently in the Senate I was proud to join then-Senator Joe Biden in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which he authored, and after that was very pleased to bring the International Violence Against Women Act before the – the treaty before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and ultimately through the Senate.

So I have seen this also, personally, in ways around the world in too many places of conflict. And today, we’re making certain something additional; even though we’ve been aware of it, we haven’t sent yet an embassy-wide message, which I am sending today, that no one, and I mean no one at the highest level of military or governance, who has presided over or engaged in or knew of or conducted these kinds of attacks, is ever going to receive a visa to travel into the United States of America from this day forward. We’re not going to allow that. (Applause.) And every embassy will engage – every embassy and post will be alert to this and to report any of these kinds of incidences, but most importantly there has to be a price attached, and that’s one of the things we need to do.

The way we will make a difference on this issue is, frankly, by heeding the example of people who’ve gone before us who broke the back of slavery and other oppressive acts that were being applied to the life of people in various times in history. William Wilberforce, historic figure in Great Britain, stood up against slavery and set an example for people elsewhere. And it was that example that helped us ultimately to break the back of Jim Crow in the United States when people learned that you needed to put yourselves on the line, and you needed to take risks as a matter of moral conscience in order to be able to make the difference.

That’s really what we’re going to have to summon here, is that kind of moral commitment to fighting back against and holding accountable those people who engage in these kinds of activities on a global basis. So as I said earlier, there is no more committed leader globally than my colleague William Hague, and we’re honored – honored to have here today the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General Zainab Bangura. I’m very, very grateful for her being here today. Particularly grateful to Cathy Russell who is our Assistant Secretary for Global Women’s – Special Representative for Global Women’s Affairs who has helped put this together. And I appreciate Anne Richard who is here, and as our assistant secretary, she has played a key role in all of this and decided not to add numbers to our panel, but we’re deeply appreciative to her commitment and leadership for this. And I’m so honored that Katharine Weymouth has taken time off from The Washington Post’s duties to come over here today to actually be the host of the panel, which I will give up momentarily.

But I do want to introduce my good colleague, about whom I’ve said a fair amount in terms of his leadership on this, but we’re really happy to have him here today to take part in this event. William, thank you. (Applause.)

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Thank you very much, John. Thank you very much, and I applaud the commitment of Secretary Kerry and of the United States of America on this subject. I believe that the sort of measure that he just announced, that clarity and clear measure on visas for anyone wishing to enter the United States, is exactly the sort of thing that governments should be doing all over the world as we bring our various powers together in order to tackle this subject.

And as you’ve heard it’s a subject I feel very strongly about that started for me back in – about eight years ago visiting Darfur and visiting camps of displaced people and hearing about how they were raped every time they went out for firewood. And I’ve seen many other examples around the world, now. And then when Angelina Jolie made her film, The Land of Blood and Honey, about events in Bosnia in the 1990s, she and I decided to create the campaign – the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict campaign. It is a subject we cannot and should not ignore, because now we know about it. We now know things that were previously – because they were out of sight of most people in the world, were out of mind as well.

But now the extent of warzone rape has been documented in Bosnia, in Colombia, in Guatemala, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Liberia, in many continents of the world. And what would it say about our societies and our civilizations if we knew those things and chose to do nothing about it? It’s a moral responsibility, but it’s also about preventing conflict, about helping communities to work together after conflict that is a fundamental part of conflict prevention, as well as a crucial moral cause of our times. And great work has been done on this subject by people like Zainab Bangura at the UN and by NGOs all over the world.

But I felt two years ago that what had been missing from this was some of the major governments of the world really throwing their weight behind it. And so I decided to throw the weight of the United Kingdom behind – we have one of the biggest diplomatic networks in the world. We have one of the biggest development budgets in the world. We are a country, particularly it’s when we work – when we work with the United States and others, that can move the dial in international affairs. And so we are setting out to create international action on this, and we have made agreements with the G8 foreign ministers that Secretary Kerry took part in last April. I took it to the UN Security Council in June, and we strengthened the tools available to the United Nations. And we held a meeting at the General Assembly last year, where now 140 countries in the world, as a result of that, have signed my declaration on ending sexual violence.

I’m going to host in London in June a global summit on this issue, which will be like no summit ever before. It is going to go on around the clock, around the world. It is going to be open to the public. It is going to communicate digitally with people in every continent of the world. We are going to involve militaries, judiciaries. We’re going to ask governments to take practical steps to end sexual violence, to do the sort of thing we’ve done now of deploying teams of experts to areas that help to gather the evidence and make sure prosecutions can take place. And we’re going to do even more than that. We are going to set about changing global attitudes on this subject so that the stigma that has always been attached to the victims to the victims of these crimes is attached to the perpetrator instead.

It is an ambitious agenda, but it really can be done. And I know there are sometimes quiet cynics who say, “Well, isn’t this just part of war?” Well, we have rules of even war in other respects. We have Geneva conventions about the treatment of prisoners of war. We have conventions and rules about subjects from landmines to cluster munitions. We need to have accepted rules on this subject as well. And there are people who say, “Well, it’s too big and too difficult a subject to do anything about,” or they perhaps think that even if they don’t say it. But no campaign would ever have succeeded against slavery or against racial discrimination or anything else if anybody started out with that thought in their minds that it was impossible.

And so it is now possible to do something on this subject to take practical actions at many levels and to change the entire global attitude on this subject, and our objective should be nothing less than that. And in that spirit, and I am waging this campaign, and I look forward to, without saying anything more at this point, to hearing your views and questions about that. Thank you very much indeed. (Applause.)

MS. WEYMOUTH: Thank you both, Secretary Hague and Foreign – I’m sorry, Secretary Hague and Secretary Kerry.

Let me start with you, Special Representative Bangura. Secretary Hague referred to the stigma of women who are abused sexually during conflict and seeking to remove that stigma and put that stigma on the perpetrator, something that we would all like to see, but we know that there are strong cultural pulls. In many cultures, women don’t want to report rapes, they don’t want to get an abortion, they’re forced to marry the rapist. Can you talk a little bit about what you are doing about those issues and what you think that the governments can do about those issues?

MS. BANGURA: Thank you very much. And I have to congratulate the two great gentlemen. And I think when I took this job, the first thing the Secretary-General said to me, “If you want to succeed, you have to have men on your side.” So I can say in the United Nations, I’m the luckiest woman, because at least I have men who have stood up and say, we will support you. That is very important.

What we have been able to do with the support of the United States and the United Kingdom, like the foreign secretary said, we’ve got the global legal framework. By various resolutions in the Security Council, we’ve got all the tools. And the challenge is why, the foreign secretaries (inaudible) conference, is actually how do we make sure at the national level the governments take ownership and responsibility and implement the decision that we have agreed at the United Nations? And I think we have succeeded within the last one year. The momentum developed by the initiative launch by foreign secretary, which saw it at the G8’s – the foreign ministers at the G8 actually adopted a declaration, and there are now 140 countries.

So the political momentum has been created, which has helped us at a national level to have firm commitment. We have signed a joint framework with the DRC, with (inaudible). When I visited DRC for the first time, visited together with Foreign Secretary Hague, and were able to see President Kabila. I think with the pressure that we’ve been able to put on those leaders, we’ve got firm political commitment from them in writing. We’re working now with a team of experts in my office to ensure that we build their capacity, we have this commitment interpreted into firm, concrete action at the national level. And I think that’s where the next phase of this mandate is. So I can tell you that we have done – been very extremely successful with the DRC, with Somalia, even with the Central Africa. Now with Resolution 2106, we’re putting it as part of peace agreements in mediation, so it’s also been included in most of the negotiations that are going in peace agreement – is ceasefire violation.

So I think we’ve done tremendously well, and I think it’s making sure that we implement it on the ground at the national level where the crimes are being committed. So I want to congratulate you, Secretary of State Hague and Kerry with this decision you’ve taken now with making so people who commit this crime are not given visa. These are all part of the tools and the support we need, because once we’re able to identify the people, we need to name and shame them. We need to let them understand that wherever they are, whoever they are, we will go after them and we’ll get them.

MS. WEYMOUTH: So let me pick up on that. Secretary Kerry, you’ve just announced this new rule regarding visas, which implies that these are people who have been found to have committed crimes. We know that one of the challenges is getting the information out. Taking the crisis that’s happening right now on the ground in Syria, we know we’re having trouble getting reports, that we don’t have firm reports, we know abuse is happening. What is the role of the U.S. Government or the British Government or any government during a conflict like that?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think there are several roles. One is – first of all, our first role now, which we’re working on, is really to create a greater awareness and to have more people in the world, more governments particularly, recognize their responsibility. You’ve got to create accountability. If you have impunity, it’s very difficult to make progress in this. So our response – I mean, our – hopefully our collective leadership can bring governments to hold people accountable.

You need a massive education effort. You’ve got to go out and people have to be aware that this is something you can – I’m not going to tell you you can wipe it out and prevent it altogether. But boy, can you create a different attitude in people about the accountability, the hierarchy, the consequences. And in organized kinds of campaigns, like a place in Syria, where you have an army and you’ve got greater capacity to have a discipline within the ranks, you can make a difference.

In some places in the world today, you don’t have that. You have young kids carrying guns, you have 16, 17, 18-year-olds, 12-year-olds in some cases. And to some degree, there’s a cultural attitude that encourages that kind of behavior as – literally as an instrument of winning and of intimidating people. In those cases, it’s going to take longer, but we can make a difference.

I’ll give you an example. In the Great Lakes region, we have just – in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where M23 was active, in the Kampala Accord, which Special Envoy Russ Feingold and Mary Robinson from the United Nations and others were engaged in helping to negotiate, we have a section in there that specifically talks about accountability and prevention of rape as a tool of – and holding people accountable in M23 for these acts.

So that accountability starts to become known. And as a consequence of that, you have some measure of deterrence. I can’t tell you how much yet, but the key is eliminating impunity, educating people ahead of time, having consequences up and down the chain.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Thank you. Did you want to add something?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And just to add to what Secretary Kerry has said as an example to that, the UK in the Syria conflict has trained human rights activists to document such crimes and to gather evidence of such crimes. I mentioned earlier we have created a team – I’ve created a team of 70 experts. These are doctors, forensic experts, gender-based violence experts. Some of them have deployed to the Syrian border, again, to help the gathering of evidence so that one day prosecutions can take place and people can start to become aware of that.

And in the decision we took recently to bring into the United Kingdom some of the Syrian refugees, a small number relative to the total of course, but to be able to bring some of them into the United Kingdom, we are giving priority to those who have been vulnerable to violence, including sexual violence. And then we will also be able to arrange medical care for them.

So there is a whole string of things that countries can do. Even as we try now and when we haven’t succeeded in resolving the conflict and ending the conflict, which is our overriding priority, there are things we can do in the meantime to try to help people who are victims of sexual violence in a conflict such as Syria now.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Thank you. Ambassador Russell --

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: Can I make --

MS. WEYMOUTH: Yeah. Go ahead.

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: I just --

MS. WEYMOUTH: I think it’s on.

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: I’d like to make one point, which is that one thing is in –

SECRETARY KERRY: Pull it up closer, Cathy.

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: -- if you look at World War I, I think then five percent of the casualties were people who were civilians. And now, when you look at conflicts, we’re up to 90 percent of the casualties are civilians. And so we’re dealing with situations that are so different from situations that we’ve seen in the past. And of course, women and children are almost always more likely to be victims in these conflicts.

And so we’ve seen certainly situations where both secretaries described, where women are intentionally victims and where rape is used a strategic decision on the part of commanders to really go in and either try to move communities out, try to pillage, try to terrorize, try to brutalize communities. And I think we’re all trying to adjust to how to deal with that. I think the biggest challenge we all are facing is that a lot of these commanders who do this, individual soldiers, are doing it with just unbelievable impunity. And we’re all struggling to address that.

And I think the biggest challenge is we can – and the United States does this, the UK does this, we provide a lot of services for victims. But we’re all interested in figuring how to avoid it in the first place. And I think one of the challenges is trying to make sure that people understand that there will be consequences for this.

One of the things that we’ve come up or that we’re supporting are mobile courts that have been very effective in the DRC. Because now there have been prosecutions in The Hague, which have been effective, but they’re – they take a long time to get done and we do very few of them just because of the nature of the tribunals for Rwanda cases, Yugoslavia cases. But for these DRC cases, we have judges or Congolese prosecutors, judges who go out and they travel around, and they hear the cases in the communities. It takes two weeks for a case to be heard, and justice is meted out immediately. People see the justice happen in front of them. People who have committed these cases, who never believed they would be prosecuted, are prosecuted.

That sort of thing makes a difference. It builds up the sort of trust in the judicial system. It builds up the infrastructure, so there is justice and there’s a possibility that there will be kind of a judicial system maybe that will work in the future. And I think those are the sorts of things that ultimately will have some impact.

And I think what we’re looking to do is to find places where we can sort of build up these societies so that they’ll have sort of rule of law, respect for law, so that ultimately we won’t be in a situation where we’re trying to deal with survivors, deal with services for survivors, but we’re having a place where they respect the rule of law and we don’t have these situations in the first place.

MS. WEYMOUTH: And is there a difference in the way we ought to address – there’s the violence that happens during a conflict and then there’s the violence that happens post-conflict. We know in Darfur some of the women were raped going to get firewood and water from refugee camps. Is there a difference in the way that we ought to address those?

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: Well, I mean, I would just say if you don’t address it during the conflict, there is a lack of respect for law and there is an increase in violence. I mean, we see it in Sierra Leone where you – where that – you have that brutality. When the conflict is over, it continues.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Yeah.

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: And if it’s not dealt with and there aren’t sort of some services built up and there aren’t punishments, then it just continues into the post-conflict area, post-conflict.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Did you want to add to that?

MS. BANGURA: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. I think the challenges are the same, whether in conflict or post-conflict. Today as we speak, we have 50,000 women in Bosnia that were raped during the conflicts in Bosnia. And if you don’t deal with them, there is a problem that reconciliation becomes very difficult. But I think the most challenging, it’s that these issues are integrated into communities when not addressed.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Yeah, yeah.

MS. BANGURA: We have the incident of Liberia today as I speak to you. My youngest victim is from Liberia, three months old. And a report was done by Save The Children: 90 percent of those who were sexually abused were children. So once you don’t address it during a conflict, it gets integrated into community life. It becomes a much bigger problem for you to deal with.

MS. WEYMOUTH: And apart from governments, what is the role that men can play? I mean men in the communities. Because we’re talking about women being abused here, but we know men and boys are also abused in smaller numbers, but they are. But apart from those victims, what is the role of men in these communities?

MS. BANGURA: I think the important issue is that most of this community live under traditional rules and regulation. You have traditional leaders who are controlled by men religious leaders. So they are the gatekeepers, we call them. So they are the one who normally control these communities and they give the instructions. I mean, in the case of Libya, for example, we have – a religious leader gave a fatwa that when you rape somebody, you are forced to marry the perpetrator. So because the men make the laws and because this is a crime that is commanded --

MS. WEYMOUTH: Right.

MS. BANGURA: -- it is important that you give the command to stop it.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Yes.

MS. BANGURA: So the only people who can give the command to stop it are the men. So they have a very critical role to play.

MS. WEYMOUTH: And there are some examples, are there not, of conflicts that did not have sexual and violence as a hallmark?

MS. BANGURA: Well, very few, if there’s any --

MS. WEYMOUTH: But they’re – yeah.

MS. BANGURA: -- because all the conflicts we are dealing with you, you might not be able to see it or read it, but when you go deeper and you look for it, you find out that sexual violence has taken place. And that’s a surprise thing we get with now, because once you get involved in it and you start talking, you start looking deeper into it. And I think the problem is because of the stigma of a culture of silence and the stigma associated with it. So there’s a reluctance for people to report and to deal with it if they don’t have the support and the support is coming.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Secretary Hague, you mentioned the team of experts that you have built in the UK. Can you talk a little bit about the work that they’ve done and the successes they’ve had?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: Well, they are – as I say, in the UK we’ve assembled a team of more than 70 experts. We will send them on – we will deploy them to half a dozen different places in the course of this year. And then they have the necessary skills to support local organizations and local administrations in the gathering of evidence. Because here, the crucial thing is the shattering of impunity. Now, that is what we have to achieve. That is in line with Secretary Kerry’s remarks, in line with what Zainab Bangura has just been saying. This is the crucial ingredient so that people know they will not get away with it.

And for that, you need the experts, you need the lawyers, you need the doctors, you need the forensic experts. And we need something now that I hope we can add to this, which is agreed international standards for the investigation and documentation of these crimes so that information can be shared, so that the gathering of evidence is of sufficient quality.

And one of my objectives for the global summit in June is for us to agree an international protocol on the documentation and investigation of such crimes so that such evidence can be more easily shared and used all over the world. It won’t be a new body of international law, but it will be an agreed way of trying to implement the laws that exist against these crimes. So that is the way we’re going to follow up the creation of the team of experts.

MS. WEYMOUTH: So at your summit in June, part of the role will be to get the world’s attention to this issue?

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: It is. We have to get the world – to change the attitude, to change the stigma in every part of the world, we have to get the world’s attention. And we are increasingly getting the world’s attention, but I hope it will be another big step forward in that when we hold the global summit in June.

But it won’t just be about attention. It will be about agreeing the international protocol. It will be asking the countries involved to build this into their military training, into the – I’ve just been to Colombia last week where many crimes of sexual violence have taken place during the decades of conflict in Colombia. And the defense ministry in Colombia is now adopting a protocol on sexual violence into its military training so that exactly what Zainab has been saying to armies all over the world is – will happen then. And she makes quite a forceful job of it when she tells them that they must not do these things anymore.

So that we’ll be asking armies, we’ll be asking judiciaries to build this into their thinking. So that the summit is about changing global attitudes, but it’s also about a whole set of practical actions, some of which we can take internationally and some of which we need national governments to take.

MS. WEYMOUTH: Special Representative Bangura, we were talking outside about your first visit to the United States. Can you mention that?

MS. BANGURA: I started – as you know, I started my career as a human rights activist, as a women’s rights activist, but I actually got inspired by the visits I made in the United States as the program International Visitors Program. And I think – I had studied political science at the university – (cheers and applause). I had studied political science at the university, but I was not in a democratic state. At this time, we had a military government in Sierra Leone. So for about two to three decades, we had had continuously one (inaudible) military government, and then I was invited to participate in this program.

At the end of the program, I made a decision. I said I think the future of my country is actually being a democratic state. I went to the American Embassy on my return to brief the ambassador, and I said to her I want to work on democracy. She looked at me and she said, “Are you crazy?” (Laughter.) Yeah. I said, “No, I will.” And so that’s how I started. I got my first grant from the United States, $25,000, and I started treating women in the American Embassy. They provided a venue for me. And that’s how we took the women to the streets to fight for democracy.

So after three decades, we won. We became a democratic state. Today, we’ve had all our three elections, successive elections, and it’s one of the fast-growing economies in the world. So I think that influence – influence greatly and greatly help me and my country. So I was never the same person. I quitted my job as an insurance executive and that’s it. (Laughter.)

AMBASSADOR RUSSELL: So see where this can lead you?

MS. BANGURA: For the rest of my life, I’m working on democracy and human rights.

MS. WEYMOUTH: You’ve accomplished great things since then. (Applause.) We have about five minutes left. Secretary Kerry, you wrote in an op-ed on International Women’s Day – and I love this as a woman – “No country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people behind.” So there is education, there is enforcement. Do you think it makes a difference to have women in the military creating policy, in positions of government, in addition to those measures?

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, sure. I mean, absolutely, of course it does. When I came to the United States Senate, there was one woman. And I watched this transition. I think we got up to 20-something, whatever the number was. Extraordinary, extraordinary difference to the quality of our caucuses, to the quality of debate, to the points of view that were brought forward. I mean, it’s hard for me to imagine how it was the way it was for as long as it was, but it’s hard for a lot of people to imagine it the way it is today, too.

We’ve got a long way to go. We still have a glass ceiling in the United States. And if we still have a glass ceiling on something as straightforward as employment and equal jobs, equal pay for that job, imagine the sort of push it’s going to take to get people to deal with something they’re as uneasy with as sex and sexual violence. A lot of people don’t understand that rape is used as a tool in war. Many people say, well, no, it’s just – it happens or people dismiss it. You can’t. We can’t allow people to do that.

And so women being a part of this dialogue at the highest levels will help bring a level of both personal experience and credibility and reality to the debate that, for better or worse, as hard as men try to or want to, is always going to be hard for them to be able to do. So it makes all the difference in the world. And I think the key here, though, remains getting people to understand what is happening, how impactful it is on a society, and how crushing it is to the capacity of that society to ever sort of break out and be culturally whole and come into modernity.

And so there’s a big education role that has to take place now to get people to understand, number one, that this is an issue worth caring about; and then, to jump from the caring about it to what do you actually do to make a difference. And if you don’t create accountability up and down the chain, you won’t make that difference. So we have to keep pushing on the education front. We have to keep pushing on the governance regulatory enforcement front. And that’s how, ultimately, we’re going to make a difference.

But I think one of the biggest ways to make a difference is holding people accountable in these very visible conflicts now, like Syria or like the Central African Republic or a number of other places. We do that; that’s going to do more to send a message than any other single thing, probably.

FOREIGN SECRETARY HAGUE: And just to add a final word from me on that, this is an immensely important subject in itself, and we’ve all said how crucial it is, but it is a part of an even bigger picture relevant to your question. And I will argue in a speech I’ll make in a few hours’ time in Georgetown that the even bigger picture is that the great strategic prize of the 21st century is the full economic and social and economic empowerment of women everywhere. And that has got to be our goal. (Applause.)

MS. WEYMOUTH: I think we can all applaud that. (Applause.) Thank you all so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: On that note, folks, I think Katharine has yielded back. Cathy, do you want to wrap it up for us? You’re all set?

Well, let me just say to everybody I know this is scratching the surface, but it’s clear from Williams’s announcement about this conference that he’s going to have in London and his own speech this afternoon and other efforts that we will continue, we’re going to stay at this. And we’re going to continue to try to create accountability where there isn’t any, end the impunity that as you heard from Cathy and from Zainab, that’s the key here. We have to end the impunity. And that will come when all of you help us to create accountability.

So thank you all for being here today. Appreciate it. (Applause.)



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